So, in those seven years, the total number of front-line military and law enforcement deaths was 4,588.
We pay tribute to these fallen men and women, often with national television, newspaper and magazine coverage.
There is another war - largely over looked but even more deadly - with far more victims killed by hostiles. But these dead are not labeled heroes, nor are they honoured in the national media or in formal ceremonies. From time to time, they may attract a spate of publicity as the result of a high profile trial or an inquest that will likely conclude that society let them down once again and recommend changes to prevent future deaths, though these recommendations will be mostly ignored. This is the War on Women.
Compare the raw numbers. In the same seven year period when 4,588 U.S. soldiers and police officers were killed by hostiles or by accident, more than 8,000 women, nearly twice as many, were shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death by the intimate males in their lives.
In the United States, it's conservatively estimated that in addition to the 1,200 to 1,300 women killed each year by intimate partners, another 5.3 million, age 18 and older are victims of non-lethal domestic abuse.
Based on those numbers, the violence costs the country more than $5.8 billion annually.
Wars usually produce large numbers of refugees and the War on Women has its own refugee camps, in the form of 2,500 or so shelters for battered women and their children across North America. In the United States, more than 300,000 women and children seek safety in shelters each year.
If our governments became aware of terrorist cells that planned to kill and maim thousands of their citizens, would they not muster the full resources of the state to go after and stop them? It is an outrage that this slaughter of women should be continued in so-called progressive Western democracies, or anywhere else in the world.
From The War on Women: Elly Armour, Jane Hurshman and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes, by Brian Vallée, Copyright © 2007. Published by Key Porter Books.
Some suggested principles:
- Domestic violence laws must be gender specific, not gender neutral, because by a wide margin women are the ones who end up in the hospital or in the grave.
- Domestic violence is such a breach of trust, it should be considered as serious a crime as attacking or murdering a police or corrections officer.
- The penalty for murder of an intimate partner must be severe – 25 years without parole. Otherwise, what's to deter a batterer who sees news stories about men who kill their spouses being charged with manslaughter or second-degree murder and sentenced to five, 10, or 15 years, of which they will likely serve only a third?
- Whenever possible, the abuser should be removed from the home – to jail or a halfway house – instead of forcing women and children to hide out in shelters.
- An abuser confined to a halfway house would be required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and undergo counseling until the courts were through with him.
- A battered spouse, meanwhile, would be offered counselling and would be supplied with a form of electronic "panic button" that directly alerts police if she suddenly comes under threat.
- A batterer breaking the terms of bail or court orders against him would be arrested on a new (and serious) breach of trust charge. Break bail, you go to jail – no second chances. Second chances have proved deadly for too many women and their children.
- Create a category of crime called femicide with penalties the same as those for first-degree murder (25 years without parole).
- Whenever there is a history of abuse and a woman is killed by her male intimate, the charge should be femicide, and the provocation defense ("she left me and I just lost it") should not be allowed.
- Establish halfway houses for batterers so women and children aren't the ones forced to leave the home.
- Implement legislation (with adequate funding) for universal daycare and provide women with opportunities to earn income and escape a battering spouse.
- Provide sustained funding for shelters and second-stage (medium-term) housing, with counseling services and income support so women who flee are not forced to return to a batterer for economic reasons.
- Restore full funding for Status of Women Canada and other women's advocacy groups.
- In cases of domestic violence, transfer jurisdiction for restraining and protection orders from civil courts to criminal courts, with mandatory incarceration when orders are breached.
- When restraining or protection orders are in place, make it an offense for a private investigator or other third party, aware of such orders, to find, or seek to find – on behalf of an abuser – an estranged intimate partner who is in hiding or a shelter.
- Implement full registration and licensing of all firearms.
- Ensure adequate long-term funding of the front-line services needed by aboriginal women to escape violence.
- Undertake comprehensive national research on the magnitude of domestic violence in aboriginal communities.
- Ensure the full participation of aboriginal women in the planning and implementation of the policies that directly affect their welfare.