Reporters buzzed this weekend with news about the murder−suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Before killing himself at the Chiefs’ practice facility, he shot Kasandra Perkins, his 22-year-old girlfriend, nine times in their home. The couple’s three-month old daughter and Belcher’s mother were in the house at the time of the shooting.
Much of the ensuing coverage has searched for reasons why Belcher, a member of Male Athletes Against Violence at his alma mater the University of Maine, committed such heinous crimes. Some commentators focused on widespread gun ownership in our country. Others questioned whether the players in the National Football League are especially prone to violence. Still others wondered whether Belcher had suffered traumatic brain injuries that triggered the episode. All are issues worth considering.
But as tragic as Kasandra Perkins’ death was on Saturday, she was not the only female domestic violence fatality that day. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every day in the United States more than three women are killed by their intimate partners.
Our country is suffering from a plague of domestic violence. Compare the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (6,612) to the number of women killed during the same period in the United States as the result of domestic violence (11,766). Almost twice as many women died at the hands of men who supposedly loved them as did American soldiers on battlefields.
Here are some other chilling domestic violence statistics:
● 30 percent of the female homicides in our country are committed by the victim’s intimate partner
● The number one cause of death during pregnancy in the United States is homicide.
During the telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs’ game the day following the murder-suicide, broadcaster Bob Costas linked Kasandra Perkins’ death to our country’s gun culture. He has been criticized for his comments but they are very relevant. Here’s why:
● The likelihood that a woman will die a violent death is increased by 270 percent if there is a gun in her home.
● Two in three women killed by their intimate partners were shot with guns kept in their home by their partners.
But gun ownership is only part of a much bigger problem. Violence against women takes many forms from the sadly routine abuse of punching, strangling and shooting to bizarre homicides by chainsaw decapitation.
Kasandra Perkins’ tragic death occurred during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that runs from November 25 to December 10.
Perhaps the single most effective thing we can do to stop more needless deaths like Kasandra’s is to loudly demand Congress re-authorize the Violence against Women Act. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of the act, but the House’s narrower rendering is driven by the GOP’s concern that it covers “too many victims.”
Kasandra Perkins is one victim too many. Her death should represent more than yesterday’s news.