Alberta women face highest risk of domestic violence in a decade

Monique Auffrey has dedicated her life to victims of domestic abuse as the CEO of Discovery House after surviving family violence. She says the high rates families are turned away from shelters highlights the need for prevention.

A new report says domestic abuse rates are the highest they’ve been in 10 years, and 23,247 Alberta women, children and seniors requesting admission were turned away that in the last two years due to lack of available shelter space.

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters' (ACWS) report also says two-thirds of women in Alberta shelters stated they were at "severe" or "extreme" risk of being killed by their partner.

"This is a serious and urgent problem," said ACWS executive director Jan Reimer.

The data has been tracked for about 20 years and what the numbers reveal is that demand has heightened during Alberta’s struggling economy in recent years, according to Reimer.

"(The) boom and bust (cycle) almost (always) signals real challenges for women and their safety," Reimer said.

Survivors of domestic violence say reaching out for help is often a major challenge.

"It's a very secretive terror. You often don’t want to admit to anyone that you are living through this experience," said Monique Auffrey.

"You want to seem strong, and you are strong, but it's (also) difficult to talk about because there’s still so much stigma."

Auffrey is now the CEO at Discovery House, a women’s shelter in Calgary that is dedicated to helping other families in the aftermath of abusive relationships.

Capacity remains the core issue for many shelters.

"We are working at full capacity right now so we have a 100 per cent occupancy rate and our counsellors are also working around the clock to offer services," said Jorge Torres from the Brenda Strafford Foundation.

The facility is a "second-stage" facility that houses women who need housing, childcare and counselling for up to six months.

Torres says increased awareness, fundraising and volunteers can help address domestic violence in Alberta.

The ACWS report also states the 96 per cent of women and seniors who have stayed in a shelter do not return to an abusive relationship.

More than 10, 000 people used shelter services in the last year.