Women murdered by partners should be named, says women's shelter organization

The mothers of women who were victims of domestic violence comment on a policy position from the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters that states government institutions should release the name of women killed by their intimate partners.

'The world needs to know it's a problem and a just a bunch of numbers and statistics are not going to do that'

The 28th homicide victim of 2018 in Edmonton was Wen Lan Bu, allegedly killed by her partner in a home in Breckenridge Greens. Police never released her name. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC )

When Sheree Zielke's daughter was killed by her husband in 2014, she knew there would be attention from the press.

Once a crime reporter herself, Zielke expected questions about her daughter, Rienna Nagel, and her husband, Christopher Nagel.

She wanted to tell Rienna's story, with one caveat: she wanted nothing released that might harm any of the couple's five children.

"As long as it's not damaging to children — a horrible detail that would embarrass the children or harm them in some way — then by all means it should be out there. We should know," said Zielke in an interview with CBC News Wednesday.

Rienna Nagel was 36 years old when she was killed by her husband inside their Spruce Grove home. (Supplied.)

Her comments come after the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters formally adopted a position that states government institutions should release the names of women killed by their intimate partners.

Four women were murdered in Edmonton last year and in each case the accused had been their intimate partner. 

The name of only one of those women was released. The Edmonton Police Service frequently states that identifying the victim would serve "no investigative purpose." 

But ACWS said there are other reasons to do so.

"A blanket policy of refusing to name women who are homicide victims of domestic violence contributes to the public shaming of these women and their loved ones — as well as those women currently surviving in relationships. It says to the woman, and her family, that she is not worthy of community recognition," reads the position statement, which was adopted by the ACWS board at a meeting last week.

The position was unanimously supported by the 11 board members present, said Jan Reimer, executive director of ACWS.

"Many shelter directors, have likely heard at some point, 'If anything should happen to me, please make sure my story is told,''" Reimer said.

Women's lives should never be reduced to statistics, she said, and noted that a lack of information can lead to a lack of accountability.

But she stressed there are also responsibilities when it comes to reporting about femicide.

"The whole idea about naming is first to make sure that it's named as a crime against women. To say it's a woman who has been killed; it's not an 'incident,'" she said.

The document also states media should include information about resources available to victims of domestic violence, and offer context about the on-going social problem of violence against women and girls.

'They have to see the faces'

It's been two years since Zielke's son-in-law was sentenced for killing her daughter. Zielke said the couple's children are doing well, but she worried about them for a long time.

"Be careful what's done to the children, that's first and foremost in my mind," she said. "But other than that, the world needs to know it's a problem and a just a bunch of numbers and statistics are not going to do that. They have to see the faces of those who have been destroyed."

Lynne Rosychuk says she can see both sides of the issue. Her daughter, 26-year-old Jessica Martel, was murdered by her common-law husband in 2009 in Morinville. The couple had three young children.

"It's a hard choice for me. I do know the importance of sharing Jessica's story and the good that her story has done for many families and the good it will continue to do. But I also saw the side where our family was hounded by the press ... and just the effects it would have on the kids, when they would turn on the TV and they would describe the gruesome details," she said.

Lynne Rosychuk's daughter lost her life to domestic violence in 2009. Rosychuk is working to build a safe house in her daughter's honour. (Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation)

Rosychuk is co-founder of the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation, which is in the process of building a 9,000-square-foot safe house for victims of domestic violence in Sturgeon County. The project has been funded through donations.

Rosychuk frequently tells her daughter's story.

"When I saw how it had affected people, it made me want to share it even more. And the more I shared it, the more apparent it became how much we needed to have something in our community for families like Jessica's."


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