Sometime on September 29, Aaron Dookie of Scarborough, Ontario took his five-year-old daughter Laurissa into the garage of the family home. Once there, he apparently started the car and waited until both he and his daughter succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dookie’s wife later arrived home to the sound of the carbon monoxide detector and discovered two lifeless bodies in the garage. On its own, that’s a pretty horrifying story, isn’t it? Wait, it gets worse.

How? In comments made to reporters, Detective Sergeant Mario DiTommaso of the Toronto Police actually blamed Dookie’s wife for the murder-suicide and went so far as to attribute the taking of his daughter’s life to his “immense love” for her.

If that sounds like a harsh characterization of the Detective Sergeant’s remarks, I invite you to judge them for yourself. “I believe the trigger for this tragic event was Mrs. Dookie’s intention to end the relationship,” DiTommaso said. “My impressionis that he loved his daughter immensely and he wanted to take his daughter with him.”

In other words, the spokesperson for the agency charged withenforcing the laws of this land is saying: if only this man’s wife hadn’tannounced her decision to leave the relationship, both he and their daughter would still be alive; and, if only he hadn’t “loved” his daughter so much,he wouldn’t have murdered her when he took his own life.

This is an absurd mischaracterization of the roots of violence and a classic case of blamingthe victim.

I have some questions for Detective Sergeant DiTommaso. How exactly is Laurissa’s mother supposed to react to being called “the trigger” for hermurder? How is she supposed to feel after being told that Dookie acted inthe way that he did because he “loved his daughter immensely&#0148? Is it theofficial policy of the Toronto Police to rub salt in the wounds of peoplewho have just lost a daughter by homicide? Is it the policy of the TorontoPolice that murderers don’t bear personal responsibility for their actionsif they are “triggered” to commit murder?

Of course, this incident and the frightening police reaction to it, are justpart of a much larger societal problem. Violence against women is not abouttriggers, and it is most certainly not about love. It is, quite simply,about power and control. Women being abused are not responsible for theabuse; the abuser is responsible and needs to be held responsible. In spite of the best efforts of women’s advocates and cash-strapped shelters toeducate the public and to deal with the symptoms, the epidemic of woman abuse continues to escalate.

At a 1997 press conference, Ontario’s Minister Responsible for the Status ofWomen asked reporters, “Anyone here know those numbers [of women subjectedto violence each year]? I think it’s hundreds.” In fact, Ontario’s rapecrisis centres receive an average of 50,000 sexual assault reports eachyear. Statistics Canada reported in 1993 that 39 per cent of all Canadian women haveexperienced at least one incident of sexual assault since the age of sixteen, while athird of all women in Canada have experienced some form of male violence; half of those have been seriously injured by such violence at least once.

A 1989 study found that spousal assault was the most common source of injuryfor North American women. Or, to put it in terms a Tory might understand,testimony before a Queen’s Park legislative committee in 1999 indicated thefollowing: “in 1994 woman abuse created the loss of over $10 million in taxrevenues nationally due to premature death, missed days of work andincarceration. In 1995 the national cost of woman abuse to the health caresystem was almost $1.6 billion.”

Make no mistake — committing suicide and “taking his daughter with him” was every bit as much an act of violence against Dookie’s wife as if she hadbeen found in the garage with her husband and daughter. Dookie was clearlysaying to his wife, “You can’t leave me without paying a heavy price.” Moreto the point, he was saying, “Look what you made me do.” How fortunate forDookie that he didn’t have to rely solely on his own actions and thecontents of his suicide note to make this point to his wife and to society.

He had the Toronto Police — and a society wedded to its conforting myths about violence against women — to help him.

The fact that myths about domestic abuse persist in our societyin 2002 is depressing enough. What is even more disturbing, however, is thatthose myths are not only believed by, but spread through the news media by apublic official — someone who really should have known better.


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...