*Trigger warning: This post contains information about domestic violence which may be triggering or disturbing to survivors and those affected by DV and other forms of gender based violence.*
By Emily Esworthy, WeWillSpeakOut.US
There are people whose smiles are so big and bright you just can’t help but smile with them. I knew such a girl in high school. We played on the same sports teams and were in the band together. What I remember most about her is that enormous, vibrant smile, and how she was always, always laughing.
This morning, my Facebook feed informed me that her boyfriend is in police custody for her murder. I am in complete disbelief that anyone, let alone someone who was supposed to care for her, would brutally end the life behind that smile. But the news reports that flash on my screen confirm that it’s true.
My heart is hurting for her and her family today, and I know I am not alone.
In 2012, there were 1,706 females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in the US. According to the Violence Policy Center’s September 2014 report titled, “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data”:
- For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (1,487 out of 1,594) were murdered by a male they knew.
- Thirteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,487 victims) than were killed by male strangers (107 victims).
- For victims who knew their offenders, 62 percent (924) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
- There were 267 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the course of an argument.
- In 85 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
As I process the loss of my friend by trying to understand this reality through numbers, I don’t at all wish to reduce her life to a statistic. In fact, I want to remind myself — and all of you — that multiple women like my friend are murdered every day. In 2012, 9 in 10 of them were killed by a man they knew; and 6 in 10 of these, like my friend, were killed by a man they were intimate with. And all of them had a smile and other memorable qualities their loved ones will mourn deeply.
These crimes don’t exist in a vacuum. I’ve heard too many times — including from faith leaders — that domestic or intimate partner violence is a “private matter.” Yet considering how hundreds of women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends every year, I just can’t see how it’s such a private issue. This is a problem within our culture and society. Maybe, just maybe, it’s partly because we choose to sweep it under the rug.
Even though I grapple with this issue every day through WeWillSpeakOut.US, I don’t have all the answers. Maybe nobody does. But that’s exactly why we ALL need to work toward understanding and action. We can’t wait until we lose a friend or loved one to face the fact that DV is a huge problem that can be deadly, on top of a host of other negative outcomes.
As parents, teachers, faith leaders, friends, lovers — as humans — we need to ask, “Why does this continue to happen? How can I teach my students, my children, or my congregants to honor each other and to resolve conflict without violence? Is there a friend or loved one in danger? How can I be supportive?”
One more victim is too many. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear to lose another friend to domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for free advice and support. In an emergency, call 911.