Domestic Violence

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Three women were shot near Ottawa on Tuesday – killed by a man who had recently been released from prison for assault and choking charges. Two of the women were ex-girlfriends while the relationship with the third is not yet clear. After his rampage he was heading to Ottawa, apparently to seek vengeance on lawyers or to attack the Court. The downtown was briefly locked down and we were warned to stay in our office. Fortunately he was captured without incident and is now facing three first degree murder charges.

He will undoubtedly spend the rest of his life in prison (he is already 57) though that is little consolation to the family and friends of the women he murdered.

Now there is a lot of soul searching going on as to what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. Did the courts or prison system fail? Did the community fail? Though as one women who campaigns against domestic violence put it: Once a man starts hunting woman who can stop a bullet?

Few things disgust me more than people who hit their partners – the people they claim to love. Statistics show that women are twice as likely to be victims as men. Moreover, it is men who escalate the violence and who are responsible for the vast majority of injuries and deaths in domestic situations. Regardless, anyone who resorts to violence in the family has a problem and should seek some sort of help. If they won’t then society should intervene.

The first step is to make sure than abused partners have someplace safe to go and the second is that abusers are given real options to change. Education of young people that violence against others, and especially against those you are in a relationship with, is wrong would help too. But equally important is to begin to treat domestic violence as serious – or more serious – than any other crime. The truth is the person most likely to kill you – whether in Canada or the United States – is not a stranger but a domestic partner.

Everyone makes a mistake in their lives and perhaps one conviction should be treated the same way it would be if it were an act of violence against an acquaintance or a stranger – but domestic abusers seldom stop at a single assault or a single conviction. One charge may be a mistake on their part – or even on the court’s part – but two or three or four? That is a clear pattern – especially when more than one partner is involved.

If someone is convicted of sexual assault, they are generally put on a sex offender’s registry. Their movements are tracked and often measures are taken to reduce the chance of them offending again. Maybe we need to do the same thing with those who are shown to be abusers. Two convictions or three and they go on a domestic abuse registry. Measures could be taken to warn potential partners of their history. They could be kept away from guns. They could be monitored to see if they take treatment.

Even as I say it, it seems draconian and excessive. And yet something needs to be done for those who refuse to reform themselves.

But that’s ten minutes.

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