Preventing More Than Murder-Suicide: Early Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, 2014 ended with some brutal cases of domestic violence.  In Edmonton, a woman and seven of her family members and friends were killed by her ex-husband before he shot himself. In Fort Worth, Texas, a woman and her two daughters were killed by her ex-boyfriend who then killed himself. In BC, spousal homicide was at a five-year high in 2014.

Edmonton Police Chief, Rod Knecht, told reporters that the case in his city was an incident of “domestic violence gone awry.” Let’s be clear – there are zero cases of domestic violence that “go well”, so there cannot be cases that go “awry”. Every single incident of domestic violence is a relationship gone awry, a partner gone awry.

Domestic violence happens in homes across Canada every single day. At any given time, there are nearly 10,000 women and children in emergency shelters across the country. It happens an awful lot, but this is no excuse for us to start thinking “mild domestic violence” is acceptable.

One news report listed some warning signs of a potential murder-suicide – “…obsessive behaviour, depression in the killer, and an escalation of violence prior to the murder.” All of these “warning signs” are more than just red flags – they clearly indicate a situation that needs to be addressed. This is like saying a house engulfed in flames is at risk of burning down!

Long before we check for the warning signs of mass murder and suicide, there are so many other concerns that ought to be addressed. Depression and violent behaviour should never go unchecked. Those are not signs of a problem; those are large problems in and of themselves!

Abusive relationships are about an imbalance of power and one partner controlling the other. The partner that uses abusive behaviour is solely responsible for their behaviour and the victimized partner does not deserve to be treated poorly.

In SADI workshops with grade 12 students, we discuss these warning signs that someone may use abusive behaviour:

  • constantly checking up on partner
  • telling the partner what to wear, what to do, who to spend time with
  • excessively jealous, accuses the other of cheating or flirting
  • showing up unannounced
  • humiliating the person
  • teasing
  • lack of communication
  • inability to listen
  • no trust
  • possessiveness
  • no balance or equality
  • lack of respect
  • put downs
  • big mood swings
  • makes you feel nervous (like you are walking on eggshells)
  • criticizes you
  • threatens to hurt you

All of these warning signs indicate that one partner is not concerned about building a healthy or respectful relationship. If you see your partner, someone else’s partner, or even if you see yourself engaging in some of these behaviours, it is a good idea to re-evaluate the relationship. Everybody deserves to be in a healthy and respectful relationship – EVERYBODY! We are setting the bar way too low if we only try to prevent murder-suicide. We can prevent all forms of domestic violence.

There is a toll-free number in Manitoba that you can call 24/7 to talk to a trained counsellor about any relationship that you suspect is abusive 1-888-977-0007. Emergency shelters are always available to anyone who feels unsafe in their relationship, long before you are worried about an impending murder-suicide.

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