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Saskatoon Interval House: helping survivors of domestic violence

WATCH ABOVE: A shelter in Saskatoon says it turns away twice as many mothers and children, who are fleeing domestic violence, as it can accommodate.

With so many people celebrating this time of year, it can be easy to forget that’s not the reality for everyone.

Domestic violence doesn’t stop just because it’s the holidays, in fact it can ramp up with the stress of Christmas.

READ MORE: Sask. Domestic Violence Death Review calls for broad-based strategies to address high violence rates

“Saskatoon Interval House is a shelter for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence,” Saskatoon Interval House assistant director Verl Mastin said.

On average, 135 women seek refuge at the home each year. Women who have either planned their escape or flee from a crisis and they bring their children with them.

According to Mastin, the house serves as a safe shelter for upwards of 300 children any given year.

“We probably turn away twice as many as we can accommodate.”

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Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported intimate partner violence out of all the provinces.

In the spring, a report was released by the Domestic Violence Death Review Panel focused around incidents between 2005 and 2013.

During that time there were 48 domestic homicides in Saskatchewan and nine associated suicides.

The majority of victims were female, while perpetrators were mostly male. One-third of the victims were under 21 years old. Two-thirds of the victims were attacked in their homes.

“I’ve worked here a long time and I don’t really have those answers, I’m unsure why,” said Mastin, who has worked with survivors of domestic violence for 35 years.

READ MORE: Sask. government introduces domestic violence police disclosure legislation

In 2018, Saskatchewan became the first jurisdiction in the country to introduce Clare’s Law.

A law adopted from the United Kingdom that would allow police to release information about a person’s abusive or violent past to their intimate partner who may be at risk.

“Maybe that’s one step in enticing them to get some intervention,” Mastin added.

However, Clare’s Law is only one stepping stone in a path towards prevention and protection for these families. Mastin would like to see wait lists reduced for shelters as well as children’s programming.

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“Many of our clients can’t afford to go out and pay for private counselling so funding is always an issue whether it’s within the shelter or outside of the shelter.”

The sooner supports can be put in place for survivors, the better in ending the cycle of domestic violence.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Saskatoon Interval House any time by calling 1-888-338-0880.

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