A declining number of domestic violence calls in the Elk Valley has been countered by an increase in sexual assaults, police say. File photo

Mixed trends for domestic and sexual violence in the Valley

Police seeing declining domestic violence calls, countered by spike in sexual assaults

Police in the Elk Valley are seeing a declining number of domestic violence calls, countered by a spike in sexual assaults.

The Elk Valley RCMP responded to 20 domestic violence incidents last year compared to 31 in 2017, representing a roughly 35 per cent decrease, and 27 in 2016.

Sexual assaults did not follow the same trend and were slightly up last year, with 15 recorded in 2018 compared to 13 in 2017 and 16 in 2016.

The figures reflect the number of cases where police have reason to believe that an offence has occurred.

“We get a number of calls for domestic disturbances but after investigation it is determined that no offence had occurred,” said Elk Valley RCMP Detachment Commander Senior Sergeant Jeff Harrold.

“Most often these are arguments that we are called to where there is no evidence of physical violence.”

Harrold said while any number of domestic and sexual violence cases is too high, he believes they are mostly trending in the right direction.

“However, the number of unreported cases is an unknown, so it is difficult to really grasp the situation,” he said.

The RCMP works closely with the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre (FWRC) in an effort to curb domestic and sexual violence offences in the Elk Valley.

The organizations meet regularly to discuss potential barriers for victims of these crimes to come forward.

Harrold said the RCMP takes domestic and sexual violence very seriously, and will always investigate reports fully.

He urged victims not to suffer in silence but to come forward.

“The most important steps are to get out and report,” said Harrold.

“From there, steps can be taken to ensure the safety and provide support for the victim.”

While Harrold believes it is best that police be notified quickly, he conceded some victims may not feel ready to take that step.

“The most important thing is for the victim to let someone know what has happened/is happening,” he said.

Anyone who feels they have been a victim of a crime is encouraged to contact police directly and immediately.

Call 911 or the local RCMP detachments at 250-423-4404 (Fernie), 250-425-6233 (Sparwood) or 250-865-2232 (Elkford).

If you are dealing with or have dealt with any sort of abuse at any point in your life, you can also find support at the Women’s Resource Centre. Drop into the centre at 1592 10th Ave., Fernie, or call 250-423-4687 or 1-800-339-7393 toll free from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Safe Homes provides free temporary shelter for women and children fleeing violence that is available 24/7, call 1-800-200-3003. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line also offers free support services for any crisis situation, call 1-888-353-2253.

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