Domestic homicide is Predictable and Preventable

The tragic, and entirely preventable, deaths of Chloe and Aubrey Berry are a grim reminder that when we are concerned about violence against women we should also worry about violence against the children. On paper, the legal system is designed to safeguard women and children’s right to a life free from violence. However, the Oak Bay tragedy confirms that this right is only extended in theory, and not in practise.

Rather than providing reprieve to women and children fleeing violence, the family law system revictimizes them, by obliging them to repeatedly disclose their most traumatic memories in court proceedings; allowing abusive men to cross examine them; and permitting abusive fathers unfettered access to their children. At BWSS, we provide emotional and advocacy support to numerous women who express hopelessness, frustration, and anger with the court system. Many are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place when they are faced with parenting time orders that allow their abusive fathers to spend time with their children, children who have often been victims themselves and have witnessed the violence perpetrated on their mothers. Women face the impossible choice of either following the court order and placing their children in jeopardy or being held in breach of the court order.

In October, BWSS wrote an open letter to B.C. Minster of Justice, David Eby on the Provincial Court Family Rules Project which includes the “Consensual Dispute Resolution”(“CDR”). It is BWSS longstanding direct experience as well as extensive research in the field that has repeatedly demonstrated alternative dispute resolution processes, including mediation, are neither safe nor appropriate for women, particularly when there is a history of relationship violence. Children who have witnessed their mother’s abuse are also being abused and they experience the impact. With alternative dispute resolution processes, unfortunately, FJCs, judges and others in the legal systems are continuing to place an overriding importance on children’s contact with their father, even if that father is abusive.

Preventing such a tragedy from happening again requires significant changes to the system, including extensive training for judges and police officers, free access to legal representation for women fleeing violence: the majority of people who require legal aid for family law services are women and many women who are fleeing violent partner. This means that women have been directly affected to the progressive cuts to Legal Aid since 2002. Additional social resources for women and children to help ensure their safety. Women and children cannot access justice if their voices are heard but not believed.

Western University’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children found that Eighty per cent of domestic homicides are preceded by at least seven risk factors that were known to someone close to them. The risk factors include prior violence against women, stalking, separation, prior threats and a perpetrator’s substance abuse. These deaths are preventable.

Battered Women’s Support Services is holding Women Seeking Safety: BWSS Forum on Violence against Women and their Children and the Law on Friday, January 26 2018 looking at systemic change, lethality/assessments and recommendations. Details to follow.


B.C. girls’ deaths prompt debate about how judges handle domestic-violence cases

Girls’ deaths in B.C. see questions raised about judges and domestic violence

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS ED interview on Roundhouse Radio

Let’s Be Clear Pick-Up Artists = Men Who Contribute to Rape Culture

Nicole* was shopping on Robson street when a man approached her. After a few minutes of harmless conversation, Nicole tried to turn back to what she was doing, but the man insisted and continued to harass her.

“I made it very obvious to him that I didn’t want to talk,” Nicole says. “I backed away from him, I pulled my phone out, I gave him one word answers. And he just kept going on and on. It got to the point where I had to end the conversation.”

Nicole’s experience is far from unique. According to news report of Vancity Buzz, the man who harassed Nicole was part of a “social club”, probably participating in a pick up artists (PUA) bootcamp where they learn how to “pick up” women and share seduction tips with each other. Then they take to the streets to practice the techniques they learned. As our ED Angela Marie MacDougall said in an interview yesterday at CTV News, PUA techniques focus heavily on a steadily escalating process of coercion and many come with an assumption that a man has a right to have sex with any woman he wants.

The male sexual entitlement makes them believe that women owe them sexual favours in exchange for their attention, aggressiveness, or just existing. If he doesn’t succeed in landing a given “catch”, he’s less of a man which puts tremendous pressure on him to seal the deal at all costs. No surprise “no means no” doesn’t appear in neither PUA’s curriculum or dictionary. It teaches men that women are objects to be won, and that when a woman says no, it doesn’t actually mean no.

