Amanda Stamp was dragged kicking and screaming at knifepoint from her apartment in Richmond Hill, Ontario on November 13. The perpetrator is her ex-boyfriend. The same ex-boyfriend who abducted her seven week old baby in April, 2003. The same ex-boyfriend who was released from a Niagara detention center despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest (the warrant was for uttering death threats to Amanda Stamp). A mere few hours after his mistaken release, Amanda’s life became in danger and she spent more than three days held hostage by the man she had a child with. On November 19, Amanda’s quick thinking had perhaps saved her life. She had a cell phone hidden from her assailant and used that to call 911 which led to her rescue (for the full story go to http://www.globeandmail.com). The emotional trauma she has endured will be with her for the rest of her life. May Amanda find peace after this experience. As for her captor, may God have mercy on his soul and may the justice system none at all.
Domestic violence and stalker laws have come a long way yet they still have more to do. To put this in perspective let’s take a look at the Criminal Code of Canada. There are no specific laws against harming a family member but rather they are under the general headings like assault. Some of the things that an abuser can be charged with are: assault, assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault, sexual assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault with a weapon, criminal harassment (also known as stalking), uttering threats, mischief, intimidation, forcible confinement, attempted murder, and murder (please see the link http://www.violetnet.org/info/imp-1.htm for more information on these charges or visit http://canada.justice.gc.ca for more information on the legal processes).
There have been several revisions to these laws to address domestic violence. One example is Bill C-15. This bill proposed to amend the maximum penalty for criminal harassment from five to ten years. Bill C-27 made a murder committed while stalking a victim a first degree murder charge. So there is some progress being made by the lawmakers and courts of Canada.
But to what degree to they actually protect the victims? Can a woman press charges just for feeling she is in danger? Does something actually need to happen before action is taken? Most importantly, why do these women not press charges when they are violated?
Assault charges are the most common types of offences in domestic violence. Any of these are applicable to warrant an arrest: “applying intentional force to another person; trying or threatening to apply force to another person; causing another person to believe reasonably that the abuser has ability to carry out a threat of assault; whilst wearing or holding a weapon openly (or something that looks like a weapon) the abuser accosts a victim” (taken from http://www.violetnet.org/info/imp-1.htm). Surely if this were happening a woman would take the proper steps to press charges, right?
Unlike the Amanda Stamp case, usually the one force that can really protect the victim is the victim herself. But why do victims of domestic abuse (women in particular) stay? Much has been made on the so-called “battered woman’s syndrome,” particularly in regard to Karla Holmoka’s criminal defense strategy, but is it real? Does a woman become so acclimatized to violence that it becomes a part of her everyday life? The answer is yes. But sometimes it is up to family and friends to help the victim because they cannot help themselves. We also need to remember it is not only women in straight relationships that are victims. Children in particular are vulnerable victims of abuse. Same sex relationships are also prone to domestic violence issues, but many may not speak out because of social stigmas.
Upon visiting the website http://www.shelternet.ca, I found definitions and examples of what constitutes domestic violence. Physical and emotional abuses were listed as well as others I hadn’t previously considered like financial abuse and negligence. Upon reading this list I was stunned. Typically we think of abuse in extremes. Hitting, punching, name calling and rape all come to mind when we hear the word “abusive.” On this website the forms of abuse cited also included using credit cards without permission, accusing a spouse of cheating, not respecting privacy and denying sex. Are these all forms of abuse? Is this not what goes on regularly in Canadian homes? The answer to both of those questions is yes. Abuse needs to be taken into context, it can be subtle as well as bold.
Often media downplays or doesn’t offer realistic solutions to domestic abuse. Take for example the movie Enough. Jennifer Lopez plays a traumatized and abused woman whose wealthy husband is psychotically obsessed with controlling her physically and mentally. So she calls up her estranged, billionaire father who sets her up in deadly hand to hand combat training so she can confront her abuser and ultimately kill him so he doesn’t kill her. Yeah, that’ll work.
The Hollywood myth of an abuser being easy to spot is quite plainly BS, as are the easy solutions offered in fairy tale movies (don’t even get me started on Pretty Woman – a man keeps a street prostitute in his hotel room for days. Isn’t that romantic.). If your friend or family member is in an abusive relationship you may not recognize it and chances are likely they are too scared or ashamed to confide in you. So read the definitions of abuse on http://www.shelternet.ca and educate yourself and others.
Amanda Stamp went through the proper channels. She contacted police and charges were laid so she could be safe. Unfortunately, glitches in the system, the same system she and others use to protect themselves, were the very things that caused her kidnapping and emotional imprisonment. What happened in this case was serious negligence and obviously a mistake. Is it just an anomaly within the justice system and Canadian society? All too often women and children are forced to literally flee their homes with the clothes on their backs and assume new lives and identities in order to escape the daily terror in which they live. What happened to Amanda Stamp can and does happen daily in Canada and abroad. Sometimes it is up to family and friends of the abused to step in and help. Reach out to those who need it so the woman across the street doesn’t become the next Amanda Stamp.
Just The Facts, “Understanding the Legal Implications of Partner Abuse”, http://www.violetnet.org/info/imp-1.htm, August 2003, University of Alberta
Woman Abuse, “Are There Different Kinds of Woman Abuse?” http://www.shelternet.ca (go to Questions and Answers, then click to Woman Abuse)
http://www.shelternet.ca -Has the option of “hiding” so the site does not show on the internet history. Abuse, safety and escape plans plus also shelter information are found here.
http://www.violetnet.org -Tons of legal information.
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/familyviolence/index.html -Government website, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence lots of legal and practical information.
http://www.hotpeachpages.net/canada/index.html – Searchable list of shelters in over 60 languages.
For the Canadian Press news story on Amanda Stamp go to the link below. Do a search on “Amanda Stamp” for more news items. :http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20031119.wabduc1119/BNStory/National/