Police, Family Services Windsor-Essex join forces to tackle rising intimate partner violence

Windsor Police Service and Family Services Windsor-Essex (FSWE) have joined forces to create new program as the region grapples with hundreds of intimate partner violence (IPV) cases.

On Wednesday, they announced the launch of the IPV Early Intervention and Prevention Program, which seeks to recognize early warning signs of intimate partner violence and proactively respond to prevent future harm.

Speaking at a news conference, Staff Sgt. Richard Sieberer said 646 people have been arrested and charged for domestic violence since the beginning of the year.

He said there were another 600 intimate partner violence complaints where no one was arrested or charged.

"It seems like every year it's going up," Sieberer said.

"People are more aware of the importance of reporting intimate partner violence. Neighbours are more aware, family members are more aware, so reporting is going up."

Richard Sieberer and Ciara Holmes
Staff Sgt. Richard Sieberer, left, and Ciara Holmes, FSWE's director of mental health and counselling programs, spoke at a news conference on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Through the new program, officers will identify individuals who have been victims of non-physical abusive behaviour and connect these victims with FSWE who, in turn, will provide the necessary support to reduce potential escalation of violence.

Ciara Holmes, FSWE's director of mental health and counselling programs, said the new initiative represents a vital step in their commitment to preventing intimate partner violence and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of community members.

"This initiative, in working law enforcement with community providers, is what's going to make a difference," Holmes told CBC News.

"We can't continue to work downstream and being responsive when a charge has already taken place. We have to start to look upstream and look at new initiatives and what's working within other communities to help reduce those rates."

According to Holmes, there are a lot of complexities for people in IPV situations, but income is one of the main barriers that make it difficult for victims to leave.

"We know how hard it is to find affordable housing right now and access, so that can absolutely be a barrier for someone who's looking to leave an intimate partner who's being violent towards them," she said.

In April, the province said it would support an opposition bill to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic in Ontario, after the New Democrats tabled a bill that simply declares intimate partner violence an epidemic.

Several cities and municipalities in Ontario have so far declared gender-based and intimate partner violence an epidemic, with Windsor city council doing so in July last year.

LISTEN | Windsor council declares intimate partner violence an epidemic: 

The Windsor police and FSWE partnership, which began on May 6, has already referred 22 individuals to support resources. Both sides say they will closely monitor its impact with the hope of establishing a long-term, sustainable model for early intervention in intimate partner violence cases.

Offenders being helped too

Meanwhile, Holmes said FSWE is offering help to offenders as well.

"The offender work that we do is a 12-week program … that's through the courts for folks who have been convicted of a DV-related offence," she said.

"It's funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General and it differs a little bit in the sense that the curriculum is prescriptive and that there's content that we are required to get through to support them and eliciting positive change."