So many of these tips and indeed much of the terminology are misogynist and directly encourage rape and boundary-crossing behaviour. They are encouraging men to use tremendous pressure to get women to sleep with them. And what if they are denied sex? Overcome “last minute resistance”, for example one of the PUA techniques, with a series of coldly calculated steps intended to get a woman to cave in and have sex. These steps notably don’t include an active solicitation of consent.

When a culture judges its men on what age they first had sex, how many women they have sex with, and the hotness level of their conquests, inevitably some of these men would adopt the attitude that sex without consent is okay. Respecting women would become only a hindrance that has to be overcome no matter what. The structure of such techniques creates the idea that forcing women to have sex is normal, and that pressuring sexual partners is acceptable. As these techniques spread out beyond the PUA community, they become internalized by the rest of society. In the process, they can become increasingly distorted.

It is clear that PUA is a huge contributor to rape culture in our society. These men are participating in a smarmy, objectifying, highly sexist culture that treats women like prizes to be won rather than human beings. Even naming predators’ action of harassment as “pick up artists”, not respecting women’s personal space and their choices, having sex without consent as an “art”, all normalize the unacceptable. And thanks to the normalization of coerced sex, their victims may have difficulty discussing what happened to them, let alone reporting it to authorities who might be able to take action.

PUA Poster

Download the poster here.

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Women from November 25, 2014 , continues through December 6th to on December 10th. Our ED Angela Marie MacDougall joined Sonia Sunger on Global TV to talk about the International Day to End Violence Against Women.


Download and listen the postcast here. The following is a rush transcription of the interview:

Sonia Sunger: We are going to be turning to other news now. We have a guest here to talk about the International Day to end Violence against Women, Angela Marie MacDougall. You’ve actually just been listening to this press conference that has been going on, and obviously we talked to you about, today obviously is a very big day for the elimination of violence against women. First, I want to get your thoughts on that press conference that just happened. I know you know it’s an emotional day obviously for a lot of people and you have been taken aback by some of the comments that were made

Angela Marie MacDougall: Yes, thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning. I think, I found the press conference riveting and pointed. You know, I think that the lawyers and certainly reverend Al Sharpton did an extraordinary job through their comments to speak to the ways in which these proceedings that happened in Ferguson did not follow proper procedure. They asked very important questions about how these proceedings was undertaken and indicted the proceedings in terms of how it was done. And I think anyone who has been watching this and paying attention to the United States and the ways in which African American people in the United States historically from the very beginning of the creation of the US as a country in terms of stealing Africans from Africa in order to do slave labour until the present day. We have seen these kinds of things go on for generations, and so this is an example of what has happened historically and it’s happening again. And I think the that was very pointed for me was hearing Al Sharpton say that “Our hearts are broken, but our backs are not broken” and I think that’s the message I am taking away is that this work continues to address systemic racism and discrimination. And we have to understand that African American boys and men and girls and women are murdered every 28 hours by a police or a police type individual. This is astonishing and we have to in order to really understand the level of threat that people are facing.

SS: Are you surprised? I guess you are not obviously surprised by the reaction that we have seen in the US I mean that this has sparked a whole new civil rights movement and Al Sharpton is saying they are going to hold an emergency meeting in Washington coming next week, saying they are going to form a plan for ongoing demonstration and saying this is far form over and it’s really just the beginning.

AMM: If there is anything to take from this it is that people have become galvanized behind from the death of Michael Brown. And since Michael Brown there have been several young men and women that have been murdered, shot unarmed by law enforcement officers in the US since then several. And so, people are fed up. And this is understandable and people are really mobilizing around these and things have to change. One of the problems we bump up against is whether the system is actually broken or if it is working exactly as its intended, and it’s a tricky question that has yet to be answered truly.

SS: Exactly and that’s the question that they were raising today and that’s about the process itself was this process they used, the problem itself, and you heard the reverend and the lawyer saying that in this case, it was prosecutor only, and there was no cross examination, there was no ability to take a second look at the evidence that was presented, so I mean I think that’s where the anger and resentment is coming from. Was this process completely fair?

