Ottawa Citizen
Thursday 7 January 1999

Women do not feel protected from abuse

Sandy Milne
in David Brown's column space
The Ottawa Citizen

Dave Brown in his Brown's Beat columns from Dec. 15-19 has done a great disservice to the community by using his journalistic privilege to print his latest analysis of the issue of violence against women by slamming shelters, police, courts, child-protection agencies and social workers.

The issue of violence against women is complex. Many of the professionals who work with families where there is violence have years of training, education and work experience. From reading the series of articles, I found it glaringly apparent that Mr. Brown has invented his own theories on the issue that appear to be based on anecdotal type situations rather than on years of experience of working in the field.

In my years of experience, as with many of my colleagues at other agencies and shelters, the stories I hear sound nothing like the ones Mr. Brown has brought to light.

The stories I hear are of women who do not feel that police, child protection agencies and courts have protected them or their children from their violent ex-partners, despite restraining orders and other court orders.

I find Mr. Brown's take on the issue, quite frankly, dangerous to the women and children in this community.

What will happen now if neighbours hear screaming coming from the next-door apartment or the home across the street? Will they be reluctant to call the police? Many women are being hit by violent partners -- women are not throwing "hissy fits" as Mr. Brown would have the readers believe.

I work with women who have been permanently disabled by their male partners, which has resulted in living with lifelong chronic pain, not to mention that they will never be gainfully employed again. A call from a neighbour could be critical in intervening in a situation where there is violence. It sometimes takes women years to get the courage to make that first call to the police or to disclose an assault to hospital emergency staff.

The concerted efforts in this community to provide a co-ordinated service to abused women and children are not acknowledged by Mr. Brown.

I would suggest that Mr. Brown is clearly out of his element when it comes to writing about violence against women, custody and access issues and the systems that deal with these families.

Rather than Mr. Brown railing on about making social workers accountable, he would do well to focus on the ethics of journalism. Did the Citizen sanction the use of a "plant" in a women's shelter?

Perhaps, you may consider doing a series on violence against women written by those knowledgeable about the issue. The series could include resources that are available to those families where violence is occurring. This would be seen as more responsible journalism than this latest effort by Mr. Brown.

Sandy Milne, MSW
Woman Abuse Counsellor,
Family Service Centre of Ottawa-Carleton