Chapter 9


The victims and the perpetrators of domestic violence are both women and men and they have been suffering for too long. As the traditional distinctions between men’s and women’s roles continue to melt away, women are more frequently behaving in ways once thought to be the exclusive domain of men. If we are to make any progress on the issue of domestic violence, the problem of female initiated violence must be acknowledged and be addressed by the media, the mental health agencies, the law enforcement communities and by our lawmakers. Acknowledging men’s victimization in no way involves denying that women are victims. It does, however, open the door for both men and women to work together on solutions which reflect the true social realities.

Continuing to portray spousal violence solely as a women's issue is not only wrong, it's also counter productive. Encouraging such unnecessary fragmentation will ultimately do more harm than good. Until society as a whole confronts its deeply ingrained stereotypes and recognizes all the victims of domestic violence, we will never be able to solve the problem. Domestic violence is neither a male or female issue, it’s simply a human issue and a societal problem.

The tolerance of violence in our society is part of the problem. Unless we respond to all forms of violence, our ability to make progress on any front is diminished.

My research for this book has made me far more cautious in accepting statistics and conclusions thereon without taking a close look at trends and comparatives. However, one area in which there was very little disagreement among the experts was on the very small number of cases actually reported to the police. The numbers ranged from 5% to 15% and it tells me that there is much more to the story of domestic violence.

If violence does start small and grows over time, then the earlier it is detected and dealt with, the better. Therefore, understanding more about why so few charges are being laid may be an important key to addressing the problem.

The thought of laying a charge against an intimate partner is a very serious step with potentially enormous consequences. It could end the relationship or it could lead to more serious violence. That kind of decision shouldn’t be made alone and that is why seeking professional guidance is always the best approach. If, however, the likelihood of long lasting real harm is high, the tough decision has to be taken in the best interests of all concerned. People who abuse have a serious problem which won’t go away by itself. They need help and getting the problem exposed will help to start that process.

The courts have also come under some criticism for how they have responded to cases of domestic violence. The judges do however rely on our laws to direct and guide their decisions on sentencing. To respond to the need for help, I have therefore tabled a Bill in Parliament which would amend the Criminal Code to require mandatory counselling for anyone convicted of domestic violence in addition to any other sentence prescribed by the courts. This is one small but important step which I hope will encourage others to end the tragic tolerance of domestic violence.