Murder at Home

Last week I read in the paper that there were 33 domestic violence-related deaths in Utah*. 22 were murders, and 11 were suicides. Since domestic violence is a topic that I am very interested in, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about that. 33 lives were taken or given up unnecessarily. What a tragedy and a waste.

This got me to thinking about another question: is domestic violence a problem that is possible to completely “solve” by eliminating all incidents?

As much as I would love to say yes, I don’t think it is possible unless suddenly humans become less selfish and more thoughtful by about 500%. Too many of us are motivated by power and jealousy to rely on any kind of logical response from any sample segment of the population.

Of course, this led me to yet another question: if it is not possible to eliminate a problem, should we still spend time and resources working towards reducing the problem?

I think we absolutely should. For each of those 33 people who died in 2011 in Utah from domestic violence related crimes, there were other people whose lives were touched by that. One of these victims was murdered in a public park. One was beaten for 10 hours until she died. Another was a mentally handicapped woman who was bound to a crucifix in a closet by her caregivers. Some of these people had children who are going to have to live with the aftermath, family and friends who have lost someone precious and irreplaceable. Domestic violence reaches beyond those whose lives are lost; there are tens of thousands of other victims and survivors whose lives will never be the same.

Every single one of you reading this post have either had first hand experience with domestic violence or knows someone who’s been involved in domestic violence. If you think you haven’t…think again. Without naming names, here’s my web (and this is friends & family that I know of).

Each of these shapes represents someone I know who is or has been involved somehow with domestic violence. I am fortunate in that nobody I know has died as a result of domestic violence. It is still one of the most prevalent and underreported crimes in the U.S.  It’s hard to see, but it isn’t invisible. But for some reason, we aren’t standing up for our family and friends who are victims of domestic violence.

Maybe we can’t completely eradicate murders resulting from domestic violence. But every one of us can resolve to say something when we see a situation like this. Direct confrontation might not be the solution; in fact, it may only make things worse. But strong support networks are crucial to healthy families, and that especially includes victims of domestic violence. When there are children at risk, the stakes are even higher. Recent studies suggest that children who grow up in an environment with chronic stress feel the impact during their entire lives in a lag in cognitive development**. The article “Stressing Out the Poor: Chronic Physiological Stress and the Income-Achievement Gap” (see below) specifically mentions children in poverty, but domestic violence fills a home with tension and stress. Living on constant high alert at a young age takes a heavy toll, and it doesn’t always end even if the child gets out of the abusive situation.

Perhaps one of the easiest things we can do is to ease the stigma of surviving domestic violence. I’m going to come right out and say it: I am a survivor of family violence. And what happened to me was not my fault. Take away all the myths and cultural assumptions about domestic violence, and at the heart of it, someone makes the choice to raise a fist, a pipe, to strike a child’s face with a hairbrush, or to isolate and emotionally torture a family member or a partner. In the beginning, nobody asks to be mistreated or harmed. Next time someone tells a joke about domestic violence, try quietly pointing out that it really isn’t funny. Or next time you hear someone say that a woman “asked for it,” take a moment to politely clarify whether or not she actually spoke the words, “Hey dear, will you please beat e up tonight? I know it’s been a rough week for you and I’m sure this will make you feel better.” If you know someone who is an abuser, and it’s a safe situation for you to do so, suggest that they seek therapy or treatment for controlling their impulses.

And in the end, we live in a world that mostly encourages us to look out for ourselves, even to the detriment of those around us. But what does it take to speak up? Find the courage to reach out and stand up for the fact that home is the one place in the world that we should be safe.

*33 Domestic Violence-Related Deaths in Utah Last Year, Michael McFall
**Stressing Out the Poor: Chronic Psychological Stress and the Income-Achievement Gap, Gary W. Evans, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Pamela Kato Klebanov

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  1. Diane Tadehara

     /  January 18, 2012

    All I can say right now is I love you. I always have and I always will. Your spirit will succeed.

  2. I love you forever too, and I agree with your mom. That was very brave Miko.


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