Over the two decades, considerable progress has been made in tackling the problem of domestic violence induced by the ownership of guns. At the same time, some laws have been enacted to protect victims of violence, and more organizations have emerged to help victims of domestic violence. These efforts have resulted in a significant reduction in the number of victims of domestic abuses. Despite the considerable drop in cases of domestic violence in Canada in the recent years, statistics indicate that gun-related domestic violence remains a major issue among many Canadians (Statistics Canada.ca). This paper will explore the problem of gun-related domestic violence in Canada, causes of gun-related violence in domestic settings, consequences on the Canadian society, and interventions that are being used to address the problem.
In the Canadian context, gun-related domestic violence has been described as the situation that arises when one person, under the motivation of the physical presence a firearm, demonstrates an abusive behavior to control and harm another with whom they lead an intimate relationship. Here, the presence of intimate relationship is considered a relationship between several categories of people. It may include current and former same-sex spouses, opposite-sex spouses, common-law partners, and dating partners, among other intimate groups (Statistics Canada.ca).Whatever the category involved, the victims experience relatively similar forms of abuse where the gun plays a vital role in instilling fear for easier control or harm.
Violence in the domestic settings comes in different types and forms. Examples of the common types of violence include child neglect, intimate partner violence, honor violence (where family uses violence to protect the reputation of the family), and forced marriage among others (Canadian Womens Foundation.org). Common forms include physical abuse, emotional and sexual abuse. Physical abuse involves the use of force and motivation to inflict physical pain or injury. Sometimes, such actions result in death. Sexual abuse is the act of using force to have sexual contact with another person (a partner or otherwise). Emotional abuse occurs when a person uses actions or words to control, isolate or frighten another in a manner that takes away individual self-respect. This form of violence may be manifested in the form of threats, insults, intimidation, and any other form of abuse that causes psychological torture on the victims (Justice.gc.ca; Canadian Womens Foundation.org). It is important to note that all these abuses are done in the context of the presence of the gun in gun-related domestic violence.
How does Domestic Violence compare across Gender and Age?
Research findings show that both men and women have been victims of domestic violence. Although most of the domestic violence cases go unreported across Canada and its territories, statistics show that women are more likely to suffer from domestic violence related to the ownership and use of guns (Canadian Womens Foundation.org). In other words, there are much higher chances of men keeping a gun in domestic settings than women. On the same note, men are three times less likely to experience gun-related domestic violence. However, women report as much as twice more than men the cases of domestic violence. In this regard, at least 60 % of domestic violence cases reported is attributed to women. Also, research has shown that women suffer the worst forms of domestic violence which include beating, sexual assault, and gun threats. On the flipside, most of the violence men experience comes in the form of kicks or strikes of objects (Justice.gc.ca).The higher figures reported in regards to women gives the reasons as why much of the efforts directed at combating domestic violence have been directed to women across Canada. Moreover, women are more likely to suffer the pain of domestic violence alongside children. As a result, more welfare organizations tend to focus on the vulnerable groups, overshadowing efforts of men-oriented institutions.
As indicated in the previous paragraph, children are major victims of the effects of domestic violence. Whereas statistics suggest domestic violence against children is much less prevalent than partner-related violence, recent police date point to an upward trend in regards to family violence against children (Gannon and Mihorean n.p). Caregivers commit a vast majority of domestic violence. For instance, between 2000 and 2010, at least 94% of toddler and infant homicides were committed by their parents. This rate is much higher for children under the age of one. For the case of the youths, family-related violence is more prevalent among girls compared to boys. The higher rate in girls can be attributed to the higher risks of exposure to sexual violence (Sinha 5-6).In the context of gun-related deaths, parents especially, fathers often open fire on the families in which children are killed alongside other family members.
Conditions that Increase the Risk of Gun-related Violence in Domestic Settings
Domestic violence scholars have widely accepted the availability of guns to perpetrators as a cause for most of domestic violence. Although the law provides legal ownership of guns, some people often take advantage of the availability of guns in their houses to cause violence on their spouses and children. For instance, guns have widely to intimidate, isolate, and coerce victims into sexual submissions (Justice.gc.ca; Canadian Womens Foundation.org). These actions often entail issuance of warnings to the target victims for them to cooperate lest they risk a loss of life. As such, their consent is violated, causing harm and erosion of self-respect.
