Category: Family Violence

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.

Peace and War Begin at Home: Our Shared Responsibility to End Violence


Recent NFL news has been less about impressive plays and game outcomes and more about family violence and league policies. If you have not heard, the NFL and some players have been getting a lot of bad press lately.  A video was released of Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice punching his fiancé out cold and dragging her unconscious from an elevator. Evidence and allegations of child abuse recently came to light after Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson ‘spanked’ his child with a tree branch leaving open wounds and welts over the boy’s legs and genitals.

These occurrences of family violence are unfortunately common in North America. In Canada, one in six women will experience physical violence from an intimate partner and nearly one in three Canadians experience some form of abuse as a child. The Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories are not unique. These stories are most certainly being played out in every community to some extent.

There is a lot of debate about how the NFL ought to respond to these incidents. The NFL decided to indefinitely suspend Ray Rice once the video became public, which was long after the NFL knew about the incident. Adrian Peterson was suspended for just one game.

It should be striking to us that if Adrian Peterson had taken the same action against anyone other than his own child (someone else’s child, his wife, his father, a total stranger) there would be no debate about the issue. It would very clearly be assault. If Ray Rice had punched out someone with whom he was not in a relationship, there wouldn’t have been as much wavering on the consequences. Why is it that the most intimate of relationships seem to come with permission to commit crimes against each other?

And what if these events involved the employees of a different workplace? The alarming stats regarding family violence make it clear that the NFL is not the only ‘employer’ dealing with this issue. Would your employer suspend an employee who knocked out his wife? Would there be support for someone who hit their children with branches, leaving them bloodied and bruised? Who is included in the list of responsible parties when families become violent?

In Canada, when it comes to child protection, every single one of us is responsible. Every adult is expected by law to report suspected child abuse to an authoritative body such as Child and Family Services. Children are dependent on adults for nearly everything in their lives and we are all a part of the village that is required to raise them to adulthood.

Many families will experience violence firsthand, but even more families will be bystanders. We are not required by law to report violence between adults, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be responsible bystanders and lend a helping hand where it is needed. There are countless ways we can all be positive influences on the people around us. Our input can range from being examples of healthy families, or talking to our friends when we think they’re in trouble or causing trouble. In worst case scenarios, we can call 911 when we witness an assault.

Our intimate relationships should not be places of violence. There should not be silent permission to treat our partners and our children far worse than we treat our friends or even strangers. No matter what the situation is around us, we can all take some responsibility for ending violence. If peace and war begin at home, let’s make sure we are all promoting peace with our own families.

If you or someone you know is in danger, please contact the appropriate resources.