Patrick Johnson at the Springfield Republican has a story today tallying up the domestic violence murders in Springfield this year. Three women and five children died at the hands of those they should have been able to trust the most.
It's worth posting both the local domestic violence hotline and the national number. Locally, call ARCH, 413-733-7100. Anywhere in Massachusetts, call SafeLink, 1-877-853-2020.
So often the male perpetrators of these crimes kill themselves after they kill their wives and their children. Why don't they just kill themselves first?
Here's an understatement: domestic violence is a complicated issue. Women are not the only victims; children and men suffer, also. It's not rare for violence to be mutual-- although when it comes to the death of a partner, women are almost always the victims.
Interestingly enough, Johnson's article says that the police were never called to the victims' residences, no restraining orders were ever filed, and no neighbors ever complained about excessive noise.
Perhaps this is because the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction to protect women that women often see the "cure" as potentially as damaging as the violence.
An all too common scenario goes like this: you and your husband are having a fight, and voices get loud. (There may or may not be physical violence accompanying this argument.) You have children in the home. A neighbor calls the police. What happens next depends on whether or not the police suspect violence has taken place. But one thing that will surely happen is that the police will file a 51A-- a Care and Protection order-- with the Department of Social Services. DSS will require that you get a restraining order against your husband and remove him from your home and your life. If you fail to do so, your children may be taken away from you. This is a heavy chain of consequences to bear. Many families that need help are destroyed, and, I think, many women who really do need help won't take the risk of asking for it.
I'm not one who thinks that state intervention and incarceration should be the first step and is automatically the best step to solve every social ill. I believe that women who need to be safe should have a place to go. Once upon a time, battered women's shelters were run by dedicated community volunteers. Now they are funded by the Department of Social Services. And everybody and his brother-- every police officer, teacher, doctor, nurse, case manager and social worker-- is a mandated reporter.
For a deeper and contextualized look at violence against women, check out Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. For a look at a violence against men site that is NOT an anti-woman site (even if i don't agree with every perspective), see Battered Men. There's a hopeful page on the Family Violence Prevention Fund about raising boys into men. Check out their home page for more general information.