Advice for media reporting of Domestic Violence

Edmonton, we have a domestic violence problem. 

For many of you, this is not news. You've witnessed it, you have lived it, or you know someone who is/has. 

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta's family violence rate is slightly higher than the national average with roughly 290 victims per 100,000 people (2013).

In the past month in Edmonton alone, there have been four deaths due to domestic violence and this is a very, very, disturbing trend. 

Another woman is dead this past week at the hands of an ex-intimate partner. She was the mother of five children and loved by many. Do you know her name? Do you know that there was a restraining order against her ex? That he had a history of violent behaviour? That what happened here is not "woman found dead outside home", but "Woman killed by her ex-partner in yet another incident of Domestic Murder." 

Domestic murder. 

Do those words make you uncomfortable? 

GOOD. They should. 

Because the reality is that for a lot of women and children (and men too), this is the kind of fear they live with each and every day. That one day their partner is going to "snap", that the abuse with escalate, and most of all, that they won't be able to get themselves or their children out of their situations safely. 

And while the City of Edmonton does provide services to victims of domestic abuse and violence, for many women, they don't understand how the system works, and even if they do, the hoops that they need to jump through can be too daunting or too risky for them to even make that first call. And as seen with the murder of Colleen Sillito, the woman who was killed this past week, even when she did access these services, even with a Protection Order in place, and an ex with a documented history of violence and uttering threats, she was not protected from him. 

The family of Ms. Sillito have called for a public inquiry into her death and the handling of her file by the police. I think it is time to look at ALL of the cases of domestic homicide that have happened in the past year in our city (and province) and find the patterns of inconsistency, the ways that these cases are dealt with and how we can all do better. 

I believe that one way this can happen is in the way these kinds of "news stories" are presented by the media to the general public. In one article about Ms. Sillito's murder, the headline read, "Homeowner Paul Jacob died in Fort Saskatchewan Friday, brother confirms." As if the fact that ownership of the house was the main issue here, and not that he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and then himself. And based on the comments on the posted link as seen on Facebook and screen shot here, this fact does seem important to certain people who somehow chalk up the murder of Ms. Sillito, a mother of five, as "karma". Is it a wonder with attitudes like this, that the rate of violence against women in Alberta is what it is? 

In my opinion, not only do we have a domestic violence problem here, we have a media reporting on cases of domestic violence problem as well.  And it is not just in Alberta, across North America, media outlets come up with sensational headlines telling us the "reasons" why men kill their partners. A recent Huffington Post article outlines the dangers of this kind of reporting:’s a serious misunderstanding of the nature of domestic violence to say that one single event — like serving an undercooked hamburger or accidentally saying your ex’s name — caused a homicide. [...] journalists should be asking if the perpetrator has a history of abuse and looking for patterns of behavior. Domestic homicides don’t usually come out of nowhere. There are often red flags before women are murdered. Most killers don’t just “snap,” despite media coverage to the contrary.

And for women and men who are in abusive relationships and looking to escape them, reading articles that focus more on the killer than on the victim, that often make victim-blaming statements, or inappropriately site cultural differences, leave many feeling even more hopeless and alone than ever. Providing information about the warning signs of domestic abuse, how to help, safety planning and crisis hotlines can easily be incorporated into coverage of cases of domestic violence. Media can also acknowledge that domestic violence cases are not isolated incidents of inexplicable tragedy that are beyond the reach of community action. The "not my business, not my problem" attitude that many take when they have knowledge of domestic abuse happening needs to stop - abusers rely on these attitudes to continue exerting control over their victims. Domestic violence is a community issue, a societal problem and we all have a role to play in keeping people safe. 

As my friend Jen Rollins said in a recent open letter to the media and Edmonton city officials regarding educating the public and public officials about domestic violence, 

Domestic violence doesn’t happen because of jealousy or anger, domestic violence is about power and control. Domestic violence crosses all educational and financial lines, it knows no boundaries, affecting all ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations.

Education is the key to reducing the high incidence of domestic violence in Edmonton and in protecting women and their children in Edmonton and across Canada. We urge you to continue to educate your staff about the real causes of domestic violence and in turn to educate the public about domestic violence and domestic murder.

Below is an example of how every article about domestic violence should end in every newspaper, online story, or media interview about cases of domestic abuse, domestic violence, and domestic homicide. Please, journalists, feel free to copy and paste! 


Below are some warning signs of Domestic Violence, ways to help someone in an abusive relationship and local Edmonton and Area resources and numbers to call. 

