Twenty years ago Nicole Brown (Simpson) and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered. About a year and a half ago Laura Aceves was also brutally murdered. So much has changed in those 20 years, and yet it appears that very little has.
The U.S. is the country with the highest rate of domestic violence homicides of any industrialized nation. The vast majority of females murdered in the U.S. are murdered by an intimate partner; in 2010 39% of the perpetrators were intimate partners. We say we don’t aspire to be leaders in this way, but in order to reduce domestic violence homicides we have to care about women. Our actions as a society indicate we don’t, and also don’t seem to have a will to change that.
In the article written by Melissa Jeltsen for Huffington Post on Laura’s murder, Sheriff Bob Grudek stated that he didn’t think it was “logical or responsible” for the justice system to solve the problem. He suggested that we look at why women stay, assuming that women who are abused don’t act on their behalf in lots of ways. This attitude, this blatant disregard for the value of women’s lives, and the enormous amount of energy Laura and every other victim of domestic violence expends to protect themselves is the core of the problem.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has been working for over 35 years to provide services to victims of domestic violence. Every day we hear from victims who have used every available option they have or know about to stop the violence. Every day we hear about how the system fails them, by not holding abusers accountable for their violence, not enforcing restraining order violations, not taking guns from abusers with convictions or active restraining orders and not protecting children at risk during custody hearings.
If we want to reduce domestic violence homicides, we must begin to behave as if women’s lives have value. We must demand that when someone is in danger, and they take the step to reach out and ask for help, that we implement fully, universally, consistently and immediately significant consequences for those who hurt someone they say they love. Over the last 20 years we have passed many laws in every state, as well as nationally, to increase protections and services for victims of domestic violence. Far too often, those laws never get enforced well, and the myth that women go back and that is the real problem continues to be spoken out loud.
The reality is that most victims of domestic violence do leave, sometimes multiple times, and the person who is responsible for all the damage, pain and costs won’t give up. He continues to stalk, harass and hurt her after she leaves. Both Nicole and Laura did leave, tried to protect themselves and their children, wanted the violence to stop. Unfortunately, what they didn’t understand was that as a society, we didn’t care enough about them to do our part in protecting them. Until we fully value women, domestic violence and sexual assault will continue to be common every day tragedies. We have the power to change that, and it’s time we made the effort.