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B.C. panel releases domestic violence report, urges support for victims

The B.C. Coroners Service says 100 people were killed in domestic violence between 2010 and 2015 – and that is just a fraction of the tens of thousands of women and children affected in this province each year.

The Coroners Service released a report on Wednesday into deaths caused by intimate-partner violence. It shared the stories of three women who were killed – one who had denied she was being assaulted, another who had sought help from an advocacy group and a third whose ministry file had been closed.

The report, which stemmed from a panel held with domestic-violence experts in June, said few victims disclose violence by their intimate partners, and those who do may encounter people who do not understand the risk or how to help.

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The report made three recommendations. First, it called for increased awareness of intimate-partner violence and how to respond to it – including enhanced provincial messaging campaigns, more education for service providers on how to identify risk factors, and the development of strategies to improve reporting rates to police.

"It's not simply a matter of raising awareness in general, but really getting more targeted and helping people understand the seriousness of the risk and how to actually respond to somebody if they are disclosing [violence] to you," Michael Egilson, chair of the death-review panel that prepared the report, said in an interview.

The report also called for a more collaborative approach to case management among agencies, and improved data access.

The report said intimate-partner violence affects people of all social, economic and cultural backgrounds, with "the overwhelming burden borne by women." It said more than 30,000 women and children affected by domestic violence are referred to counselling and outreach programs in B.C. each year. It said more than 18,000 women and children use transition houses and safe houses to escape violence or abuse.

Of the 100 deaths linked to intimate-partner violence between January, 2010, and December, 2015, the report said 73 were victims and 27 were perpetrators, such as in a murder-suicide. Of the 73 victims, 57 – or 78 per cent – were women. Of the 27 perpetrators, 85 per cent were men.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C., said in an interview "that with every death, there are thousands and thousands more women living in current states of violence.

"That's the tip of the iceberg."

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Ms. Porteous, who took part in the death review panel, said she would also like the provincial government to invest more funding in domestic-violence issues.

Balbir Gurm, a registered nurse and instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University who also participated in the panel, in an interview said she believes the report can have an impact.

"We strongly believe that these recommendations will make a difference. Otherwise, I wouldn't have agreed to them," she said.

Stephanie Cadieux, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development, in a statement said she will accept the recommendations. Ms. Cadieux said work on implementing them has already begun.

The report said northern B.C. had the highest rate of domestic-violence deaths, with 7.1 per one million people.

Women aged 20 to 39 and 50 to 59 were the most frequent homicide victims.

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The report said ethnicity was documented for 82 per cent of victims, and 58 per cent of that total were Caucasian. It said people who were East Asian made up 8 per cent, while people who were South Asian made up 7 per cent.

The report said people who were aboriginal were overrepresented in domestic-violence deaths, at 15 per cent of victims. Aboriginal people make up 5 per cent of B.C.'s population.

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