Intimate partners and ex-partners will use any means to exert power and control over their victims. Children and pets are not immune from the violence.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published February 04, 2015
There was a very disturbing story on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator Wednesday morning: "Man Gets Four Months in Jail for Killing Puppy." The man in question admitted to willfully causing the black lab's death, but is appealing his conviction and sentence because he "loves animals and would never deliberately hurt a dog."
The puppy belonged to his girlfriend. It was a Christmas gift from a friend. During a disagreement in March 2013, the man threw the pup onto a board with nails protruding from it. It took several hours for the pup to die.
Stemming from the same incident, the man was charged with assaulting his girlfriend but found not guilty. He was also charged and found guilty of fleeing from police. In 2005, this same man was convicted of assault.
At his sentencing his former girlfriend was quoted by the Spectator as saying, "to this day, I try living my life day by day, looking over my shoulder. I still have nightmares."
Speaking in his own defense at sentencing, the man said, "I admit that I have been reckless; however, not willingly, intending to kill our dog. That is, I did not will any harm to come to Bear. She was our dog who I cared for, I loved, I miss and long for. I personally would like to see justice for her sake, but this is not it."
His appeal will be based on the credibility of the complainant - his former girlfriend.
Stories like this one are all too common in the world of gendered violence. Intimate partners and ex-partners will use any means to exert power and control over their victims. Children and pets are not immune from the violence.
The Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (ODVRC) 2012 Annual Report [PDF] includes a Risk Factor Coding Form (pp. 41-2), which lists 39 factors used to determine the risk a woman faced from her intimate partner prior to her murder by that same partner. The factors are scored as Absent, Present or Unknown.
Number 14 on the list is "Prior violence against family pets".
Over the past decade that the ODVRC has been reviewing the deaths of women at the hands of their intimate partners it's become crystal clear that seven risk factors are common to intimate partner homicides:
The woman had separated from, or was getting ready to leave, her abusive partner. 81 percent of domestic homicides happened during an actual or pending separation. 66 percent of these homicides occurred in the first six months after separation.
There was a history of domestic violence in the relationship.
The violence in the relationship was escalating.
The murderer showed signs of obsessive behaviour such as stalking.
The murderer was experiencing a major life change like the loss of his job, pending separation, house being listed for sale or depression.
The murderer had threatened to kill his partner in the past.
The victim had an intuitive sense of fear. These murders are always premeditated. They are never spontaneous. These abusers are never 'nice guys.'
The abuser having access to weapons is also a huge indicator that a woman is in a high risk situation.
Each additional risk factor means that the woman, her children and her pets are at greater risk of being killed.
The 1 in 4 Domestic Violence Project is a grassroots volunteer organization committed to helping women in Hamilton support themselves as they heal from domestic violence. Use the Resource link to access a Domestic Violence Checklist and the Behavioural Checklist that will help you identify if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. Then, check out Safety Planning and Community Resources.
If you live in Halton Region, please go to the Halton Violence Prevention Council website and click on the About Us page to access a complete listing of member organizations. Move your cursor over the agency's name and click to get more information. Go to Need Help? to get a drop down listing of the agencies women in crisis should know about.
Remember: leaving is the most dangerous time for a woman, her children and her pets. She must decide when the time is right and she must have a safety plan in place. The Neighbours, Friends and Families campaign will help you find the information you need to safely help a woman at risk of violence.
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