Massachusetts domestic violence program may have lessons for B.C.
State has law that can hold potential abusers up to 90 days
A Masschusetts crisis centre says B.C. could benefit from a state law that allows the incarceration of abusers for up to 90 days in potential domestic violence cases.
Suzanne Dubus, the CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Centre near Boston, made the comments Thursday afternoon while appearing on the CBC radio program 'On the Coast' with host Stephen Quinn.
Dubus says the Massachusetts program was triggered by a fatal domestic violence incident similar to the killing of Angila Wilson thatrecently shocked the community of Clearwater, B.C.
The young nurse's body was found this week in her Clearwater home. Wilson's former partner took the children and was arrested at a different house following a seven-hour police standoff.
In 70 per cent of the cases that are high risk, strangulation has been present and forced sex is a really dangerous factor."- Suzanne DuBus
Dubus says a situation similar to this in Massachusetts led to the creation of a Domestic Violence High Risk Team that works with the police and the courts to predict patterns of future violence and domestic abuse.
She says a seminal study by Dr. Jacqueline Campbell at John Hopkins University on the causes of domestic violence cases identified a number of factors that can be used to predict future "lethality."
"What we did is use that research and then brought together key players in our community and used that to screen cases in the hope that we could change the outcome the next time a victim came to our doors who was in as much danger," she said.
Identifying signs for murder
Some of the signs that Dubus's team look for include threats by the abuser to kill either the victim or himself, access to weapons, forced sex and strangulation.
"In 70 per cent of the cases that are high risk, strangulation has been present," said Dubus, "and forced sex is a really dangerous factor."
Dubus says other aggravating factors the team considers aren't criminal, but can be like "gasoline on the fire."
"If the offender is unemployed that can exacerbate a bad situation and make it worse," she said. "If there is a history of drug and alcohol abuse that can make a bad situation worse."
Dubus says under Massachusetts law, the state can intervene before the woman is attacked.
"And if a defendant is brought into court and there is a belief he or she will kill someone or be violent in the community then the district attorney can request a 'dangerousness' hearing and the court will make a ruling and if he’s found to be dangerous then he’s held pre-trial until the trial comes up," she said.
Dubus says since its implementation the law has become one of the state's most successful strategies for reducing domestic violence. When a victim leaves an abuser, she says it's the most dangerous time for an assault or an attempted homicide.
"And if we can keep him contained for a period of time up to 90 days that gives the victim the space and ability to stabilize her life, to work with us to get transitional housing, financial assistance, counselling or an attorney," she said.
3 B.C. domestic violence attacks in April
Angila Wilson's killing Monday was just the latest in a string of high-profile incidents in B.C. where police have alleged domestic violence was a factor.
Earlier this month, a woman was attacked with a weapon and her Langley house set of fire in a domestic dispute.Andre Harvey Richard is now facing three counts of attempted murder in connection with that incident.
In another incident a woman was sent to hospital after being stabbed in her home in Abbotsford by a man who breached a no-contact order.
With files from the CBC's On the Coast