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Domestic violence victims need more protection, women's advocate says

A women's advocate in Thunder Bay says a recent report highlights failures to protect victims of domestic violence.
A recent report on deaths due to domestic violence points to failings of the justice system to properly assess the risk to victims, and to protect women, a Thunder Bay critic says.

A women's advocate in Thunder Bay says a recent report highlights failures to protect victims of domestic violence.

The latest report from Ontario's Domestic Violence Death Review Committee points to common risk factors that could have raised red flags in many cases of domestic homicide — and the executive director of the Faye Peterson Transition House in Thunder Bay wants people in this region to take note.

“In 2010-2011 we had two pretty high-profile murders of elderly women in our community,” said Debbie Zweep.

Debbie Zweep, the executive director of the Faye Peterson Transition House, says people working in the justice system need to be better trained to do risk assessments for victims. (Supplied)

“And for those of us who work in this field … we know that there were 9, 10 or 11 risk factors associated with these cases. So what was missed?'”

Zweep said people working in the justice system need to be better trained to do risk assessments for victims.

"Whether you're a victim services worker, whether you're a front line police officer,  if you're a justice of the peace. If you don't have that training we need to get that training,” she said.

“We've been talking about this for 10 years."

This report examines 20 cases reviewed in 2012. It looks back at data from over 150 cases from the past 10 years, involving over 200 deaths, in which most of the victims were women.

The report highlights common risk factors that were evident in many of the cases that could have served as red flags. Some of the top risk factors include history of violence, obsessive behaviour by the perpetrator, a perpetrator who was depressed or unemployed, and prior threats made against the victim.

"Risk is dynamic,” Zweep continued.

“We need to be assessing it continually. You don't assess it when you arrest the perpetrator and then, you know, five days later when he's left the home or re-entered, you haven't re-assessed it. Someone has to be re-assessing risk all the time, and I think that's where we miss the mark."

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