As we learn more about the tragic demise of Kasandra Perkins and Javon Belcher, the underlying subtext of domestic violence just can't be ignored. Violence towards women has always existed in the shadows, mostly due to shame, until it happens to someone personal or a national situation such as this brings it to the front pages. It sounds like a cliche' to say we hope something worthwhile comes out of this. But, it's actually true this time. Whether it's a pro athlete or anyone else, men putting their hands on women is despicable. This lesson must be learned.
From The Nation:
It’s horribly offensive to laud a man who murdered his girlfriend and left his daughter parentless. It’s also irresponsible. When the media reports domestic violence murders as random tragedies—or when individuals say the perpetrator must have “snapped”—they enable a culture of violence against women. Because when you don’t contextualize this violence as part of structural misogyny, you give credence to the myth that there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it.
Insisting that this murder or others like it are “unthinkable” or “shocking” is another way of saying that no one could have predicted it. (He was such a nice guy! A family man!) It’s a dangerous lie that allows us to wash our hands of responsibility when it comes to the violence that is perpetrated against women. Because the truth is that murders like this are predictable.
As Casey Gwinn, President of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, wrote,
Relationships do not go from healthy, happy and functional to murder-suicide overnight. It never happens. There is almost always a history and there is always a pattern. Over time it will be clear that friends, family, and colleagues knew things and saw things and did not take action.
Indeed, it has now come out that Belcher had a history of violence and controllingness in relationships with women. While at the University of Maine, campus police reports were filed when Belcher punched his fist through a window during a fight with a woman and again when police were called to break up an argument he had with his girlfriend after she failed to check in with him at a designated time. Belcher’s relationship with Kasi has repeatedly been called strained—so much so that the Kansas City Chiefs provided the couple with relationship counseling. (Which is actually not the right move, according to domestic violence experts.)
Reports indicate that Kasi was leaving or had left Belcher with their daughter. Women are most likely to be killed by their abusive partners when they try to leave—in fact, victims who leave an abusive relationship have a 75 percent higher risk of being murdered. Pregnancy and chilbirth excacerabte violent relationships and young black women are eleven times more likely than white women to be murdered while they are pregnant or in the year after childbirth.
This is not rocket science—we know how women die when they are killed by their partners. We know what precedes it and we know what the relationship looks like before it happens.
We also know the excuses that are made for the men who kill. When University of Virginia student and lacrosse player George Huguely V beat his ex-girlfriend (she had just left him) Yeardley Love to death, he insisted it was because of an alcohol problem. Articles said he snapped. I’m sure his friends liked him. People were shocked. But in the weeks leading up to her death, Huguely sent Love an e-mail threatening to kill her, and witnesses had seen him physically abusing her.
There is a pattern that makes murders like Kasi’s and Love’s predictable and preventable. The only thing that seems to be questionable is the public responsibility and response to this violence.