It’s easier to stay with an abusive partner.
Since Angila Wilson was killed, allegedly by her former spouse, we’ve been shining lights in some dark corners, trying to understand how this keeps happening.
We spoke to lawyers, police, counsellors, abused women and observed dozens of K-files—domestic abuse court cases, hoping to learn something. We tried to follow the exact process Wilson had to go through to get a protection order against Iain Scott. What could she have done differently? What didn’t she know that could have saved her life? And how can we share that with women in similar situations?
And we kept coming back to that answer: It’s easier to stay with an abusive partner, which of course is an unacceptable one.
Because calling the police, putting him in jail will make him angrier. Because if you leave, where will you go? Because he likely controls the money and when he’s gone, who feeds the kids? Because who will protect her?
And these are just the questions she asks before she starts jumping through hoops for judges and lawyers and social services. In truth, the system—police, family court applications, women’s services—can hardly be faulted. Enormous systems and bureaucracies are rarely so nimble but if you insist, a judge can see her today, maybe tomorrow and offer some hope of some protection. It can be done.
But relationships involving domestic violence are as complicated as they are volatile. Add alcohol, drugs and mental illness and you’re tempted to throw your hands up as some believe the courts in Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton may have done.
A year ago, the B.C. Provincial Court Chief Justice didn’t create a domestic violence court with a new practice direction, as perhaps it appeared outwardly. He set tight deadlines for processing K-files—they must go to trial within 60 days. But some lawyers tell me this move is a cynical way to deal with nuisance cases.
These K-files clog the system and many go nowhere because the victims rarely show up and testify and it becomes a waste of time but now not more than 60 days.
And you may be tempted to share in that cynicism. Why care if the victim won’t help herself?
Because no one knows when fear of death is real or imminent. And when it goes bad, the price is paid by Angila Wilson in Clearwater. And Sheena Neifer in Vernon. Or James Buhler’s wife in Princeton and dozens and dozens of others.
I have few solid answers about how police can react differently or courts can protect women and remain fair, (keeping in mind these are the same courts that last week sentenced a Kamloops man to less than five years in jail for killing his spouse.) I’ll leave that to others well above my pay grade. But lives are literally at stake if we can’t make it easier and faster still for women to get help and leave if they must.
That’s just a management problem for someone well above my pay grade. But that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook. Laws alone won't do anything.
Domestic violence doesn’t just happen. It’s a seed that takes root in fertile ground of a misogynistic culture. It's a product of inherited male entitlement, a belief that men are simply more valuable than women, that caters to male whims and lets them take what they want.
The good news is the conversation has started where it must, on Twitter. Since a 22-year-old college student went on a shooting rampage a couple of weeks ago, fuelled by rejected sexual entitlement, men responded with the hashtag campaign #notallmen. Then women across the world responded with #yesallwomen and it's schooling men on what it's like, how continuing to let boys be boys inevitably hurts girls.
As a guy, it's tough to understand until you read these immensely powerful statements from thousands of women out there. If you care, you check it out and get involved. This is the point where asking how women can protect themselves is the wrong question. They're asking why men feel they can do this.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of Infotel News.