Healing Gaia

Skewed Media Coverage of Intimate Partner Violence

In addition to sensationalizing the murder while downplaying the fact that it involved an intimate partner, the woman who has been slain is often lost in the reporting.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published March 19, 2018

Krassimira Pejcinovski, 39, was murdered by her boyfriend and her body found by Ajax police on Wednesday morning. Pejcinovski's 15-year old son, Roy and 13-year old daughter, Venallia were murdered by the same man. These unnecessary deaths sadden but, do not shock me.

However, after reading the story about Krassimira Pejcinovski's murder that was written for the Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator, I was completely speechless. How dare a reporter include the incredibly insensitive comment of Roy Pejcinovski's unthinking hockey coach: "If it happened in the summer it would still be a tragedy, but the fact that the team is in the high part of the season, it's very difficult."

I'm sure if Krassimira Pejcinovski had known that her murder, and that of two of her children, would have inconvenienced her son's hockey team she would have postponed it to a more convenient time, the summer. I mean, women who are being abused and murdered are always accommodating someone. And, I don't say that tongue-in-cheek.

It is time for the public and press to realize that domestic violence is a pandemic, predictable and in many cases preventable - and it's got to end!

Pattern of Risk Factors

Between 2003 and 2016, the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) reviewed 289 cases, involving 410 deaths. A total of 65 percent of the cases reviewed were homicides and the remaining 35 percent were homicide-suicides.

Approximately 73 percent of all cases involved couples with a history of domestic violence while in 67 percent of the cases there was an actual or pending separation.

In addition to a history of violence and a pending or actual separation, the DVDRC identified several important risk factors that everyone can identify:

In 71 percent of the cases reviewed, 7 or more risk factors were identified. The signs are there. Friends, family, bosses, co-workers, acquaintances, physicians, lawyers, child care workers, in other words, all of us need to look for the telltale signs that a woman's life is in danger.

It's important to understand that each woman in the abusive relationship needs to decide when it is 'safe' to leave. That's because her chances of being murdered increase ninefold once she decides or tries to leave. Women living with intimate partner violence are all too familiar with this fact.

Ideally, there would be a safety plan in place so that when the time is right it's somewhat safer to leave and not return.

In 2016, the DVDRC reviewed 22 cases which included 11 homicides and 11 homicide-suicides. There was a total of 36 deaths that can be broken down to 26 homicide victims and 10 perpetrator suicides. Of the murder victims two were children, 22 were adult females, and two were adult males. All 10 suicide victims were perpetrators. Of the 22 cases reviewed, 21 (95 percent) involved male perpetrators and one (5 percent) involved a female perpetrator.

Typical Profile

Unfortunately, Krassimira Pejcinovski's murder fits the typical profile. In 2009, her murderer was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and sentenced to 12 months' probation. Pejcinovski's employer said she was worried about her friend and has been quoted saying she found the boyfriend controlling and worried that he had harmed the mother of three.

This tragedy plays out across Canada on a regular basis. Every six days a woman is murdered by a current or former partner. It's a statistic that hasn't changed in what seems like forever.

But in cases of intimate partner violence, what is particularly disturbing and distasteful is the way the media chooses to frame these well-planned murders.

In addition to sensationalizing the murder while downplaying the fact that it involved an intimate partner, the woman who has been slain is often lost in the reporting. She becomes a nonentity or, worse, is vilified.

The death of Krassimira Pejcinovski is no different.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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