P.E.I. has begun the process of creating a therapeutic court for domestic violence cases, according to provincial officials.
Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services, is excited about the plans.
The coordinator position for the therapeutic court has been posted and has closed, and the province says the first steering committee meeting for the court is planned for early December.
The therapeutic court will open more options in cases of domestic violence, allowing the adjudicator to order therapy rather than just restrict a perpetrator's freedoms and privileges.
O'Malley hopes the court will make a difference.
"I think that this is just wonderful because incarceration or probation for the abuser does not necessarily equal rehabilitation," she told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.
"And instead will start mandating treatment programs, or programs to really address the root cause of what is causing the violence, as opposed to merely restricting that person's privileges or freedom."
The province says it will work in partnership with the judiciary and community groups on a plan for how the court will work.
New federal action plan launched
Planning for the new court is starting just as the P.E.I. government signs on to a new national action plan to end gender-based violence. Federal officials say the Island will receive at least $2 million over five years under that plan, which the province will help determine how to invest.
O'Malley hopes this new federal funding can also be used to improve the court system on P.E.I.
There's a large amount of violence that isn't reported because of unwillingness to be involved with the justice system. — Danya O'Malley
"I would love to see a justice system that really believes victims, prioritizes their needs, and is responsive," she said.
"There's a large amount of violence that isn't reported because of unwillingness to be involved with the justice system."
'People want services in their home communities'
Plans at the community level for the new federal funding haven't started yet, said O'Malley.
Ultimately the province will decide, but O'Malley would like to see more emergency and transitional housing for women who have left abusive relationships — in particular, beds outside of Charlottetown.
Moving to Charlottetown can be a barrier for women looking to leave abusive relationships, she said. They may have a job in another part of the province, or have children in school.
"People want services in their home communities, and I think it would be important to really look at what the communities need, and we have the money now to shape that," she said.
O'Malley would also like to see new education initiatives, with a focus on skills for dealing with abusive relationships, rather than just information on how to spot the signs of one.