UFV’s Amanda McCormick avid supporter of Purple Lights Nights
Amanda McCormick admits it’s tough hearing the stories of people who’ve experienced domestic violence. It’s part of her job leading projects on intimate partner violence in UFV’s Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research, and running the Reducing Domestic Violence Community of Practice in the Peace and Reconciliation Centre, and it exacts an emotional toll. But the knowledge gained from those stories leads to positive change, and that’s why she attacks every day with enthusiasm.
“When you hear the small victories, when someone tells you they left an abusive relationship and they were able to get help, when you hear people talk about the community agencies or the police officer who helped them, those are the moments,” McCormick says. “When you finally see a person living a healthier and safer lifestyle, you can feel good about helping them get to that stage in their life.”
That’s why she is a huge supporter of the Purple Lights Nights campaign. Events are happening this month in the eastern Fraser Valley to raise awareness about intimate partner violence. McCormick says it lets victims and survivors of abuse know they aren’t alone, and there are people they can turn to for help.
McCormick, an associate professor in UFV’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, speaks passionately about her work. She begins with one eye-opening statistic that makes clear in no uncertain terms how serious domestic abuse is.
“Nearly half of all women in Canada (44 per cent) have experienced some form of intimate partner abuse. That might be physical or sexual, or often psychological,” she says. “The challenge is that people aren’t aware that it exists, or they have preconceptions about the kind of person who would be in an abusive relationship.
“They’re not aware of how common it is.”
One of McCormick’s current research projects focuses on strangulation and brain injuries, which are all too common in domestic abuse.
“Whether it’s for seconds or minutes, it’s a form of power and control and it only takes seconds for somebody to experience a brain injury as a result of being strangled,” she says. “Some research has found that over half of the victims of intimate partner violence have been strangled at least once in the past. That’s astounding, and the potential consequences are so damaging, both short and long term.”
McCormick says only about 19 per cent of intimate partner violence is ever reported to police, and there are lots of reasons for that. She says people tend to minimize the abuse, writing it off as minor and not something police would do anything about. They might not want their loved one to get into trouble.
“There’s also dependency,” McCormick says. “They’re asking themselves things like, ‘If my partner gets arrested and thrown in jail, how will I pay the bills? Where will I go? Will I have to leave my house? What will happen to my kids? Will they be upset with me because their dad was arrested? Will he be angry at me and re-victimize me when once he gets out?’”
McCormick says the Purple Lights Nights campaign is valuable because it lets victims and survivors of abuse know they aren’t alone, and there are people they can turn to for help. There are answers to their questions.
“And it’s not just about people who are directly experiencing abuse,” McCormick says. “It’s telling people, ‘Here’s what you can do if you think or suspect someone is experiencing abuse. Here are the resources you can use to support them.’
“A lot of people think it’s just the police, but that’s not the case. There are a lot of other supports, such as Archway’s Specialized Victim Assistance Program, safe houses through SARA for women, or forensic nurses at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. We’re encouraging people to wear purple and put up purple lights through the month of October to show their support for survivors of intimate partner violence, to let them know they’re not alone.”
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