Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. As a public, we understand this action is domestic violence, but the actual nature of this crime should be known as violence against women. In response to the Calgary Police Service’s (CPS) release on the rise of domestic violence in 2015, we have some thoughts.

The CPS reported that one in five victims of domestic violence are men, this means that 80 per cent of the domestic violence victims are women. We believe using the term ‘domestic violence’ obscures the gendered reality of these situations and fails to recognize that these crimes are most often perpetrated against women. A more accurate description of Calgary’s reality is that four out of every five victims of violence are women.

One definition of violence against women we use is the patterned, assaultive, controlling, threatening and coercive tactics of abuse, including physical, sexual, psychological, economic, social, spiritual and cultural abuse against their current or past partners. What’s important to recognize about this definition is abuse is multifaceted and affects every aspect of a woman’s life.

Language choice is critical to this issue. Using gender neutral terminologies like ‘domestic violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence’ can obscure the perpetrator’s role by placing the problem in the ‘domestic’ or ‘intimate’ context. The Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that about half of all female murder victims in Canada are killed by a former or current intimate partner. However, only 7 per cent of male murder victims were killed by intimate partners.

“We have seen an increase in the intensity of the reports of abuse from the women and families we support,” says Healther Morley, YWCA Vice President of Programs and Services. “Women are telling us that situations feel more complex and more volatile.”

The Calgary Police Service reported today that there is a 10 per cent increase in the number of domestic violence calls police responded to in 2015. At the YWCA, we too have felt the effects of the increase in domestic violence in Calgary, compounded by Alberta’s economic downturn. The downturn in the economy is not the cause of violence and abuse; however, it does add fuel. Domestic abuse is a continued pattern of coercive controlling behaviours that escalates over time and has a specific purpose; it does not begin due to a stressful situation. Women fleeing family violence seek refuge at the YWCA Sheriff King home emergency shelter, and there is an increase in the number and frequency of women accessing the YWCA’s Counselling programs. Women are at an increased risk of violence, and the violence is becoming more severe.

With an increase in the severity of abuse over the last six months, it’s critical to remember that violence against women has no stereotype and crosses all ages, ethnicities, religions and economic statuses. With four out of five victims of domestic violence being women, it’s time change the language we use.