We Need to Call it Domestic Violence – (Tennessean Op/Ed by YWCA CEO Sharon K. Roberson)

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We Need to Call it Domestic Violence – (Tennessean Op/Ed by YWCA CEO Sharon K. Roberson)

Categories: Blog, News

“Police find 4 dead in murder-suicide at Murfreesboro home”  (WMC-TV 5-28)

“4 killed in apparent murder-suicide at Tennessee home, police say” (FOX News Channel 5-29)

Friends attend vigil for Cassidy Ganey, young mom killed in Murfreesboro murder-suicide (DNJ 5-30)

These are just a handful of the headlines that announced the murders of Cassidy Ganey, her father Kenny Adair, and step-mother Shelly Lorens-Adair.  And just 12 days before Cassidy and her parents were killed, another Murfreesboro woman, Amanda Gaunichaux, was murdered by her husband. The headline?

“Saint Thomas nurse practitioner killed in apparent murder-suicide.” 

What the headlines don’t say is that these killings are domestic violence murders. As the leader of an organization dedicated to keeping women safe, I have a responsibility to make sure our community understands these crimes for what they really are– dramatic, violent events that are rooted in domestic violence. As a community, we need to describe these crimes for what they really are—not as private tragedies but as domestic violence murders. As the wife of a psychiatrist, I understand the devastating effects suicides have on families. These are indeed tragedies.

According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. Digging deeper into the VPC’s data, Tennessee is also in the top ten—we’re tied for 6th—for the number of murder-suicides that are committed in the U.S. each year. Firearms are used in 93 percent of these cases. Both Cassidy and Amanda were shot to death by men who claimed to love them.

Domestic violence is all about power and control. Domestic violence does not discriminate. Domestic violence does not look the same in every relationship, because every relationship is different.  The abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Regular threats of suicide are a form of emotional abuse and part of the power and control cycle of domestic violence.

We need to work together to educate the entire community about domestic violence. Our churches, our courts, our friends, and our families need to know that domestic violence is not a private affair and resources are available to help those in need.  The YWCA offers a 24/7 crisis hotline, where victims or those who suspect abuse is happening can get help and learn how to create a safety plan. We also operate the largest emergency domestic violence shelter in Tennessee. The Weaver Domestic Violence Center is filled to capacity every day, and we are expanding our facility to serve more survivors and their children. We partner with other shelters across the region, including the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center in Murfreesboro, Bridges in Williamson County, and Morning Star in Nashville.  The community needs to know that help is available.

We can’t shame or blame the victim who, for reasons that many of us don’t understand, returns to her abuser. There are myriad reasons why she stays or returns to the batterer, including he may be the father of her child, he may be the breadwinner in the relationship, and she loves him. Statistics show a victim of domestic violence will leave her abuser seven times before she leaves for good. Only she knows the reasons why she returns or stays. What we do know is that the deadliest time for a woman is when she tries to take back control and leave that relationship. We may never know if Cassidy and Amanda were trying to leave their husbands. But we need to change our language and call these crimes what they truly are—domestic violence homicides. We need to work together to prevent these deadly attacks from happening to another family.

 If you or someone you know needs help, please call the YWCA Crisis & Support Helpline 1-800-334-4628 or visit www.ywcanashville.com

Sharon K. Roberson, Esq. is President and CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. The 120-year old nonprofit is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. The YWCA operates the largest domestic violence shelter in Tennessee.

This editorial was originally published in the Tennessean newspaper on Sunday, June 24.