Every time I read about yet another spousal murder, or murder-suicide, I wonder how many people knew or should have known.
The indicators of risk of a murder at the time of separation are well known and reliable.
They exist in relationships where coercion and control are dominant features. They include:
- the victim (almost always a woman) is afraid for her safety or life, and/or that of the children.
- she has little or no ability to live an independent life, express her own views or make decisions of any kind
- her choices, movements, spending, friends and activities are controlled and monitored by her spouse
- her spouse controls her with threats to her, the children or pets, intimidation, put-downs, threatening language or gestures, crass and derogatory language, and blame.
- her spouse is often a pleasant, normal-seeming man with a strong personality
- there is often a history of some violence, including often violence to other people, which has been minimized by one or both spouses
- her spouse consistently blames her for anything that goes wrong and takes no responsibility for his actions or behaviours.
There are just a few of the signs that friends, family, neighbours, teachers, colleagues, doctors, or others are likely to know about.
Domestic Homicides are the most predictable and preventable of all homicides. They share a pattern of risk factors that can be detected if we know what to look for and if the right questions are asked.
She has developed several brochures for that are very useful, and they are available on her website.
Because these relationships can be identified and assessed, it is important that everyone who works in the family law field to learn how to identify, assess and manage such risks, whether they are mediators, lawyers, arbitrators, child protection workers, counsellors, parenting coordinators or judges.