Wednesday, August 03, 2011


There was a news report yesterday morning about the deaths of two people at a Markham address, one of which was a shooting by police officers. By evening the grim report of the events was on television. A recently divorced husband returned to the family home where he stabbed his former wife to death in front of their two children. He committed "suicide by cop" attacking the officers who responded using the same knife and then being shot and killed.

A distraught friend was interviewed from the driver's seat of her car. She tearfully told the reporter that the dead woman was convinced that her ex was going to come to the house and kill her. And he did.

I realize how attuned I have become to these stories because of the work of my wife, Ruth. As a outreach counsellor for a woman's shelter not a week goes by in which a client doesn't tell Ruth that her partner has threatened to kill her. Often they have already experienced physical violence but the threat of death is the ultimate weapon. To date none of Ruth's clients have been murdered, but she has helped a number of them essentially escape to safety.

I saw last week that reported crime in Canada continues to decline, including a ten percent drop in the number of murders from 2009 to 2010. This is good news except for one category -- domestic violence. It is on the rise. Perhaps instead of spending billions on new prisons the Harper government could underwrite the work of preventative education in the schools (Ruth does this now) and ensuring that there is adequate support for women and children in peril.

Addressing domestic violence can be a "tough sell" in churches because we support the picture of the happy nuclear family. While we obviously want to promote healthy relationships, we need to acknowledge the shadow side as well.



dmy said...

Sitting with my mother and brothers on the floor of our apartment waiting for the police to show up while my father was across the street with a shotgun aimed at our window is a recurring nightmare. The dream seems to go on forever - just like the reality did. It is 46 years later and I shudder when I hear of stories like the one on the news last night. I can only imagine what their children are going through and the nightmares they will have. We did not have a woman's shelter in Bowmanville at the time and nowhere to escape ...fortunately my father was jailed and when released and sober he went back to N.S. - the threat was still there but further away. I applaud Ruth for the good work that she does and I was not aware of the preventative education in the schools however education and awareness are key. We talk about mental health issues, disease and other "shadow side" items at church, why wouldn't we include domestic violence?

johnny said...

Although the church wants to promote the idea of the happy family, there is no sense trying to ignore the facts. Domestic violence is a huge problem.

In my various postings around the country, I have unfortunately attended countless domestics in which women and children have been victimized. In many of those cases, it happened in families that were perceived by others in the community as being well-adjusted and happy. One never knows what is happening behind closed doors.

I, too, congratulate Ruth on her work. It must be frustrating for her to see firsthand the damage - physically and emotionally - that these women and children suffer.

lionlamb said...

Thank you very much for both of these responses. dmy, you remind us of the lasting effects of the trauma for children. And that you are someone in our faith community who has lived through this, not "out there."

The groups Ruth does are Guys for Change and for the young women, Finding Our Voices. With the teen boys she is often working with a group whose members are required to attend because of anger issues. Despite the captive audience, she is often touched by their honesty about the anger they have lived with which is perpetuated.

Johnny, in your role as a police officer you have seen what goes on and realize that horrendous stuff can happen even in what are supposedly nice middle class homes.

Thank you both. Again my blog entry is made much more complete through your comments.