If you would like to support Women’s Resources, please Donate THANK YOU!

When Consequences No Longer Matter

A heart-breakingly familiar story has played out yet again. A woman found the courage to end a relationship she no longer wanted to be in, and ended up dead. Court documents showed that time and time again, the man she broke up with was ordered not to have contact with her, and time and time again, he ignored those orders.

Darian Hailey Henderson-Bellman was shot dead late in July in Brampton. The man she had recently broken up with has been charged with her murder as he recovered from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. That would be bad enough.

But what makes Darian’s death even more tragic is the fact that her former partner had been arrested four separate times for breaching conditions of his bail. Four separate times. He had hurt her before, and he wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near her, but over and over, he returned. Even a court-ordered GPS tracking system couldn’t keep him away.

Peel region’s chief of police called Darian’s death “a complete failure of our justice system.” That’s an important acknowledgement, given with the best of intentions, but nothing changes the reality of her murder or the danger faced by so many other women in her situation.

Far and away the most dangerous time for a woman in a relationship is the time she decides to leave it. When women contact us at Women’s Resources, they’ve usually been thinking about leaving for a long time, balancing that desire against the fact that a final break with an abusive partner may well drive him to greater acts of violence. They want to leave to find safety, but they fear for their lives and those of their children if they do.

The justice system has different measures intended to keep these women safe, but as was clear in Brampton so recently, those measures don’t always work. Many abusive men are enraged by the thought that their female partners might actually escape their iron fist. And at that point, it doesn’t matter what’s written on a piece of paper or what the police have in their files.

If an abuser wants to hunt down his partner, he will. It’s not that the police and the courts don’t care about the safety of a woman who’s experienced intimate partner violence; it’s that the abuser no longer cares about consequences. It’s more important to him to regain control over his partner than it is to avoid breaking a restraining order or violating the terms of his bail.

If there were an easy solution to this terrible problem, we would have found it by now. Crown attorneys and judges and police will continue to work to find better ways to protect women at risk of violence when they leave an abusive relationship. But all the proposals in the world to reform the system won’t change one basic reality: It’s up to men to stop committing violence against women.

By Nancy Payne