Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This made me cry...

I'm on my way to work this morning, listening to the radio, when the news comes on.
A man in Lancaster, CA stabbed his girlfriend to death with a sword, in front of their four children after an argument. The 911 tape of their daughter pleading with the opperator to get help was played, and it was the most horrible, gut-wrenchingly sad thing I've heard in ages.

Now, it's been about an hour and I'm sitting here thinking about it, and the thing that's pissing me off right now is that I know that the thing that's going to get paraded out as soon as this starts gaining traction is that there was a history of domestic violence, and some people are going to start saying things like "Well, she should have left."

And while the question of why a particular person stays when they're a victim of domestic violence is an important one, it's not actually helpful in this case at this point. We'll never know why stayed, because he murdered her. And the fact that she stayed should not, in any way, excuse, validate, or implicate her in her murder. The question "Why?" is important in that it can allow the people who care to provide assistence and help the victim escape the cycle of violence. In retrospect, the why is less helpful, and if it's used as a weapon to implicate or denigrate the victim, it's in particularly poor taste.

I hope they catch this guy very very soon, and I hope that those poor kids get the care that they'll need. I can only imagine how completely screwed up you'd be after watching your father stab your mother to death with a sword.

..edited 9:06 am...

Apparently, there's already a discussion happening over at Feministe about the question "why don't victims leave?" It's not about this case in particular, but more about the general questions around domestic violence. I'm reading through it right now, and some of the comments are very good- the point about how the question "why" is too big and cumbersome, while questions like "what is preventing the victim from leaving" tend to get more concrete answers (some of which Thomas mentioned in the comments here already). I hadn't thought of that before, but that makes some sense. Anyway, just thought I'd point to it, since it was a weird coincidence, and since some of the points are very good.


Anonymous said...

Maybe she thought he might kill her if she tried to leave.

Maybe she was, in fact, trying to leave when he killed her.

My sense of it is that women in abusive relationships are much more rational about their situation than people like to admit. They are not the ones who are crazy: we are. They have correctly recognized that the police are uncertain allies and leaving takes resources that they don't often have and which will usually not be made available to them. We are the ones who live in a world where those facts remain true, again and again and again.


Stupendousness said...

There are tons of obstacles for women who need or want to leave an abusive relationship. I'm too exhausted right now to go through them.

But I wanted to point out that the most dangerous time for many women who are being abused is after they leave the abuser. So even if there were no financial or logistical obstacles, there's always the #1 obstacle: the abuser. Too many people underestimate or forget that, probably because we as a society are so used to blaming the victim.

#5 on this website, http://www.law.indiana.edu/pop/domestic_violence/, describes the issue very well.

Liza said...

Money is a big one. If this woman relied on her boyfriend financially, and had no savings of her own, it would have seemed impossible to leave on her own, let alone with 4 children. The house, car, insurance, etc, may have all been in his name. She may have been scared he'd follow them, track them down, snatch the kids from school, etc. She could have been in the slow process of preparing her affairs and making the proper arrangements to leave. Maybe despite all of this, she still loved him (sounds crazy - how could you love someone who does this to you? - but it happens). Maybe she was scared or thought that, as bad as things were at home, somehow they'd be worse out there. Maybe he'd worn her self-esteem down so low that she didn't think she could make it on her own.

Maybe this is the first time he got physical.

Who knows.