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Jealousy, controlling behaviour, quick involvement, unrealistic expectations, isolation, blames others for problems or feelings, hypersensitivity, cruelty to children, cruelty to animals, use of force during sex, verbal abuse, rigid sex roles, past battering, threats of violence, breaking or striking objects, using force during an argument, controlling the money in the relationship.

Suggestions for Helping Someone in an Abusive Relationship

  • Approach the person in an understanding, non-blaming way.
  • Acknowledge that it is scary and difficult to talk about abuse, and let them know that no
    one deserves to be treated this way. In no way does someone cause the abuse to happen.
  • Support the person as a friend. Be a good listener and do not tell them what to do. Allow them to make their own decisions, even if you do not agree with them. Avoid ultimatums that require someone to end the relationship or lose your friendship. This only results in further isolating the person.
  • Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a woman and her children. A domestic violence advocate can assist in developing a safety plan. If the person being abused will not talk with an advocate, consider getting resource information for them.
  • Provide information about where to go for help - See Edmonton and Area Resources below
  • Above all, let the person know that they are not alone.

Edmonton and Area Resources

Today’s Family Violence Help Centre: 780-455-6880
Family Violence Info Line: 310-1818
WIN House: 780-471-6709
Lurana Shelter: 780-424-5875
Elder Abuse Help Line: 780-454-8888
Safe Place – Sherwood Park: 780-464-7232
SAIF Society – St. Albert: 780-460-2195



My Fall Favourites - September 2015

The air is crisp. The leaves are all my favourite colours and the kids are in school again! Oh, Fall, how I love you so! And with more time to explore the city on my own and get stuff done on these cooler days, I of course, have a new list of #thingsthatIloverightnow!


1. My new Simone Pérèle bra(s)! Listen ladies, especially those of you who have breastfed for a VERY long time. Get rid of that old nursing bra, chuck those uni-boob tank tops and sports bras, and get yourself a proper bra! You will thank me. Your posture will thank YOU! And you'll have saved all that money you were hoarding for that "hypothetical" boob job. Now - before you hop in your car and head to the nearest Victoria's Secret or La Senza, STOP RIGHT THERE! NO - You are not going to find the kind of bra I am talking about at the mall in a 3 for $39.99 bin. A good bra is going to cost you, so budget about $150.00. And then head on over to My Filosophy in Edmonton - or google an actual bra boutique in your city that specializes in bra fittings and also carries European brands - and GET MEASURED AND FITTED PROPERLY! I went to see the wonderful folks at My Filosophy yesterday because I needed a new t-shirt bra. I thought I was a 34E (the size of most of the bras I currently own). A quick measure and it turns out I am actually a 32F. I then proceeded to try on 5 bras, and THEY ALL FIT ME PERFECTLY! I had to whittle it down to 2, and damn it if I am not in love with my new bras! The one pictured above is the one I am wearing right now. Isn't it lovely?


2. By now you know how I love to find new cafés in my city. Places with great coffee, a nice menu and consistent and free Wifi. There is a plain brown brick building not far from where I live that I used to frequent a lot in my pharma sales days (the upper floors are 80% doctors offices). On the main floor is a wonderful place called Cafe Rista. I've been there three times for lunch this past month and they never disappoint. They make a perfect cappuccino and yes, the Wifi is solid too. There is a nice table tucked away in a corner that I can commandeer for an hour or so, and I think after one more visit, I will have officially passed the threshold for being a "regular". If you are in the west end of #YEG anytime soon, please check them out - and tell them I sent you!

Yes, those ARE figs on my salad!!

Yes, those ARE figs on my salad!!


3. Have you ever bought an item of clothing and then wanted to wear it every single day?

This is how I feel about my new Kit & Ace t-shirt. And really, it's nothing THAT special. It's a plain grey t-shirt, that also happens to be made with cashmere - THAT YOU CAN WASH AND DRY IN YOUR LAUNDRY MACHINES AT HOME! Yes, this part excites me about most of Kit & Ace's line of clothing. This great shirt is also designed with these shaping darts sewn into the back and is the softest thing ever. What I am saying, is that you probably need to get one. And yes, I know, it's a bit pricey for a t-shirt - I did mention the cashmere, right? But just think, you CAN actually wear it every day if you want, because you can also throw it in the wash every night!


4. If you know me, you know I like to talk, AND I like social media, AND I like building community. So it should come as no surprise, that I found somewhere where I can accomplish all three of these things at the same time! Welcome to the world of BLAB. What the heck is Blab, you ask? Blab is a social networking app/website that lets you watch live video conversations between interesting people. It's kind of like Periscope, but with more interaction and conversation. And it is FUN! Also, if you start a Blab at 9 PM MST, it will be 4 PM somewhere in New Zealand yesterday (or tomorrow-I never really know?) and someone from down there is bound to jump on and add a whole lot of fun and some new words to your world. FYI - If a Kiwi tells you he/she enjoys going tramping, they mean HIKING! 

