Why is there a rise of femicides in Quebec this year?

Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

The 11th femicide in Quebec for the year 2021 happened last week. To put it into perspective, the annual average of femicides in Quebec during previous years was 12. Considering that we are only 5 months into the year, these numbers are certainly worrying. In order to better understand this increase in the province, we spoke with Claudine Thibaudeau, a social worker and responsible for clinical support and training at SOS violence conjugale, and Annick Brazeau, director of the Maison d’Hébergement Pour Elles Des Deux Vallées.

What is a femicide?
A femicide is defined as the murder of women and girls. This is "the most extreme form of violence on a continuum of violence and discrimination against women and girls." According to research, there are two types of femicides: intimate femicide and non-intimate femicide.

Could this increase be related to the pandemic?
"The more we restrict the victim's freedoms, the more we accentuate the power of the aggressor," says Claudine Thibaudeau. According to her, there is a correlation between the pandemic and this increase of femicides within domestic violence situations because not only does the partner have more opportunities to assault the victim, but there are also fewer opportunities for the victims to get external help. Annick Brazeau mentions that due to this lack of opportunities, it is more difficult for women to leave during Covid-19. Usually, a woman who experiences domestic violence plans her departure, visits the shelter, calls them when she is at work, at school or with friends, so access to external help is limited by restrictions related to the pandemic.

However, she insists that it is important not to blame everything on the pandemic. Often, society and spouses will attempt to explain the actions of abusers with excuses such as consumption or loss of employment. It is dangerous to present the pandemic as the cause of this rise because it is another excuse used to justify the violent acts the attacker chose to commit.

In terms of additional assistance provided to actors working in this environment since the pandemic, many resources have been put in place in the best possible way according to Claudine Thibaudeau who recalls that there was a lack of space in the accommodation housing before the pandemic and that this problem of lack of resources cannot be resolved in a week.

How can this be prevented?
Claudine Thibaudeau indicates that it is important to have services adapted to the pandemic such as a 24/7 chat service. However, it is not only resources that allow the prevention of this type of situation, but there is also work to be done in terms of mentalities. “The pandemic has opened this social debate, and awareness of victims of domestic violence,” she said. To prevent this problem, we must collectively be aware of this social issue.

It is essential to explain to adolescents what a healthy relationship looks like and to teach them to spot violent behavior, which is what SOS violence conjugale is doing through their website www.cestpasviolent.com. A change in the legal system, which often gives attackers second chances would also be essential.

According to Annick Brazeau, the consequences for the aggressors should be more serious. At the moment they are minimal which legitimizes the aggressors’ actions and minimizes the criminal seriousness of the act.

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