Domestic abuse can happen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christine Pierce
  • 22nd Medical Operations Squadron commander

This morning my 27-year-old daughter called from Houston. She said she just wanted to hear my voice and tell me she loves me. I could hear sadness in her voice and when I asked her what was going on; through tears she said "My friend Keisha was found murdered in her apartment Monday night".

Keisha was in love with an abuser. She had been seeing this man for about a year. Having seen signs of his abuse, Keisha's co-workers encouraged her to break off the relationship. As a result, he threatened their lives. Police were called and he was ordered to stay away from the establishment. My daughter is one of those co-workers. This man is married and claimed that his marriage was a sham and he would leave his wife soon, when the time was right.

Keisha broke it off for a short time but was drawn to this relationship, holding on to his reassurances that he would change, that he would leave his wife. On Saturday night, Keisha and her murderer went to dinner with a couple of her relatives. They were celebrating her newly discovered pregnancy. Pictures of their fun night out together were found in Keisha's bedroom - where she was murdered later that same night.

During that night, neighbors heard noise, a very loud argument, but did not call in a report. The noise stopped and they assumed all was well. They did not call when the man was seen in front of their apartment building waving a gun and yelling "somebody's going to die tonight." They did not hear the gunshot because he used a pillow to muffle the sound.

On Sunday, Keisha did not show up at work and although fellow staff members were concerned, her supervisor believed Keisha was just goofing off. Keisha was late on occasion but never blew the whole day off. They phoned her home and her cell phone, but there was no answer. No one went by her apartment - why not? Maybe she was still alive.

Monday was payday and again, Keisha did not show up. It wasn't like Keisha to delay picking up her check. The staff was now even more concerned. More phone calls were made, but there was still no answer.

Her employers pulled her emergency contact card and phoned her mother who said she was sure Keisha was alright because she talked with her on Saturday and things were just fine. She drove to Keisha's apartment and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, she entered and discovered the tragedy.

Keisha was in her bed with candles burning all around the room, soft music playing and a pillow over her head covering where the gunshot had entered her skull. Keisha was dead. At that moment - many lives shattered. Keisha, with her love of life and compassion for others, had touched so many people.

I tell you this story not to bring you suddenness but in hopes of personalizing the tragedy of abuse, of domestic hopes of encouraging you to get involved, to intervene, when you suspect someone may be in danger of being or becoming a victim of domestic violence.

Keisha's co-workers had tried to talk her in to breaking off this dangerous, dysfunctional relationship to no avail. I wonder, could they have done more? What community resources could they have pointed her towards? What about the neighbors? How many times had they heard yelling, screaming or other sounds of violence coming from Keisha's apartment? How many times had they suspected an abusive relationship existed between Keisha and this man? Many may feel Keisha brought this on herself - after all she was involved with a married man. She did not deserve violence. Some may say she had choices, she could have left him. Those people do not understand the psychology of abusive relationships. They need education on the subject.

Why didn't anyone call the police on the man waving a gun and shouting threats of death in front of their apartments? Perhaps Keisha would still be alive. Maybe that was his cry for help - his attempt to call attention to himself so that someone would stop him.

Keisha was not alone. Millions of American women suffer from abuse. Most find the decision to leave difficult. They cling to the barrage of empty promises given by their abuser in periods of remorse. They do not realize that the violence will likely continue and even escalate. They hang on to hope that this relationship will transform into the one of their dreams.

Men are also victims of abusive relationships and they are even less willing to report instances of abuse, feeling ashamed or unmanly. Overall, society does not believe it's possible for a woman to abuse a man physically or emotionally. Many people still feel that domestic violence in general is a private problem that is better not mentioned or reported.

Male or female, these victims do not deserve to be judged. If they chose to remain in the relationship, they need support and continued friendship along with firm, consistent communication that they and any children involved do not deserve the violence. These victims need to know that violence is a choice made by the abuser. It is never the fault of the victim no matter what has occurred.

Studies show that domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic, age, gender, ethnic, racial and cultural strata as well as military ranks. Batterers use emotional, psychological, economic and physical abuse to control their victims. More than 4 million people are abused by their partners each year. Anger, alcohol, drugs and stresses are not acceptable excuses for abuse. Children suffer when there is domestic violence in the home even when they are not the target.

Although my focus here is on the victims, perpetrators need support too. I have no sympathy for this murderer...however, he is human. If we truly want to stop the tragedy of domestic violence, we must provide abusers with the tools they need to overcome this unacceptable behavior.

What can you do? Everyone can play a part in preventing domestic violence. If you see or hear something that could be an assault in progress do not try to physically intervene, call the police. Your action could help those involved get the help they need to stop this destructive behavior. Combating domestic violence is a huge job. These victims need support in the form of friends and community resources to help them rebuild their lives. I encourage you to get involved and lend your support to educational and prevention programs.

Do you know a Keisha? Please, intervene...

If you need assistance or additional information domestic abuse, please call the 22nd Medical Group Mental Health Clinic at 316-759-3902.