When people kill others it’s essential for communities to know what happened, understand the history of the perpetrators and respect the victims through remembrance. Recognizing the crime, the tragedy, the “why” and the “how,” is how towns and cities learn. Knowledge is the impetus for new laws and new ways of solving problems.
There have been several news articles about Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before going to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and killing himself with a handgun Saturday. Reporting turned up police reports from the time Belcher was a student at the University of Maine. They showed a history of incidents with women.
In response, some people have defended Belcher. They have commented that looking into Belcher’s history and conducting interviews with people who knew him are simply not needed, that two people are dead, and, thus, the story is over. “Let it rest,” some said.
We say: Domestic violence is one of the most significant problems this state and country faces, and it is not time to let it rest. More, not less, must be done to raise awareness and understand the psychology of abusers to better prevent violence and help potential victims. More light should be brought to the issue, not less, because domestic violence — and violence in general — is everyone’s problem. It’s a moral, social and economic issue that affects schools, businesses and government.
It doesn’t matter whether a person who kills another is an NFL football player or a heating systems repair man. The tragedy, the downright awfulness, must be looked into, must be remembered, must be learned from. This review happened when Steven Lake shot dead in Dexter his estranged wife Amy Bagley Lake and two children, Monica and Coty, in June 2011, before killing himself. New laws resulted, including to strengthen sentencing and bail setting procedures.
A review of the history happened, and continues, in the apparent murder-double suicide Nov. 19 in Alton, where Scott Reed stabbed his estranged wife, Danielle Reed, at their home before shooting and killing himself. His friend Daniel Young was also found dead in the residence.
Members of the media must report on tragedies without sensationalizing them, such as by limiting morbid details. They should never forget the victims. And it is their job to ask tough questions about the perpetrator’s history and look at what may have gone wrong before a tragedy occurred, as there are often signs.
If anything, the tragedy involving Belcher and Perkins, and by extension their 3-month-old daughter, shows that domestic violence can affect anyone, well-known or not. It indicates just how pervasive violence, largely against women, is.
Intimate partner violence resulted in 1,336 deaths nationally in 2010, accounting for 10 percent of all homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighty-two percent were females, and 18 percent were males. The CDC, the nation’s health-protection agency, says one way to prevent violence is to focus on the first time someone hurts a partner. But even the agency acknowledges that knowledge is lacking about the factors to prevent the complicated issue of intimate partner violence.
Responsible reporting can help people better understand the social circumstances that lead to violence. More information is needed, not less, to prevent additional suffering.