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A news article from San Diego popped up in my email this weekend: “Man Kills Estranged Wife and 3 Sons.” The subhead – the woman had obtained a restraining order fewer than 24 hours before the shooting – sickened me, even as I prepare to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Day on Nov. 25.
The police believe her estranged husband knew about the restraining order. And now she’s dead. And three of her (their) children are dead. And her (their) other child is clinging to life. He killed himself along with his family.
Tragic, senseless, horrifying? Yes. Frightening and intimidating for potential victims? Definitely. Preventable? I don’t know the answer to that one.
I do know data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in four women and one in 10 men in this country have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. The New York Times reports CDC data that nearly half of all the women killed in U.S. are killed by a current or former male partner.
The Times also cites Everytown for Gun Safety’s research that, in more than half of all shootings in which a gunman kills at least four people, one of the victims is a partner, former partner, or family member.
This column is not about guns, by the way. I’m writing about intimate partner violence, a subject currently playing out in Colorado to national attention in the death of Kelsey Berreth. Kelsey’s former finance has been convicted of killing her with a baseball bat. And, according to a 2018 Washington Post analysis, such deaths of intimate partners often are especially brutal encounters that include stabbings, strangulation and beatings.
Twenty-five years ago, the Violence Against Women Act was signed into U.S. law to help protect victims of domestic violence. The VAWA must be renewed every few years by Congress, and the 2019 reauthorization bill already passed the House of Representatives in April.
The Senate, however, has not scheduled a vote on VAWA reauthorization, although a group of senators has now introduced a separate version of the bill in an attempt at movement on the reauthorization.
This is ridiculous. Protecting people – men and women – from intimate partner violence should be a no-brainer bipartisan effort and a topic of national concern.
Other countries think so.
In 2017 the European Union and United Nations General Assembly launched Spotlight, an initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. And women’s rights advocates around the world have observed November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, for 19 years.
Further, earlier this year, France reaffirmed its “commitment and determination to ensure that the international community combats and eliminates all forms of violence carried out against women,” reiterating its call to end impunity for perpetrators.
Here in the U.S., we can – we must – provide better support of and protection for victims. Education, training and family programs can just do so much. And, clearly, a restraining order is only as worthwhile as the intent of the person it’s supposed to restrain.
Until bipartisan legislation, including the Violence Against Women Act, holds perpetrators accountable and protects intimate partners from violence, these victims will continue to become grim statistics … and even more horrific headlines.
Andrea Doray is a writer who frequently calls her congresspeople about important issues, and urges others to do the same. Contact her at email@example.com if you need the phone numbers.
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