Domestic Violence

In last week’s column I talked about the way new love acts like a chemical addiction often leading to obsession as well as impulsive and often irrational behaviour.

I also briefly mentioned a recent brain scan study of individuals who had recently been rejected by a lover, which showed activation in areas of the brain linked to risk taking, intense motivation to win, ruminations on the intentions of others, controlling anger and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

Unfortunately, the dark side of this addict-like quality of love is the potential for violence. In light of this study’s findings, it is not surprising to hear that the most important risk marker for domestic violence is an imminent or recent separation of the couple.

When a person feels jilted by an intimate partner, this is the time when he or she is most likely to commit a violent act.

Other risk markers for domestic violence are similar to those for suicide and include mental illness, substance abuse, access to weapons, recent loss, impulsive behaviour, a history of violent behaviour, recent separation and control over the partner.

Domestic violence is an all-too-common reality in Canada. According to a 2004 Canadian General Social Survey, roughly seven per cent of adults report violence in their relationships and worldwide violence in the context of an intimate relationship is more prevalent than rape or assault committed by strangers or acquaintances.

The vast majority of this violence is conducted by men against women (roughly 90 per cent).

Sadly, domestic violence can lead to murder and statistics find that women are three times more likely than men to fear for their lives within a relationship. They are also twice as likely to be the target of more than 10 violent episodes.

Several dozen cases of intimate partner homicide occur in Canada each year. These are preventable deaths made especially frustrating because roughly two thirds of women who are eventually murdered by an intimate partner were stalked before being killed.

But even when a woman’s life is not in danger, the mental health consequences of domestic violence and stalking are devastating. Low self esteem, guilt, fear, hopelessness, shame, isolation and suicide are all common for abused individuals.

If you are in a relationship that is already violent or you fear that it may become that way, there is always a way out. Pay attention to the risk markers for violence and find someone to talk to about the danger and a way for you to leave the situation.

Develop a plan and then carry through with it and enlist the help of the legal system.

A great first step is finding someone to talk to. I would like to recommend an excellent website which lists many shelters within BC and also has many other resources for women and families dealing with abuse. The site is – visit and look around if you are looking for help or speak with someone in the community such as a health care provider or the police.


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