“Some men you just can’t reach.” An excerpt from “Cool Hand Luke”
In past columns I have made the case that some criminals could have been steered away from crime had the mental health system not been dismantled. For all the money we spend incarcerating the mentally ill, not to mention drug addicts, there is certainly an argument that money could be better spent on preventive and long term care for these unfortunate souls.
But when the crime involves domestic violence, I make no such case. I have no pity for criminals who prey on their own family, who physically assault a spouse, romantic partner or any person who might look to their abuser for guidance, strength, friendship or love.
Domestic violence is a personal betrayal. It is bullying at the most intimate level.
As a cop, handling a DV scene professionally requires several tasks: calming everyone down; ascertaining the facts; and making appropriate legal decisions. Doing so in the midst of a sometimes explosive incident also gives police officers a clinical detachment. That sense of removal also negates the normal human response to the presence of a cowering victim next to her defiant abuser (for the record it would be to beat the pathetic lowlife abuser like a dirty carpet).
Although domestic violence continues to ravage families throughout our community, the sense of urgency about these cases appears to be diminishing. Such was the impression when the following domestic violence incidents were reported in last week’s newspaper.
1) A Tacoma man stabbed his estranged wife inside a Lakewood bank and then held other customers hostage (Trib 8/25). When he emerged, holding his wife at gunpoint, police shot the man. He is expected to survive.
2) A Tacoma man was charged with a July 26 shooting (Trib 8/29) in which he fired at his estranged wife as she and her eight children fled their home. Before the shooting he allegedly told her, “I love you and I gotta kill you.”
3) Army CID agents investigated a fatal stabbing of a woman at JBLM on Saturday (Trib 8/29) by her soldier husband.
4) A Spanaway man was booked into jail for killing his wife and daughter early Tuesday morning (Trib 8/29).
The final tally is three homicides, a separate shooting, a stabbing and a kidnapping, all of which the Trib covered well: two were front page stories on different days; the other two were side by side on the same day. But the link in these stories – the elephant in the room – was never mentioned. The task of framing these incidents as domestic violence should be a splashy news story, but instead a week has gone by without a ripple.
The deafening silence on this topic may be due to the ubiquitous presence of domestic violence, or it may be the fallacy that it represents little more than, say, the neighbors’ dirty little secret. If that is true then we are truly failing to see the forest for the trees.
The cycle of violence is real. It distorts relationships until friends, lovers, husbands and wives gravitate towards the roles of abuser or victim. Abusers are criminals whose arrogance make it impossible to see their victims separate from themselves, and whose cowardice makes them monsters capable of horrible crimes (consider the alleged admissions of the Spanaway man who told police that, after killing his wife and daughter, he somehow lacked the courage to kill himself).
If you need some enlightenment on the subject of domestic violence, then follow this link to the Pierce County YWCA. This nonprofit has been a haven for abused women and their families since 1976, and it has served the Tacoma-Pierce County community extremely well.
I would encourage you to educate yourself about domestic violence. Don’t let it continue to be a quiet killer.