FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wellness Within, an Organization for Health and Justice, responds to Serrece Winter’s mistreatment by Nova Scotia’s criminal justice system
Wellness Within is a registered non-profit organization working for reproductive justice, prison abolition, and health equity in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Halifax, Nova Scotia). We are angered and deeply saddened by the news of Serrece Winter’s mistreatment by Nova Scotia’s criminal justice system. As reported today by CBC news, Ms. Winter is a Black and Indigenous woman who is a survivor of intimate partner violence. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/domestic-assault-trial-excessive-force-jail-1.5790771
She was jailed and forced into restraints when she was too afraid to testify against her violent partner. While forcing her into restraints, a male police officer covered Ms. Winter’s mouth with his gloved hand, in an act that mimicked the abuse Ms. Winters allegedly suffered at the hands of her partner.
Intimate partner violence is about power and control. Watching the surveillance footage of Ms. Winter’s ordeal, we see police officers asserting their power and control over a woman who has not been accused of any kind of criminal offence, yelling at her and ordering her to sit down. We can hardly expect any survivor of intimate partner violence to have any trust in the criminal justice system that is supposed to protect her safety after seeing this news. Wellness Within has repeatedly met with Halifax Regional Police, the Board of Police Commissioners and the Women’s Advisory Committee of the Halifax municipality to raise alarm about the gendered harm of policing and arrest. Training and education for police is not making a difference.
Ms. Winters disclosed her mental illness diagnoses and even medications to officers, yet they demonstrated they incapable of working with people who are experiencing mental distress.
This horrific story is not an isolated incident. Recall the abuse Santina Rao endured by police officers when she was accused of stealing lettuce, lemons and a grapefruit last January.
Ms. Winters bravely shared with CBC news that she has been a survivor of violence since her childhood. Her abuser likely experienced family violence in his childhood (Heymen & Slep, 2012). Criminalizing survivors of domestic violence will not end cycles of violence. Re-traumatizing survivors of domestic violence by subjecting them to state violence will not end cycles of violence. Defunding the police and directing those funds to community-based services that offer true safety and support and respect the right to self-determination of survivors will end cycles of violence.
Ms. Winter’s story is in the news today because she is facing charges of assaulting a police officer during her ordeal. If Stephen MacNeil’s apology to Black and Indigenous people for their mistreatment by the criminal justice system is more than just words, those charges will be immediately dropped, the officers who took her into custody and abused her will be held accountable and the government will show Nova Scotians that it is serious about systemic change.