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Spousal homicides in BC hit a five-year high in 2014

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – 2014 was a dire year for domestic violence in BC, with spousal homicide hitting a five-year high.

But the stats don’t tell the whole story; there are thousands more women who face abuse and violence but survive, and those are the cases we often don’t hear about.

“It really is a serious problem that goes very, very deep,” says Anuradha Dugal, director of violence prevention programs at the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

“I think when we look around at what we are hearing in the media, it’s the tip of the iceberg because we know there are many, many women who don’t feel that they can report because they feel it’s taboo; they don’t want to look like victims or they don’t want to create difficulties for themselves or be labelled. Sometimes they don’t even think people will believe them if they say what’s happening to them,” she tells News1130.

Figures on what the BC Coroners Service calls “intimate-partner violence homicides”¬†show there have been 14 killings so far this year in the province — which is double the number in 2013, but actually in line with the 10-year average.

Dugal believes that is why support programs are so important, helping women who decide to end abusive relationships.

“In Canada, at least half of all women have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. We did a survey at the Canadian Women’s Foundation a year or so ago and we found out that 60 per cent of Canadians knew at least one person, probably more, who had experienced physical or sexual abuse.”

She feels more emergency shelters are desperately needed.

“On any given night in Canada, there are more than 3,000 women with their 3,000 children sleeping in an emergency shelter. We know there are a tremendous amount of arrests when people do report domestic violence. But again, we think that is also the tip of the iceberg in that there are lot of people who don’t report it but go a shelter, a women’s centre, their doctor or they to see an emergency services first-responder and ask for help in that way. We have to have a big safety net.”

Tracy Porteous, executive director of Ending Violence Association of BC believes the figures from the BC Coroners Service are too conservative.

“I would raise one thing from the coroner numbers… the real domestic violence death toll should count the children murdered and the men who also committed suicide after killing their wives. If you add these people, the death toll is much higher.”

Porteous says if you include those statistics, at least 29 people have been killed in domestic violence incidents in BC so far this year.