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November is Family Violence month

Common law peace bonds common in Stettler court

By Emily Jaycox For the Independent

November is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta and Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls signed a declaration Nov. 2, showing that Stettler also supports the initiative.

Even in a small town like Stettler, domestic violence is an issue.

“Probably about 30 per cent of what we deal with in any year is domestic violence-related,” said Heartland Victim Services (HVS) Executive Director Pat Hamilton.

HVS has received about 40 domestic violence referrals so far this year and has made a few trips to take people to shelters, says Hamilton.

The Government of Alberta defines family violence as “physical, verbal emotional, financial and sexual abuse, neglect, stalking or being kept from seeing other people or forced to stay in one place,” on its website.

When police are called, unless it is a non-physical argument and the parties can be separated, police usually are required to lay a charge, says Hamilton.

Victim Services units provide information and support, and courtroom support when a victim is required to testify.

RELATED: All signs suggest crime is down in Stettler

In Stettler, quite often the accused enter into common law peace bonds says Hamilton.

In a common law peace bond, the victim can choose to have contact or no contact with the accused.

If they want to contact, then conditions are put in place as part of the peace bond.

Such conditions usually include requiring the accused to attend anger management classes and sometimes a domestic violence intervention group in town, says Hamilton.

The domestic violence group runs for 12 weeks, once in the fall and once in the spring.

When attendance is required by a judge, the accused has to show proof of attendance to their probation officer.

When the conditions are met, the charges are withdrawn and the accused won’t have a criminal record.

“It’s a good compromise,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton highly recommends the domestic violence class, as she says anger management alone isn’t enough to change abusive behaviour.

“Domestic violence isn’t about anger, it’s about power and control.”

The Stettler Society for Prevention of Family Violence is distributing a “Voices of Men” calendar, featuring prominent men in the community speaking out against domestic violence.

‘We hope the messages will make a difference,” said Hamilton.

For information on other family violence awareness events in Stettler and other communities, visit facebook.com/communitiesagainstabuse.

Those wishing to raise awareness can host events and use the hashtag #GoPurpleAB on social media. For more information, visit www.alberta.ca.family-violence-prevention-month.

Victimes looking for information or support can contact HVS directly at 403-741-7840.

Domestic violence should be reported to the Stettler RCMP.

In case of emergencies, call 9-1-1.

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lisa.joy@stettlerindependent.com