October 29, 2015
Missing Women's Network Goes Provincial
The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new, province-wide BC Missing Women Network. The Network is a partnership between EVA BC, RCMP “E” Division’s BC Police Missing Persons Centre, and the Surrey Women’s Centre.
This new province-wide Network is an outgrowth of a successful pilot project developed by the Surrey Women's Centre (SWC) that established a communication system between law enforcement and victim services in their community to help locate missing women and youth and to keep them safe, while respecting their right to privacy.
BC has historically had the highest number of unfound missing persons of all Canadian provinces, partly due to our mild climate, transient population and extensive coastline (many drowning victims are never found). According to a 2005 study of missing persons in BC conducted by SFU student Marla Jean Patterson, most adults that go missing do so because of a breakdown in their relationships with partners or with parents. For example, some women fleeing domestic violence will break off all contact out of fear of being tracked. Others "disappear” to escape an accumulation of personal, financial or mental health problems - some by suicide.
The need for police to confirm the whereabouts of missing women and the unwavering commitment of anti-violence workers and woman-serving agencies to never compromise the safety or confidentiality of a woman by disclosing her whereabouts, even to police, can create tension – particularly in cases where an estranged partner or family member report a woman as missing. In 2007, the Surrey Women’s Centre created the Surrey Missing Women’s Network to act as a safe and trusted go-between.
The Surrey network, operated by Surrey Women’s Centre in partnership with the BC Police Missing Persons Center and the Surrey RCMP Missing Persons Unit, shares information in an effort to 1) locate women and children who have experienced or are at-risk of experiencing violence that could result in serious bodily harm, death, or their disappearance, and 2) to protect the anonymity and whereabouts of women and children who are fleeing violence.
The women’s centre manages a regional network through which they fan out the call to a targeted list of service providers. This network includes key medical, legal and anti-violence service providers across that region that are likely to have contact with women who are at risk of experiencing or have experienced violence.
A service provider who recognizes and is supporting the reported missing woman reaches out to that woman to share the information that police are looking for her to confirm that she’s safe. The service provider is often able to facilitate a phone call between the woman reported missing and the police; or between the woman and Surrey Women’s Centre – who subsequently liaise with police. Information is only shared with the knowledge and consent of the woman. Often the Surrey Women’s Centre is able to confirm with police that the woman is safe and accessing support services within hours of circulation, allowing police to close their file.
In this new province-wide Missing Women Network, police from across the province will provide notices of missing women to EVA BC, who will in turn fan out that notice to service providers in the appropriate regions. The service providers are then able to advise the relevant police force, the BC Police Missing Persons Center and/or EVA BC of the circumstances of the missing person – if they have seen her; whether or not she is okay – and also to act as a bridge when women are too afraid to share their whereabouts even with police. Members of the Network who wish to remain anonymous may request that EVA BC forward information to the relevant police force on their behalf.
This collaboration is innovative, as police have not historically linked to the community-based anti-violence networks that play a key role in assisting women.
EVA BC is a charitable non-profit provincial organization serving over 240 community-based programs that support victims of sexual assault, relationship violence, child abuse and criminal harassment. Our mandate is to provide support and training to the victim service programs under our umbrella, undertake research related to victim issues, develop and distribute related tools and resources for victim services, educate the public, other sectors and government bodies on the needs of victims of violent crime, develop and maintain standards for the provision of victim services, and foster the development of cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration to increase victim safety.
The province-wide BC Missing Women Network is set to launch on October 28thh, 2015. For more information, please contact Program Manager Laura Woods at EVA BC at 604-633-2506 ext. 17, or at email@example.com.