March 23, 2022: As an umbrella association of violence-against-women organizations in the province, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS) feels compelled to respond to the Halifax Examiner’s article titled “Cheating and beating: the tragic lead-up to the Portapique massacre” dated March 22, 2022. We believe that there is no such thing as an impartial account of violence; language matters. The Halifax Examiner’s article causes harm through the language it employs to describe events that took place leading up to the mass casualty in April 2020.
The Halifax Examiner’s article fails to accurately address the many forms that domestic violence can take, and the myriad of reasons that make it difficult for women to leave including experiencing isolation, fear, shame, and lack of support. The statement that the perpetrator’s partner “did not heed” the warning of his father suggests that she was complicit in staying in an abusive relationship. Another line detailing the model of the victim’s car suggests that she remained in the relationship for the material items given to her by the perpetrator. This language, and the choice to feature these details, effectively serves to blame the victim and mitigates the perpetrator’s responsibility for his own actions.
This is only strengthened by the sensational coverage of the perpetrator’s childhood, which insinuates that he was not entirely responsible for his own actions but instead that these were inevitable given his circumstances. What is missing from this narrative is the acknowledgement that there were numerous opportunities by those in positions of power to intervene throughout the perpetrator’s childhood and adulthood, who ultimately failed to do so. This, in effect, is what led to the tragic mass casualty in April 2020, not “cheating and beating”.
THANS believes that this article sends a negative message to the public and to victims of domestic violence, and will ultimately discourage victims from reaching out for help out of fear of being blamed for the actions of another. Anyone requiring support can call or text the provincial toll-free line at 1-855-225-0220, available 24/7 or a local organization. If in an emergency situation, call 911.