Hibbs family keeps shining a light for abused women

By Craig Westcott/November 18, 2022

Philip and Debbie Hibbs summoned their courage yet again Tuesday night and appeared before Conception Bay South council to make a plea to everyone to take violence against women more seriously.

The occasion was the signing of a proclamation by Mayor Darrin Bent declaring November 25 to December 10 as a period when the Town will recognize the Purple Ribbon Campaign.

The Hibbs have the made the campaign a personal crusade since losing their daughter Juliane in October 2013 when she and her partner, Vince Dillon, were stalked and murdered at Villa Nova Plaza in Manuels by her former boyfriend, a domestic abuser, who had tormented the woman and her family for years. 

The Hibbs were accompanied at the council meeting by their friend, former RCMP and RNC officer Connie Pike, who has been equally diligent in calling attention to the scourge of domestic abuse and violence against women and children. 

“I know that every single day of your lives this is something that is very close to your hearts,” Mayor Bent told the couple. “That is why you have championed this for years now… I want to thank you for bringing awareness to this because awareness and talking is the way to cut it back and end it for all families around Newfoundland and Labrador and across our nation.”

Philip Hibbs thanked the mayor for issuing the proclamation and for agreeing to fly the Purple Ribbon flag outside the Town Hall again this year. He and Debbie were instrumental in the Government of Newfoundland recognizing the flag and agreeing to be the first province to officially fly the banner in November 2016.

“The Purple Ribbon flag is a sign of hope and awareness for all those who are experiencing violence in their lives,” Hibbs said. “And the numbers are staggeringly high, more than you might imagine, and that includes our own community of Conception Bay South. That’s why events like this are so important. They spark awareness and give people hope that something is being done. To see the Purple Ribbon flag flying here in Conception Bay South shows that our town recognizes and supports this initiative and what it is all about. It shows those experiencing violence in their lives that our town cares about them and are here to help them.”

For Pike, like many police officers, dealing with violent and controlling men was a daily torment.

“I spent over 30 years with both the RCMP and the RNC serving the people of the province and I won’t tell you how many times that I went into homes and took children out of their homes, took women out of their homes, sometimes on stretchers, and visited them in hospital when they were in traction but said they had bumped into a door,” said Pike. “This is a very insidious type of crime. We tend to remember events like the one Debbie and Phil can surely attest to… people tend to remember the extremes. But I can assure you that this is happening every day and we don’t hear (about it). And it’s thousands of women, by the way. We don’t hear about many of these cases because women go to their ministers, they go to their doctors. Irish Kirby House has 22 beds and they’re at capacity and overflowing all the time.”

Pike reminded the councillors they are leaders in their community and asked them to make the resources that are available to victims better known so that people in distress know where to go for help.

“It’s not enough to light the Purple tree once a year or raise a flag once a year,” Pike said. “This is an issue that has to be dealt with 365 days (a year). There are four new cases every day to social services of child abuse. Bear in mind that only 10 per cent of cases are ever reported. So, you have to wonder what happens to the other 36 children, every day.”

Pike said most women stay with the abuser out of fear of what he will do if they leave. And globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not even considered a crime.

“We deal with the overflow, we deal with the sense of entitlement, we deal with the culture,” Pike said. “We’re not one of those countries, fortunately. But I would beg you to keep the issue high on the list of priorities… We lose two women every year in this province to murder. And there are countless thousands who suffer… So, thanks so much for hosting us and signing the proclamation keeping the most marginalized people in the community in your thoughts and actions.”

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