When a Mother Kills

Donna Laframboise wrote a perceptive article about the way violence by women is perceived differently than violence by men.

Laframboise notes that last summer there were two prominent Canadian domestic violence cases. In one instance a man from Pickering, Ontario, murdered his estranged wife and then killed himself, while in the otehr a man from Kitchener, Ontario killed his four children and his wife before killing himself.

This year, however, the Andrea Yates case is of course occupying the media, as is a Toronto case where police recently charged a woman with killing here two kids and then attempting to kill herself. But the public reaction is a bit different from the reaction to the male killers. According to Laframboise,

Radio station phone lines aren’t lighting up with people condemning anti-domestic-violence programs as inadequate. Governments, police and the courts aren’t being accused of doing too little to protect the vulnerable. No one is asking how many more innocent children have to die before these offences receive proper attention. The term “child abuse” is also noticeably absent from the discussion. We aren’t being inundated with statistics telling us how many children are killed by their parents — particularly mothers — each year.

Laframboise thinks the reason is that people are so used to hearing about violence against women that they immediately “slot” stories where women are the victims into that category, while the corresponding lack of publicity about violence where women are the perpetrators makes people see it as the exception to the rule (which perhaps explains why commentators often say they cannot imagine why a woman would kill her children, but rarely do such questions arrise when fathers kill their offspring).


Domestic violence isn’t a gender issue. Donna Laframboise, National Post, July 18, 2001.

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