We hear about the shooting rampages. People say “he snapped.” But, in each case, the violence started at home before it blew up in the headlines. How many more stories like these must we read before we start taking domestic violence prevention seriously?
As I was about to post this blog, I found a breaking news story: six people were murdered and another was critically wounded in a case of apparent domestic violence in Silicon Valley, California.
Yesterday, Wanda Luck, a certified nurse assistant in a Carthage, North Carolina nursing home, went to work. Her estranged husband, Robert Stewart, came to her place of employment with an arsenal of guns and opened fire. By the time he was stopped by a cop’s bullet, he had murdered eight people ~ seven elderly patients and one heroic nurse. Three others were wounded.
We can’t say he “snapped.” According to his ex-wife, Sue Griffin, he had displayed “violent tendencies” during their marriage. And, he’d been trying to contact her via relatives to tell her he had cancer and was preparing to “go away.”
A few weeks ago, folks claimed Michael McLendon “snapped.” The evidence to the contrary includes a list of people “who had done him wrong,” a stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and military and survival gear. His shooting rampage began when he shot his mother, set her body on fire, and shot four dogs. With police in hot pursuit, his one-hour rampage spread out over two counties in southern Alabama near the border with Florida. By the time it was over, eleven people and four dogs were dead, and three people were wounded. His ten victims included his mother, grandmother, uncle, and two cousins as well as three randomly gunned down people. During a shootout with police at his former place of employment, McLendon shot himself.
Last September, Isaac Zamora went on a rampage in rural Skagit County, Washington. He killed six people and injured four more. Chad Lewis, a spokesperson for the department of corrections, claimed that nothing “indicated to us that he was violent.” Oh, really? His long criminal history included smashing cars, stealing his mother’s handgun, biting the wrist of a mental-health staffer, throwing a piece of cement through a neighbor’s car, possessing cocaine, and harassing his ex-girlfriend at work. She had a restraining order against him.
Then, we have John Allen Muhammad, the D.C. sniper. He didn’t “snap” either. He terrorized the nation by murdering seventeen people and injuring ten others. Tacoma, Washington’s late Chief of Police David Brame allowed him to slip through the cracks. His ex-wife Mildred had a permanent restraining order against him and had relocated across country to Washington, D.C. to escape his repeated threats to “destroy” her life. She believes she was his intended target.
How many people must die before we start getting serious about domestic violence prevention?
The Ms. Foundation has launched an Outrageous Acts campaign. What can you do today? How can you leverage your professional expertise to make a difference in ending all this violence?
A good place to start would be to provide employment to women needing to extricate themselves from an abusive environment. The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence has resources to keep your workplace safe. Only a minority of states ban discrimination against employees who have experienced abuse.
Why doesn’t she leave? Maybe we should be asking what can we do to protect her?
Note: Months after this original post, I discovered a blog post on RightsForMothers.com about Mildred Muhammad, the DC Sniper’s intended victim, with links to her website (AfterTheTrauma.org) and a chilling and exceedingly well-informed comment by Cindy Ross of the National Alliance for Family Court Justice regarding how abusive men manipulate the legal system as an instrument of abuse.
Ms. Muhammad has written two books: A Survivor’s Journal and Scared Silent which is scheduled to be released on October 13, 2009. Her web site is MildredMuhammad.com.