How to curb domestic violence: After a triple homicide, experts weigh in

Experts on domestic violence and support workers are speaking out in the wake of a triple homicide in Ajax and detail warning signs to look out for.

'It never comes out of the blue, there are always a lot of warning signs and a lot of risk factors'

Police allege Krassimira Pejcinovski, left, was killed by her boyfriend, Cory Fenn, on March 14. (Facebook)

As family and friends reel from the deaths of an Ajax, Ont. woman and her two children — a case Durham Police are treating as a triple homicide — support workers and experts are sounding the alarm on domestic violence in the hopes of preventing future tragedies. 

On Thursday, 29-year-old Cory Fenn appeared in court to face three charges of second-degree murder in the deaths of 39-year-old Krassimira Pejcinovski, Roy Pejcinovski, 15, and Venallia Pejcinovski, 13.

Fenn is believed to have been in a relationship with the children's mother at the time of the alleged murders.

According to the Office of the Chief Coroner's 2016 report, there were a total of 388 homicides with domestic violence involvement in Ontario from 2002 to 2015. Of that number, 36 were children, 37 were men and 314 were women.

Barb MacQuarrie has extensive experience of speaking on gendered violence as the community director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at the University of Western Ontario. 

She said relationships that end in violence can be preventable. 

Fenn made his first appearance after his arrest at an Oshawa Courthouse on Thursday. (Pam Davies)

"When something like this happens, it never comes out of the blue, there are always a lot of warning signs and a lot of risk factors."

MacQuarrie said the responsibility falls on everyone — from family to friends to co workers — to recognize when there could be abuse that is hidden and that there needs to be intervention. 

"We do have a lot of power...to be able to have a conversation with somebody and say 'I see this happening, are you okay? I see this happening, do you know you can go here, here and here in your community?'" MacQuarrie said.  

Barb MacQuarrie leads the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women & Children in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

One of those community supports in Toronto is Ernestine's, a women's shelter.

Kathleen O'Gorman is a manager at the shelter who believes there is still taboo surrounding discussion of domestic violence; something she says needs to end immediately. 

"People say, 'Oh, there's nothing I can do.' There's lots... Don't take it as an overwhelming issue that is not stoppable."

How to help in domestic violence cases

Both O'Gorman and MacQuarrie have advice for friends and family who may suspect someone they know may be in a violent or abusive relationship.

  • Offer to listen, lending help and support, not judgment
  • Allow the abused person decide when the timing to leave is right
  • Have crisis hotline numbers or shelters to refer them to
  • Plan for safety: organizing documents, childcare, clothing and necessities of life when planning to leave

O'Gorman believes simply reaching out can often be the difference.

"If they need help, reach out, give them an ear, make sure they have access to crisis numbers."

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that there were a total of 388 homicides in Ontario from 2002 to 2015. In fact, there were 388 homicides with domestic violence involvement.
    Mar 16, 2018 11:00 AM ET

With files from Nick Boisvert