The Price Of Pain

One incident of domestic violence costs over $100 thousand

Feature by Paul Dechene

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We’re all on the same page with domestic violence, right? We agree it’s a horrible thing that hurts everyone involved, from the victims to the perpetrators to the front-line workers charged with putting the broken pieces of families back together. But on the off chance anyone needs an additional reason to object to domestic violence, Circle Project has one for you: it costs taxpayers a ridiculous amount of money.

At their June 1 Hearts in the Park event, Circle Project released a report on the economic impacts of domestic violence.

The numbers are alarming.

In Circle Project’s case study, the aboriginal community organization found the cost to taxpayers of a single incident of domestic violence is $85,573, once you add up all the interventions by the justice system, social services and health care. The report goes beyond this, though, and looks at the personal costs to the family involved. Circle Project found that one incident cost a family $15,798 in expenses such as lost wages and moving to a new home.

Circle Project reached those numbers, says executive director Ann Perry, by creating a representative incident of domestic violence: a couple in their mid-20s are drinking at home and an argument between them turns violent. The woman is seriously injured as is one of the couple’s three children, and they spend two weeks in hospital. The man is charged with assault and after spending 16 weeks in a correctional facility, he gets 14 months probation.

The incident is fictional. But according to Regina Police Service Superintendent Corey Zaharuk, it reflects what officers see on a regular basis.

“When I read the report one of the first things I said was it’s very compelling and it’s very realistic,” says Zaharuk.

Saskatchewan’s rate of family violence is the highest of the 10 provinces and twice the national average according to 2011 Statistics Canada numbers. Regina has the eleventh highest rate of police-reported family violence, according to the same study.

In fact, says Zaharuk, the RPS responds to 15 domestic disturbance calls a day.

And while not all of them involve violence, disturbingly, many do.

As for what Circle Project hopes to achieve by releasing these numbers, Perry says that in the report they call for a comprehensive strategy to address domestic violence. And the hope, she says, is that that will mean more money towards the prevention of domestic violence.

“This is costing our community a lot of money,” says Perry. ”And one incident of domestic violence at this cost — how much are we putting into prevention and how much are we putting into the cost associated with after the incident occurs?

“Our work is always about prevention and response,” says Perry. “We hope to prevent another instance in the future because we know when domestic violence happens once it can happen over and over and become more serious every time.”