On Saturday, Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins to death. He then drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he thanked his coach and general manager before putting the gun to his head and ending his own life in front of them. According to the Kansas City police department, an argument started after Kasandra came home late from a concert. At some point in the fight Jovan pulled a gun and murdered Kasandra as his horrified mother watched helplessly. What a tragic legacy to leave to his three month old baby Zoe, who will never know her mother or father. And sadly, they just became two more statistics in the growing pool of domestic violence.
On Sunday, a Staten Island man bludgeoned his wife to death with a metal baseball bat. Gregory Surinaga is being held for the murder of his wife, Jodi Surinaga. Apparently he believed she was having an affair. Their two teenage children were in the house at the time of the murder and called 911. Jodi was 42 years old.
In both cases something just snapped and once the violence has been unleashed there is no going back. Guns make it easier to commit murder but one doesn’t need a firearm to kill. In a moment of anger, everything can be lost.
The numbers of domestic violence abuses continue to rise and with them, the numbers of homicides. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. For every woman that notifies police of incidents of abuse, the number that don’t can only be estimated. The scars of domestic abuse leave lasting impressions on the children that often witness the violence. Men, that as children witnessed domestic violence in their home, become twice as likely to abuse their wives in the future. Girls witnessing the abuse of their mother are more likely to stay in an abusive relationship as adults. More than three women in this country die each day at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends.
These are sobering statistics. But statistics are merely numbers on a spread sheet and can’t begin to tell the true story of what it costs us individually and as a society. I know first hand the toll it takes on those that have lived through domestic violence. I watched and intervened as my step father systematically abused my mother for years. I will never understand how she accepted him back in spite of the broken bones, busted lips and black eyes. She eventually got away from him, alive. She is one of the lucky ones for not adding her name to the roster. But the wounds are still there for all of us. They may no longer bleed but the pain of what the experience cost us are never far away.
In the state of Arizona there were at least 101 domestic violence deaths in 2011. As of June of this year there were already at least 48 deaths. Arizona averages roughly 100 murders from abuse each and every year. And looking at the numbers in other states, the bottom lines are just as bleak if not more so. If domestic violence were a disease it would be a pandemic. We lose over 1300 people a year to this tragic end, murdered by someone they love. Murdered by a familiar stranger.
If you are living in an abusive relationship or know someone that is, please, please seek help. Do not continue to live in a violent situation and do not expose your children to it. There is help, there is a way out. Please, don’t become a number on a piece of paper. Share this information with those you care about.
Where to get help for domestic abuse.
If you are in danger, call 911!
To reach the crisis line at Emerge! call 888-428-0101
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 800-782-6400
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233
Domestic Violence – Shelters/Safe Houses;
Administration of Resources and Choices (Elder Abuse) (520)327-2665
(24 hr) (520)566-1919
Boys Town National Hotline (24 Hours) 1-800-448-3000 TTY:1-800-448-1833
Brewster Center/Westhouse – Tucson (Crisis Hotline) (520)622-6347 (877)472-1717
Casa Amparo – South Tucson (Crisis Hotline) (520)746-1501
Casa de Los Ninos (Children) (520)624-5600
Our Family Services (520)323-1708
Salvation Army (520)622-5411
New Beginnings for Women & Children – Tucson (520)292-0648
Tucson Center for Women & Children/AVA Crisis Center (520)795-4266 (520)795-4880