Blab works like any other social media site, you create an account (or sign in with Twitter), create your profile, and then start or join/watch a Blab. Easy as that! You can find my Blab profile here and I hope to see YOU on a Blab soon! 


5. Finding the perfect bronzer is a challenge. And no, I am not going to get into all that crazy contouring stuff, WHICH DOESN'T ACTUALLY WORK IN REAL LIFE! Sorry, I digress... (but seriously, just don't do that. OK?)

Okay, back to my perfect bronzer. I rarely leave the house without putting this on and sometimes, my makeup routine is simply - bronzer, a bit of eyebrow mousse, and mascara. You too can have that sun-kissed look with the Chai Berry Bronzer/Illuminating Powder from Eminence Organics. The bronzer does come in two other colours, a lighter and a darker one and I have a few other favourites from this wonderful skin care line (I highly recommend the Stone Crop Gel Wash for a nice gentle cleanser). You can find Eminence products at Sweet Momma Spas in Edmonton and St. Albert and in select spas across Canada and the US.


That's it for now. I hope you will try some of my favourites and love them too. What are yours right now? Share your must-have finds with me in the comments!



Cultural Mosaic - A guest post by Kathleen Smith

We are entering week NINE of the eleven week long (the longest in Canadian history) 42nd General Federal Election in Canada. I feel like the longer the election campaigning is going on, the higher the levels of fear-mongering are, especially from the political party seeking re-election. The post below is an important message to ALL Canadians and I'd like to thank Kathleen for letting me share her words (originally posted on Facebook). I am a proud first generation Canadian, raising bi-racial kids, and contributing to the beautiful mosaic of this land. I refuse to let fear rule me, the way that I vote, or the country that I love.


Cultural Mosaic. 

These two words - above all else - are unique to Canada. Our world counts a number of great democratic nations; countries of freedom, lands that recognize and honour human rights, nations that are shining examples of equality and inclusion and personal liberty. 

But of all these nations, only Canada is a cultural mosaic - a nation made more beautiful not by being a "melting pot" that stews every human down to a homogenous sludge, but a nation in which every individual can contribute to the vibrancy and diversity that truly reflects who we are as a collective, while maintaining our singular individuality. 

It's not only what makes us unique, it's what has always made us a beacon of light glimpsed from far away lands by those seeking refuge, those seeking equality, those dreaming of a better life for themselves and for their children. It's not that it's made us enviable or "better than", it's that the cultural mosaic has contributed to the life of every individual Canadian, whether they recognize that influence or not. It's made us better neighbours. As the American news anchor legend Tom Brokaw said, "if you're ever in a fight, you want Canada on your side." Not because of our military power, but because Canada has always been on the right side. The side of humanity, not ideology. 

It's definitely improved our take out options. It's created vibrant communities of wonder and celebration. It's provided us with countless leaders in every field of study, every political party, enumerable medical discoveries and scientific advancements and inventions and just oh so many wondrous things. All the wondrous things that make this nation something to behold. 

The ideal of a cultural mosaic spawned generations of Canadians who went off to explore the marvels and mysteries of worlds they have only heard of from their immigrant neighbours, or the homeland tales of their immigrant parents, or their inclusive school curriculum, and returned to their own doorsteps filled with knowledge, and experience, and an acceptance that benefits every one of us, and turned those generations into leaders. It's what has inspired every human who ever donned a blue beret intent on keeping the peace: Canada recognizes the equality and worth of every human being. We were a leader on LGBTQ equality more than a decade prior to our southern neighbours. We have been a leader on women's rights, on immigrant rights, on workers rights, on HUMAN RIGHTS. 

My father - a southern Ontario rural boy - wore that blue beret, not only with pride as a military man but with a love for his home that ran so thick in his blood he would wipe away tears as he saluted our flag; not out of some arrogant sense of nationalism, but out of true love for a nation his grandparents immigrated to, and he had the honour of serving. 

"Canada", he would say to me with tears in his eyes, "this is my home." My father's tile in the mosaic was Scottish haggis and German schnitzel. He loved his food. And his Canadian pride. 

My mother's family are southern Alberta Mormons, original settlers to Raymond, handcart pioneers of the late 1800's. My grandfather was a proud, conservative, southern Alberta cowboy who would say to me "we are all immigrants. Our family has been here a long time, but we are immigrants." 

