Friday, August 7, 2009

Staff Submission: Call it what it is

Call it what it is:

This morning on OPB, I heard a story about a man who shot and killed a civilian woman working at the Fort Lewis PX, then shot himself. The reporter cited the woman's mom, who told investigators that the shooter was the woman's ex-partner, that they had broken up seven months ago, but that he "wouldn't let her go" and "threatened to kill himself". This clearly illustrates the fact that this was a domestic violence fatality. Despite this information, the reporter said that investigators are not clear on the "motive" for the killing. The words "domestic violence" were not used once - and checking the New York Times and the Oregonian, neither paper is naming this as a domestic violence fatality.

The WSCADV Fatality Review Project cites recent separation as a significant factor in domestic violence fatalities: "In at least 47% of the homicides committed by a
domestic violence abuser in Washington state, the victim had left, divorced, or
separated from the abuser, or was attempting to leave or break up with the abuser at
the time of the murder. In a Florida study, 60% of the women killed were separated or
in the process of leaving"

They also found that "firearms were the most common weapon used in domestic violence homicides" and that homicide-suicides "comprised a significant portion of domestic violence homicides."

Stalking behavior, threats of suicide, recent separation, and gun ownership - all red flags for lethality within the context of domestic violence. I hope the investigators name this situation for what it is, and that the media follow suit - we can't effectively support survivors or move forward in ending domestic violence if we don't acknowledge how lethal it can be.

1 comment:

Sarah Jeanne Lombardo said...

These kinds of facts--that women are more susceptible to violence when they leave an abusive situation--absolutely need to be disseminated more widely. Perhaps, if anything, it will cause pause before someone chastises another for refusing to leave an abusive partner.

I also advise everyone to remember this statistic and repeat it when they hear someone saying someone else 'is weak' and/or 'are asking for it' when they don't leave. It is a great and effective interrupting tactic.

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