Most violence in intimate relationships still unreported: KPU expert

Thu, Dec 8, 2016

Metro Vancouver, B.C. - Dr. Balbir Gurm may be a nursing instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), but numbers are her specialty.

Specifically, the number of people who seek help to stop intimate partner abuse every year in B.C. (13,000), the number of women and children who access transition and safe houses to escape violence every year in B.C. (18,000), and the number of women admitted to hospital for severe injuries sustained during intimate partner violence every year in B.C. (232).

But the figure that disturbs her most-and the one that is too difficult to quantify-is the number of unreported incidents of intimate partner violence in B.C.

"It could be as low as seven per cent of victims who report," said Gurm. "It's impossible to know what the reality really is."

Gurm is a member of the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel, which released its report last week into the deaths of 100 people who died between 2010 and 2015 as a result of intimate partner violence. The panel comprised representatives from health, education, policing, justice, corrections, public safety, and advocacy groups.

The panel found that:

  • More victims of intimate partner violence were women (78 per cent) than men (22 per cent);
  • Most victims of intimate partner violence were women between 20 and 59 years old;
  • Almost two-thirds of all victims of intimate partner violence had a history of violence;
  • Fewer than one-third of all victims had reported the violence to police;
  • Few victims had a protection order; and
  • Eighty per cent of all victims were killed in their own homes.

"One of the elements of intimate partner violence that was revealed in our research is that very few victims of intimate partner violence disclose it, and those who do are met with family, friends, and even field professionals who don't understand the risks associated with intimate partner violence, or what to say and do to help the victim," said Gurm.

Additionally, there is a lack of public awareness about violence in intimate relationships, including knowledge of community support and services.

Among the panel's recommendations to government is increasing awareness and education to improve understanding of intimate partner violence and how to respond. The panel has also recommended strengthening safety planning and early collaborative case management with relevant stakeholders, as well as enhancing data access and quality.

For Gurm, the recommendations strengthen her resolve to keep heading in the direction she and her team at KPU's Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships (NEVR) are already doing.

Earlier this year, Gurm's KPU nursing students developed a Community Champion toolkit to help citizens recognize signs of abuse so victims can get the assistance they need. The kits aim to teach community members how to intervene safely and support victims.

Students developed the kits under Gurm's supervision, with additional direction from Dr. Jen Marchbank, who is also a member of NEVR, and Corina Carol, manager of counselling services at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, and the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence.

Gurm notes that helping an individual break free of an abusive relationship can take three or four years, even with support, which is why the toolkits are so important.

"In the long term, prevention is the key to eliminating violence in relationships," says Gurm.

Also key, says Gurm, is collaboration, since the issue transcends ministries and levels of government.

The World Health Organization recognizes that violence in intimate relationships is an epidemic.

Gurm invites members of the community who are interested in learning about how to become Community Champions in the fight to eliminate violence in relationships to contact her at The kit can also be accessed online at

For the complete BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel report, click here.

Download a photo of Gurm from Flickr.

About Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at

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