Previous intimate relationships have a significant bearing on the risk of exposure of an individual to domestic violence. A reasonable number of victims of gun-related domestic violence have been found to have had an intimate relationship with the perpetrators of the violence (Gannon and Mihorean n.p). Such incidents involve persons who have separated from each other as a result of the inability to stay together as couples. For instance, police reports show that a majority of spousal homicide cases have a configuration of previous relationship disagreements which made the level of the conflict in the relationships to escalate into violent confrontation. The reports indicate that 65% of spouses accused of committing murder against their intimate partner had a history of domestic violence involving the victim. The problem worsens when it comes to estranged partners, divorcees or those who have separated under legal procedures or common law (Sinha 6).
Inequality has also been identified as a contributor to domestic violence. In a marriage where a spouse is a dominant provider for the family, the effects of domestic violence are likely to be severe. Under such circumstances, women and children have been reported as the most victims (Sinha 7-13).A superior financial position for husbands discourages women from reporting cases of domestic violence for fear of being kicked out alongside their children without any financial recourse. As Purdy narrates, some women have been abused at gunpoint but failed to escape or report such occurrences not only for fear of retribution from gun-owning husbands but also due to the uncertainty of securing accommodation and financial security for their children(Hiffingtonpost.ca).In the end, these victims suffer more than those women with stable sound financial standing.
Canadas laws have issued clear guidelines on use guns. Although the regulation of the use of guns use is much better than the crisis levels witnessed in the United States, more work is needed to solve the problem of gun-related domestic violence. In part, citizens are permitted to own guns with a commitment for safe use. Some of the prohibitions the law has given are that individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence-related crimes are legally barred from owning a gun (Justice.gc.ca; Library of Congress.gov).However, the law does not provide for any clause that bars individuals who have a history of domestic violence from owning a gun. This scenario can be illustrated by the much-published murder and suicide of Camille Runke, 49, and Kevin Runke respectively. The incident happened in 2015.Although Kevin had abused his estranged wife, Camille, there was insufficient evidence to bar him from owning a gun. Perhaps a provision in the law prohibiting him from owning a gun would have averted the death of the two former intimate partners.
Laws meant to tackle domestic violence have evolved significantly in the last two decades. Over these years justice organs have experienced problems in regards to the prosecution of perpetrators of gun-related domestic violence. For instance, had been noted in the prosecution of the accused in circumstances where the victims belong to the family of the perpetrator. Under these circumstances, the offender is likely to suppress the reporting the incident through gun threats and other forms of intimidation or victims are likely to hesitate to report such matter due to family ties. To address this problem, stiffer penalties have been imposed, and also more avenues have been created for victims to pass abuse cases to the authorities. In the same breadth, a law has been introduced to allow victims of domestic violence to violate housing leases without incurring any penalty. This is meant to discourage victims from enduring further violence due to financial factors.
From the above discussion, it is evident that gun ownership is a major contributing factor to the problem of domestic violence in Canada. Children and women account for the highest number of the victims related to domestic violence and guns. This explains the reasons for the enhanced focus on issues concerning violence against women. However, studies show that despite the significant progress made in the fight against domestic violence, a lot needs to be done to reduce the problem across Canada and its territories.
Canadian Women's Foundation. "The Facts About Violence Against Women." Canadianwomen.org, 2017, www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence.
Department of Justice. "About Family Violence." 2017, www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/about-apropos.html.
Gannon, Marie, and Karen Mihorean. "Sentencing Outcomes: A Comparison of Family Violence and Non-family Violence Cases." Department of Justice, 2015, www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jr12/p5e.html.
Library of Congress. "Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Canada." Library of Congress, 2015, www.loc.gov/law/help/firearms-control/canada.php.
Purdy, Chris. "Domestic Violence Laws Change Across Canada Following Horrific Year." Huffingtonpost Canada, [Alberta], 2015.
Sinha, Maire. Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2010. Statistics Canada, 2012. www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11643-eng.pdf.
Donna Carreiro ."Slain Winnipegger Camille Runke sent plea for help on secret cellphone." CBC News, 2015.
Statistics Canada. "Family Violence." 2014, www.statcan.gc.ca/
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