My grandfather fought front line Italy WW II for this country. Watched the boys he grew up with die in front of him. Grampa signed up before they could draft him. The son of an immigrant, willing to lay down his life. 

For Canada. 

My grandfather's mosaic tile is the Union Jack, and the Utah Beehive, and a wild rose on a cowboy hat. My family's tiny spot in the mosaic would include Ukrainian perogies, an Irish four leaf clover, a proud Cree heritage, the beautiful calligraphy of Chinese characters, a Scottish Coat of Arms ... 

We are a family of immigrants mixed with the original Canadians that are First Nations. 

And my First Nations family accept me as an immigrant to their land. 

But now I am told by many that to accept immigrants from a land torn and decimated by a war they had no part in is wrong, even though members of my own family came here as refugees escaping unfathomable horrors, immigrants escaping economic atrocities and lives of demeaning poverty. I am told that I should fear these humans who have nothing, who have seen their brothers murdered and their sisters raped and their children left orphans, who have fled their homes in terror and fear, who are starving, who have left their loved ones behind because that was their only path to survival and the safest choice for the family they have been forced to say good bye to, who have been hunted by the extremists my government tells me they are protecting me from a world away but these humans are running from every moment of their waking hours. 

My Prime Minister tells me I must fear these refugees. My Prime Minister tells me they are dangerous and only by voting for his party will my children be safe. My Prime Minister feeds me hatred, uses my children to terrify me, insists that a head scarf is a threat to my safety and puts the lives of my children at risk. My Prime Minister tells me that Muslims aren't like the rest of us. My Prime Minister tells me that Muslims are the enemy. 


Because my Prime Minister knows that if he can instil in me an irrational fear of those who seem different from me and make me believe he is my only shield, his team can get my vote. 

My Prime Minister is willing to make me hate and dehumanize other humans so he can have my vote. He is willing to turn Canadian against Canadian, brother against brother, daughter against mother, to retain power. 

We are all immigrants. 

My Prime Minister wants me to believe that the number of years my family has been here and the colour of my skin makes me superior. He wants me to feel special based on nothing more than these inconsequential things so that I will feel a singular allegiance to him. 

We are all immigrants. 

My Prime Minister wants me to believe that any Canadian who doesn't ingest this fear, this hatred, this false sense of superiority, is my enemy. 

We are all immigrants. 

My Prime Minister is unfit to lead the nation my grandfather fought frontline World War II for. He is unfit to lead the nation my father served as a peacekeeper in the Middle East for. He is unfit to lead a Canada that has always been about inclusivity and diversity and acceptance. 

Stephen Harper wants me to hate and be fearful and dehumanize other human beings just so he can retain power. 

And to that I say NO. 

A very wise man once said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

Roosevelt's words have never rang more true than they do right now, in this moment. Because if you have chosen fear, you have made the decision to be controlled by lies spewed by those who have absolutely no interest or concern for anything but their own power. You have chosen hatred based on nothing. You have chosen to believe that other humans love their children less than you love yours, that they hurt less when their children die, that they are less human than you are. 

My Prime Minister is attempting to terrify you into voting for him. You have the choice to say 'no' to fear. 

No person who would instil fear in the hearts of Canadians, who would turn brother against brother, who would encourage a neighbour to hate a neighbour, who would divide a nation, who would dehumanize other human beings, who would shatter the cultural mosaic with the hammer of ideology, and do this all to retain his own position of power, is fit to be leader of Canada. 

No person who would ever try to convince you that Muslims love their children less than you love yours is a decent human being. But Stephen Harper wants you to believe that. He needs you to believe that. 


No more. 

I will not hate. I will not dehumanize. My vote will not be purchased by my Prime Minister turning me against my immigrant neighbour, my refugee sister, my basic human decency. 

Mr. Harper, you will never buy my vote with hatred. 

How dare you even try. 

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. 

Stop eating the fear, Canada. 

We are worth so much more than the price Stephen Harper wants us to pay. Canada is worth so much more. And Harper is writing cheques his hatred can't cash. 

To paraphrase a pop song of three decades ago, we share the same biology, regardless of ideology. Believe me when I say to you I know the Muslims love their children, too. 

"All tyranny needs to maintain a foothold is for men of conscience to remain silent." 

Do not be silenced by fear. On October 19th, say no to hatred.



Kathleen Smith is a political commentator, social media personality, and co-host of the web series,"To The Point". Smith is an outspoken advocate for human rights and equality. She resides in Edmonton with her husband and young daughter. Follow her on Twitter or find her on her Facebook page