It’s been nine days the Kasanda Perkins/Jovan Belcher murder-suicide. I’ve not written about it yet because I’m not sure what to say. And I’m not positive that what I’ll say will matter.
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that those of us wanting to engage in honest conversation about domestic violence exist in a vacuum – our words and thoughts obliterated by the general sense that no one gives a shit.
Case in point – the murder of Kasandra Perkins. Had Jovan Belcher not been an NFL player, it’s likely none of us would’ve ever heard about the Perkins/Belcher murder-suicide. But Belcher was a football star, so this particular tragedy became national news.
When the news broke, I was sure – so sure – the majority of media would turn to reporting on the prevalence of domestic violence in the U.S. This would have been a logical, obvious and honest path for the discourse to take.
But instead, what have we gotten? I’ve seen a focus on football-related concussions/brain damage and gun control. Brain health and gun control are important, valid issues to explore, but in this case, those issues are huge, debilitating red herrings.
What’s really going on? Men killing intimate partners. Did you know that every day in the U.S., three women are murdered by a husband or boyfriend? That one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime? That, of the domestic violence homicides committed in NC between 2002-2010, women were victims 75% of the time?
With numbers like these, you’d think that we wouldn’t need a headlining murder-suicide to remind us that domestic violence is a huge, huge issue. You’d think we’d systematically peg domestic violence as an epidemic and that we’d pull together to raise awareness, to educate ourselves, and to end domestic violence.
We don’t, though. We get into spats over whether Bob Costas should or shouldn’t have discussed gun control during an NFL half time show. We busy ourselves reading articles about the last 12 hours of Belcher’s life.
To me, those things are irrelevant. What’s relevant is the fact that Belcher picked up a gun and killed his girlfriend.
I don’t want to believe that we live in a world where women’s lives are of so little consequence that we refuse to take seriously domestic violence, which is the most common cause of injury to women in the U.S. But with the coverage of the Perkins/Belcher murder-suicide, it’s getting harder and harder to dissuade that belief.
Domestic violence is ugly. It’s painful. It’s hard to talk about. I’m sure opening a conversation about domestic violence will lead to bigger, uglier conversations about widespread misogyny. That’s also scary and painful, and I know it’s easier sometimes to skirt around messy issues rather than face them head on. At some point, however, societal silence around domestic violence means we’re complicit in that violence.
I don’t – and won’t – silently condone domestic violence. Painful as it is, I’d much rather talk to you about my mom. I’d tell you that she was the type of woman you’d notice when she walked into the room, not because she was loud, but because she had a presence about her that demanded attention. I’d tell you that she was a second grade teacher who loved her students fiercely. I’d tell you that she was in looooove with Rod Stewart, floral jumpers, and big, tacky jewelry. I’d tell you that her obsession with red lipstick meant I spent lots of time scrubbing lipstick kiss marks off my cheeks, and I’d probably tell you that she was an expert at yanking out loose teeth.
I’d also tell you that my stepfather killed her and then himself.
All this is to say that the popular statistic of one in four women experiencing domestic violence is not just a number. That “one in four” was my mom. It was Kasandra Perkins. It’s real women, and those women matter enough for us to raise hell about domestic violence.
So even though I feel like I’m yelling and crying into a black hole, I’m going to keep yelling about domestic violence. I just hope more join me. And soon.
 I’m not claiming there’s been no coverage of this murder-suicide from a domestic violence angle. There has. Some good stuff, too. It seems, though, the majority of the coverage isn’t prone to linking this particular instance to the greater issue of domestic violence. I never think we should opportunistically seize on tragedy to advance an agenda, but this instance has garnered so much media attention and opens the door to a broader conversation about the problem of men’s violence against women. To me, it would be a shame to not enter into that conversation.
Want to check out an awesome opinion piece on DV in the sports world? Click here.
I’m forcing myself to write this post because I haven’t written in a while.
Of the 321 months I’ve been alive, October 2012 has been the most epic. This October, I moved back to Durham and into a fancy-ass apartment with the coolest guy I know (20-foot ceilings! Exposed brick!). I got mauled (ok…lightly mauled) by the neighbor’s devil cat. I reconnected with a very special friend who I’ve missed dearly. I got some hair dye going on.
And…I got engaged!
Assuming your questions: no, we haven’t set a date; no, we don’t know what kind of ceremony we’ll have; yes, we’ll definitely incorporate otters (ring bearers, perhaps?) into the wedding theme.
It’s craziness! Absolutely craziness!
I’m not going to go on too much about the engagement because I don’t see too much value in spilling my romantic guts all over my blog, but I think it goes without saying that I am extremely, unquestionably, ridiculously happy. And I feel lucky beyond belief; this time last year, I was kind of a mess.
I’m still kind of a mess, and I’m willing to bet that I’ll always be kind of a mess. But amazingly, I stumbled across someone who knows I’m a mess and who embraces me anyway. That’s pretty freaking liberating.
What I’m trying to say is…I’m liking this engagement thing. A lot.