The red flags that can predict 80 per cent of domestic homicides

Western University researchers have pinpointed several red flags that can precede a domestic homicide. These include prior domestic abuse, stalking, separation, substance abuse and male depression.

New research from Western University shows that most intimate partner killings follow a pattern

Judy Miller Rose attends an event with the London Abused Women's Centre, where she now works as an advocate and counsellor. (Submitted/CBC News)

In 1983, Judy Miller Rose's then-partner tried to murder her in front of her children.

She said the attack didn't come as a surprise.

"There were lots of signs, lots of isolation, lots of degrading, lots of intimidation and threats of what he would do to my parents should I ever leave," said Miller Rose, who managed to escape her attacker. She now works at the London Abused Women's Centre as an advocate and counsellor.

"At that point, due to the amount of violence that had happened ... I thought that the only way for my children to become free was for me to die."

Miller Rose's experience is familiar for other victims and survivors of domestic homicide. In fact, new research from Western University has found that up to 80 per cent of domestic homicides are preceded by several risk factors.

These include prior domestic abuse, stalking, separation, substance abuse and male depression, said Western University professor Peter Jaffe, who is also an organizer of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Conference in London.

Western University's Peter Jaffe says that although more people are becoming aware of domestic violence, they don't always step up when they see it happening. (Submitted)

"It's usually friends and family and professionals who've seen the warning signs, but we don't always do an effective job of responding," he said.

Although some of these signs may not be as troubling on their own, Jaffe said they can be risky when combined with a history of domestic violence or controlling behaviour.

Jaffe and his colleagues are working with coroners and medical examiners across Canada, looking into domestic homicide cases between 2010 and 2015. They hope to pinpoint further risk factors that can lead to domestic homicide, so that they can stop these crimes from happening.

Women who live in remote areas, for instance, may not have many resources available to them  and those who are new to Canada may face cultural and linguistic barriers. 

In the meantime, Jaffe encourages anyone who notices violent patterns to get in touch with police.

"You have to get over the issue of thinking it's not your business. Because when it comes to an issue of an individual's safety and well-being, then domestic violence has to be seen as everyone's business," he said.

Both Peter Jaffe and Judy Miller Rose recommend the London Abused Women's Centre and Anova as local resources.


Paula Duhatschek


Paula Duhatschek is a reporter with CBC Calgary who previously worked for CBC News in Kitchener and in London, Ont. You can reach her at