AMM: That’s it. Those are the questions and they are good questions for those of us who went there and weren’t able to be a part of that proceeding to see how it went down. These are important critical questions that have to be asked. And you know the question is really is how will that system be held accountable. I  know that they want to  push for legislation that has a law enforcement wearing body cameras and hope that would bring some transparency because and not being able to trust the proceedings that are in place. I think also and have the government step in. What historically has happened within the United States where local communities have a long history of systemic racism and police violence that people can’t trust, that local communities can address these very serious issues, and so seeking outside people such as the federal government to participate. And that’s a really good question about why the federal government was not involved in this?  I think that the issue is accountability at the end of the day here and transparency, and what’s been raised here is very serious as there has not been a level accountability, or transparency.

SS: And I think that will be the next step to see how the federal government in the US handles this whether they do step in and the next steps there. I wanna talk to you also about today being the day of the International Day to End Violence against Women and this day falls with, you know, two recent cases of violence in Surrey’s South Asian community in the past few months including one this weekend where a woman in her 60s was found dead and her husband is being charged with second degree murder.

AMM: Well Sonia…Violence against women is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Woman are being murdered every day by their male partners all across the lands. And you know, we’ve seen horrific murders of women in Surrey. We continue to seek the amount of public awareness, but we really need a behavior change at this point, we need to see real change that’s going to address levels of unsafety, violence, and oppression in women are experience in their homes. In their homes understand that this is happening in women homes where it’s supposed to be safe.

SS: I understand that the BWSS is celebrating an important milestone. I don’t know if you want to say celebrating, but marking looking at the past 35 years of progress that the organization has made. So when you think of that, 35 years of history how far have you come?

AMM: Well so, murders of women have not stopped. So we need to start right there. When Battered Women’s Support Services was created in 1979, we had a situation where we could not talk about violence against women it was simply deemed to not exist. If we think about 1882 when Margaret Mitchell who was an MP for Vancouver East spoke at the House of Commons and she spoke about the prevalence of which she called then wife battering and the male MPS in the House of Commons laughed at her. So that was the context of when BWSS started and our very name Battered Women’s Support Services and that name was selected to make visible that which was rendered invisible. And so, when we fast forward to present day we have a situation now to where things have shifted, we have way more public awareness media reports are much better in terms of accuracy and there is a significant backlash whenever victims are blamed. We really appreciate the role of social medial and how communities and communities of women and others are mobilizing around social media in order to bring a level of awareness and to push back around victim blaming. So those are some things that have happened. One of the things I think is really important to note is that no more than ever woman are leaving abusive relationships. More than my mothers time, more than my grandmothers time. And this is really important torn recognize that woman are leaving and seeing that there are options other than living with violence.

SS: Yeah, and the other part of this is also sexual violence and allegations of that you know just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, and cases like that making a lot of people think about that sort of violence against women and a lot of people coming out and more people are willing to speak about it. Do you think that is elevating the conversation?

AMM: Yes most definitely, it is positioning women’s voice at the center of this conversation, women had have experience sexual violence at the center. And that’s where we need to be, really hearing women, hearing women share their stores of sexual violence, talking about ways in which the power dynamics played out that contributed, talk about the way in which power dynamic contributed to the silencing and to the disbelief when women went public, weather that was from co-workers or law enforcement, friend and family this is extraordinarily important because it is the victim blaming and the silencing, and the undermining of women’s voices over the years that has allowed those who would do sexual violence and domestic violence against women to continue and that’s shifting and this is a critical important part of this shift within our culture.

SS: Alright well let’s hope this shift and conversation continues. Angela Marie MacDougall from Battered Women’s Support Services joining us today.

AAM: Thank you, Sonia.


If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


Without Warning

I have a story to tell and it is not so nice
It’s about when I fell and it was not on ice
It is about a man whom I loved very dear
But as the year went on, he instilled in me a fear
In the beginning he was kind and easy to love
Quite refined and gentle as a dove
Then without warning, I was totally unaware
He punched my face and pulled my hair
He struck me again and again, until I hit the ground
There was no one to help me, not a soul around
This violence went on for many years
I sat there in silence and shed plenty of tears
It did not matter how hard I tried
I always had bruises that I could not hide
I was afraid to move, afraid to talk
Tired of all the people who liked to gawk
All of the guilt and all of the shame
Yet I wasn’t the one inflicting the pain
When I heard the doctor, I thought it was a lie
The doctor stated, “The man is going to die”
I would pray to God that this nightmare would end
I never had no one to trust, not one friend
Then one day God said, “No more”
He took him to Heaven and picked me up off the floor
– Rhonda Vermette

