In wake of Mylène Laliberté's death, what can be done about domestic violence?

An expert in family violence offered a sobering assessment of the problem following the death of Mylène Laliberté, 24, in Lanaudière. Her ex-boyfriend has been charged with first-degree murder.

Slaying of 24-year-old Lanaudière woman puts spotlight on conjugal abuse in Quebec

Police found the body of Mylène Laliberté, 24, in a home in Saint-Lin-Laurentides on Friday night. (Dave St-Amant/Radio-Canada)

Last Friday afternoon, Mylène Laliberté — by all accounts a generous, fun-loving young woman — posted on Facebook: "Who's doing what tonight?"

Only five hours later, the 24-year-old was found dead.

Mylène Laliberté, 24, was found dead on Friday in a residence in Saint-Lin-Laurentides. (Mylène Laliberté/Facebook)
Her ex-boyfriend, Maxime Aubin, 21, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Her slaying has shaken her hometown of Saint-Lin-Laurentides, 60 kilometres north of Montreal, and renewed questions about what can be done to address the persistent problem of domestic violence.

Despite research suggesting an overall decline in recent years, half of all women in Canada aged 16 or older have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence, according to statistics compiled by the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner, the organization says.

Jealous boyfriend

In Laliberté's case, friends say she had a jealous ex-boyfriend who harassed her after they broke up.

There's a lot of denial, there's a lot of love for the partner, there's a lot of fear that's associated with leaving.- Melpa Kamateros, Shield of Athena

"She was having a hard time with her ex. He wanted to be in touch with her again," her friend Gabrielle Lafortune told CBC News. 

On Monday, Aubin was charged from his hospital bed with first-degree murder and criminal harassment in connection with Laliberté's death. 

Maxime Aubin was charged with first-degree murder and criminal harassment. (Radio-Canada)

Aubin suffered serious injuries the night Laliberté was killed. They were self-inflicted wounds after he tried to kill himself, according to Radio-Canada.

Along with murder, the Crown accused Aubin of harassing the victim between May 15, 2016 and Jan. 13, 2017.

Aubin's lawyer said he is likely to be released from hospital Tuesday. He is expected to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Melpa Kamateros is the executive director of Shield of Athena, a Montreal non-profit agency that provides emergency shelter and professional services to women and children who are victims of family violence. She spoke to Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Tuesday.

Here is an edited excerpt of that conversation.

How common is domestic violence?

We see close to 1,000 cases every year. Behind every fourth house, there is conjugal violence. It's very, very common.

It has been estimated that only 30 per cent of cases are reported. That means 70 per cent of the cases are never reported.

Statistically speaking, the most difficult, the most dangerous, the most volatile time in a relationship where conjugal violence has existed is upon the point of rupture. Younger and younger women are coming out and saying that they are victims of conjugal violence.

What are the obstacles to women coming forward?

Even with the women that do report and come to our offices for professional assistance, there is a resistance to say that you're a victim.

There's a lot of denial, there's a lot of love for the partner, there's a lot of fear that's associated with leaving. There's a lot of guilt that's associated with leaving your children.

Economic issues may also play a factor. There are huge reasons for women not to report the cases to the police, and that's also something that's textbook.

What are the warning signs?

First of all, it can be very difficult for a woman to recognize they are in an abusive situation.

But some of the red flags you might hear are, they say, "Oh ,they are so jealous of me, they are so possessive of me, and yesterday, he told me not to wear that skirt." That for me is an immediate indicator that something is happening that should not be happening.

Also, if you see that somebody is not making the calls to you that is a lifelong buddy of yours: what's happening in their lives? Why the isolation? Is this something that they want or is being imposed on them?

What can be done?

If they're scared for themselves and the safety of their children, they call 911 or go to a shelter.

If they want to find out if their relationship is an abusive one, call shelters with external services and speak with someone regarding their relationship.