Killings of women and girls on the rise again in Canada in 2021 as researchers point to pandemic stress

New statistics show that more women and girls have been killed in Canada in the first half of this year than in the same period in the previous two years, an increase that a University of Guelph researcher warns is a telltale sign that the pressures Aggravating factors of the pandemic have exposed women. to an increased risk of violence.

Months of fluctuating lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have left women, many of whom already faced violence from abusers, exposed to more deadly attacks, according to new data released by University of Guelph professor Myrna Dawson. and his team in the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.

“What is happening is that the situation is becoming more stressful and that is causing previously violent men to become more violent, and women who probably over the years have figured out how to negotiate that violence now has no access to resources or the ability to get out, ”Dawson said.

According to the Femicide Observatory, 92 women and girls were murdered in the first six months of 2021, 14 more murders than in the same period last year and 32 more than in 2019.

“This is a trend that we need to be more concerned about,” Dawson said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands still living with violence.”

The rise in femicides, the gender- and sex-related killings of women and girls, shows a correlation with the lack of access to services and shelters, as well as the tense conditions at home amid the pandemic, Dawson said. , expert and director in gender violence. from the Guelph Center for Social and Legal Response to Violence Studies.

Dawson said we need to start paying more attention to finding intervention points and emphasized that there has been a glaring lack of a safety net for women seeking refuge.

“We need to make people more aware of the risk factors involved in these murders,” he said, adding that there is a gap in the training required for professionals, including law enforcement officers and judges, to understand these crimes and can respond more effectively.

Intimate partners, predominantly male, made up 37 percent of the people charged in the 2021 killings, while another 15 percent were categorized as family members and 39 percent were unspecified, according to the report from the Observatory of Femicides. Of the 79 cases in which the sex of the accused was known, 73 were men.

Dawson said there were several examples where the defendant also attacked the children of female victims and other family members present.

“It often happens that there will be multiple victims when a woman dies,” he said.

Ontario was home to 33 of the reported deaths, followed by British Columbia and Quebec, tied for 17 deaths each.

The methods of attack are very varied, but Dawson says that “most of the time we see that firearms and stabbings are often the two most common.”

Key risk factors include women seeking to get out of an abusive situation and men exercising dominance or control. When children are involved, violence can be contextualized as “revenge killings, so that children become a tool to punish women.”

Dawson also noted that indigenous women made up 12 percent of the victims, more than double their representation in the population.

Recently, the Peel Regional Police reported an increase in the number of women attacked by intimate partners.

Peel’s deputy chief of police, Nick Milinovich, said the increase in those charges “tells us that something has changed,” suggesting that the pandemic has played a role.

“It’s very possible, the pressures and forced isolation are creating a scenario where people are reacting more violently,” Milinovich told the Star recently.

Thursday is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the start of a global campaign, which raises awareness about male violence against women.

Jason Miller is a Toronto-based Star reporter covering crime and justice in the Peel region. Contact him by email: j[email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

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