Over 13,000 British Columbians were victims of family violence in 2010 with Kelowna and Abbotsford recording the highest rates of domestic abuse in the province, a new Statistics Canada survey reports.
About 99,000 Canadians were victims of family violence, with about half the violence committed by spouses, according to police-reported data released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.
Kelowna ranked third among Census metropolitan areas in Canada with 346 police-reported victims per 100,000 people in 2010, behind Saint John, N.B. and Saskatoon, Sask.
Abbotsford-Mission recorded the fourth-highest rate of reported violence in the country with 325 victims per 100,000 people.
Amy Thompson, coordinator of the Elizabeth Fry Society in Kelowna, said that she "unfortunately" is not surprised by the city's high ranking.
"Our victim service workers are run off their feet, responding to pretty significant crisis situations where women are needing support and safety - including being relocated to other communities."
Thompson said that her agency has seen a sharp increase in the number of requests for help from domestic violence victims during the past few years.
But Thompson and other victims services workers in Kelowna are hard-pressed to explain why. She and others argued that domestic violence in Kelowna may not be more prevalent - just better reported.
Laura Banman, manager of the Kelowna Women's Shelter, said her organization has no shortage of victims to help. "It's busy, we're juggling for space as I speak to you."
Nevertheless, Banman isn't convinced that domestic violence in her Okanagan city is any higher than in most other communities in Canada.
"I hope I'm not in denial, but I suspect that the incidence of family violence in Kelowna is not greater, but the likelihood of someone reaching out for help is greater. That is what I hope is true."
Lisa Binnie, executive-director of the Kelowna Family Centre, similarly believes her city has a high rank in the Statistics Canada survey because domestic violence is under-reported elsewhere in Canada.
But Binnie said there is still too much domestic violence in Kelowna - and she blamed some of it on economic factors in the southern Interior city.
"There are many working poor in Kelowna because there is a high cost of living combined with a high percentage of people in the service industry who are not highly paid.
Front-line workers in the fight against domestic violence in Abbotsford-Mission also question whether their community's fourth-place ranking in the Statistics Canada tables is deserved.
Kevin Murray, a detective with the Abbotsford Police Department's domestic violence unit, was surprised by his community's ignominious placing.
"I'm kind of surprised," said Murray. "There has been no appreciable year-over-year increase over the past couple of years."
Lukhvinder Aujla, a supervisor with Abbotsford Community Services, said her group and the Abbotsford police have raised awareness of the domestic violence and encouraged more victims to come forward.
"Whenever you have that collaboration, you're going to get good results so maybe more people are reporting it."
The Statistics Canada report found that women aged 15 and older accounted for 81 per cent of all victims in 2010.