September 15, 2017 4:47 pm
Updated: September 15, 2017 4:49 pm

The cycle of conjugal violence: What does it take for a woman to leave?

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Fausto Serafini / EyeEm / Getty Images

Why do abusive relationships reach a breaking point? What does it take for a spouse or partner to kill?

In eight out of 10 cases, the person who is killed is a woman who may have been subject to a pattern of abuse that has escalated over a period of weeks, months or even years.

READ MORE: ‘He’s going to kill me this time’: domestic violence survivor shares her story

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Recognizing that a relationship is indeed abusive is one of the first steps to putting a stop to the violence, according to experts.

READ MORE: After 2 years of domestic violence, woman sits down with her abuser and asks ‘Why?’

“So many women, they come to us and they are ready to leave right away. Other women come for years and they can’t get out,” said Betty Petropoulos, social worker and director of social services at Shield of Athena, a Montreal-area women’s shelter.

“Statistically, we know that the most dangerous time for a woman is during the separation period, in terms of getting hurt or killed.”

Executive director Melpa Kamateros has been running Shield of Athena since 1991.

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She has made educating the public about conjugal violence her life’s work.

READ MORE: Distressing video reveals the kind of calls domestic violence counsellors get every day

Shield of Athena runs a shelter where women and their children can live after fleeing a violent home.

There are also two day centres, where victims of abuse can get help with crisis intervention, counselling and even accompaniment if they fear for their safety when out in public.

She said she wants to see children learn about this type of violence in school.

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“There is one abduction every nine minutes in Canada, and it is usually done by a family member,” Kamateros told Global News.

“This person is usually one of the parents, and it can be related to motives of revenge in a relationship that has conjugal violence.”

When cases of domestic violence end in tragedy, the public often only sees the tail end of a story, according to Kamateros.

READ MORE: Why beauty professionals are being trained to prevent domestic abuse

Only 30 per cent of cases of domestic abuse are ever reported to police — and there are 18,000 conjugal violence cases reported each year.

“The sensationalist part, what we hear in the news, is only the tip of the iceberg,” Kamateros said.

WATCH BELOW: Distressing video reveals the kind of calls domestic violence counsellors get every day

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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