Recognizing, Understanding and Addressing Economic Abuse

Recognizing, Understanding and Addressing Economic Abuse
By Sara Yasan,
Manager, Training and Strategic Interventions

A complex combination of social, psychological, cultural, familial and economic factors contribute to a woman’s decision to remain in, leave and/or return to an abusive/violent relationship. Beside fear of losing their children, women who live with violence and abuse, frequently cite income, employment and financial stability as the strongest, most immediate deterrents to leaving abusive situations.

Impacted by the legacy of debt and imposed bankruptcies, even after leaving an abusive relationship, many women struggle to eat, find a safe place to live, achieve academic goals, support their children and rebuild their lives.

To understand the dynamics of financial abuse and the experiences of women survivors, we ought to recognize that financial abuse takes many forms. In fact, financial abuse is a common tactic of power and control in abusive relationships, which enables an abusive partner to control women by preventing or restricting her access to money, employment or other financial resources.

Abusive partners are motivated by the need for control and willing to use force, coercion or violence. Financial or economic abuse occurs when an abusive partner attempts to take total or partial control of woman’s financial resources, including money, property, an inheritance or employment income as well as prevent her from having access to, or making decisions for her own financial resources.

BWSS Economic Empowerment Strategies for Women: Recognizing and Addressing the Effects of Financial Abuse initiative explores and addresses the impacts of financial abuse on the lives of women.

Our objective through this initiative is to equip women survivors of violence, advocates, other frontline workers, policy analysts and other systems, institutions and government entities with strong analysis, practical resources, and information grounded in the lived experiences of women; through gaining these knowledge and skills these civil servants are better able to enhance women’s ability to engage in all levels of society; and, they are more capable of assisting women who are living with violence and abuse in achieving financial safety.

In order to ground ourselves in the experiences of women, through the month of April 2011, women who access our services were invited to take part in focus groups. Women were invited to share their stories and struggles as they experienced, and continue to experience, the impact of financial abuse.

The first session of the focus group series were held on April 7th, 2011. Nearly 40% of the women who participated in the group were either Indigenous or Immigrant women. Each woman passionately shared her story in the group, some for the very first time. Women described the many challenges they had faced, and continue to face, as the result of living through financial abuse. They shared the impact of financial dependency on their abusive partners, who were using financial abuse as a tactic of power and control. This economic dependency, however, is reinforced by societal and systemic gender discriminations that limits or denies women the opportunities to have access to and participate in the labour market and earn equal wages as male counterparts.

Women’s narratives highlighted that while financial abuse might not be as obvious or observable as other types of abuse, it profoundly impacts the safety and well being of women. Whether manifested through lack of access to some of the most basic life necessities like food and clothing and safe shelter, or marked by the systemic denial of access to financial resources, information and education, economic and financial abuse have a serious and lasting impact on women.

BWSS’ Economic Empowerment Strategies for Women: Recognizing and addressing the effects of financial abuse is holding two more focus groups in the month of April.


Read more about What is Economic Abuse?

BWSS Economic Empowerment_2-page-001

BWSS’ Economic Empowerment Strategies for Women is funded by:

TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund

My Sister's CLoset a social enterprise of Battered Women's Support Services





Founding Sponsors:

SEDIlogosmall TDshield


Childhood Betrayed

Unhappiness and fear are unwanted friends
That make you wonder how life will mend
The pain and injury of a long ago past
What will it take for peace to last?

Life is a journey and we chart our way
Through clouds and sunshine day by day
Sometimes we struggle and sometimes we laugh
Hoping each day tribulations will pass.

Scalding pain of childhood betrayed
Rips through the heart and wars with the soul
Till clouds of confusion make it hard to know
If you’re winning or losing or status quo.

Grappling silently with life’s simplest tasks
Lost in confusions which others walk past
Stuck in a breach not of your own
Lost forever in the words of a poem.

– ml