WATCH: Domestic violence in B.C. has hit alarming rates. This year, there were 20 murders, eight attempted murders and nine perpetrators who took their own lives in murder/suicides in the province. Shirlee Engel puts this spike of incidents in perspective.
For Monique Walley, rock bottom came the day he beat her so badly he broke bones in her face.
It was also her chance to escape the once-charismatic man who’d swept her off her feet, then made her life hell.
“The first day I moved in with him he accused me of cheating on him and he threw me through a wall. He beat me to a pulp,” she says. “Neighbours called police and he was arrested.”
On his release, he made her tell police she hit him first. And so began Walley’s downward spiral of alcohol abuse and trouble with the law. At one point authorities threatened to take away her daughter Desiree – then two years old.
But shattering Walley’s face put her partner in jail for just long enough.
“Once he was away for six months it gave me a window to run,” she said. “I quit my job. I moved out of my place. I left town.”
Walley is lucky: She had the supports necessary to transition into a new life.
For many victims of violence, that’s not the case.
Incidents of domestic violence tripled in B.C. this past year, according to Tracy Porteous of the Ending Violence Association of B.C.
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There have been 20 murders, seven attempted murders and nine perpetrators have taken their own lives in murder-suicides.
“Almost all of these homicides were preventable, if only people had access to support services they need,” Porteous said.
The increase stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the country, where domestic violence rates have been going down for years: Statistics Canada reported 68 intimate partner murders in 2013 – 14 fewer than the previous year.
It’s a crime whose victims are overwhelmingly women: Eighty two per cent of those killed are female, according to Statistics Canada.
Peter Jaffe, Director of Western University’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, says the national statistics probably underplay the death toll because of inconsistent reporting across the provinces.
“They don’t count people in dating relationships or briefer relationships. So the real number is probably closer to 100 people killed every year in Canada related to intimate partner violence,” he said, adding that even one is too many.
Researchers struggle to get accurate information about domestic violence from police and the court system. And many abused partners don’t pursue justice through the courts.
But advocates hope recent high-profile cases such as the video depicting NFL player Ray Rice beating his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator – have helped raise awareness about an issue that has been behind closed doors for too long.
“I think we are going to look back at 2014 as a watershed moment in terms of society beginning to understand that violence against women is an epidemic,” says Porteous of Ending Violence B.C.
Walley says she is going public with her story in the hopes of helping other women in the same situation.
“It’s got to be the common person. It can’t just be celebrities,” she says. “It’s shedding some light on a very real problem because I think it’s happening more than any people realize.”
Her advice to women who find it too hard to leave the cycle of violence?
“You might think it’s love but it’s not. And if you think you love him, just love yourself that much more and have the strength to walk away. And just do the best thing you can for yourself.”