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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Father shoots five kids, himself

Women shouldn’t return to violent homes

As a physician who regularly cares for victims of intimate-partner violence and as a researcher in the long-term effects of domestic violence on families, I have seen over the years that, much of the time, leaving an abuser is the only choice for victims of abuse.

The text under your front-page headline Monday read, “He tracked down wife after she left, but she refused to return” [“Father’s deadly rage ignited by breakup,” page one, April 6]. Is there an implication that a mom’s leaving her abuser caused the unimaginable, heartbreaking violence toward the family that followed?

There is nothing that a mother’s return to a home, under such conditions, could have done to prevent such awful violence. Women should not be reading that they should return to a violent home.

In short, there is no excuse for this violence. Ever. There is no explanation for violence toward a mother or for this very sad story that involved children.

When I read this story, my heart breaks for this family.

Let us then, as a community, resolve to honor this mother’s decision to leave a home steeped in violence. Let our more-supportive communities resolve to let this never, ever happen again.

— Jane Dimer, Seattle

Call it what it is: domestic violence

The Seattle Times reported the homicide of five children by their father in Graham on April 4. The patterns of abuse this family experienced was not named as domestic violence in the original article.

While the report outlines classic signs of abuse, such as the abuse of pets, children’s fear, murderous jealousy and tracking one’s partner through GPS, it calls the father’s behavior an expression of “rage.”

Until we start recognizing and naming domestic violence, we as a community will continue to sensationalize horrific domestic-violence homicides every time they make headlines. Sensationalizing these stories does not help us hold abusers accountable for their behavior — not just for murderous behavior, but for the systematic abuse and control that usually precede a homicide.

The 2008 Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Fatality Review states that since January 1997, “430 people were killed by domestic-violence abusers in Washington state.” Alarmingly, between a third and a half of women murdered in Washington are killed by their current or former intimate partners.

We challenge media to report these incidents for what they are: cases of domestic violence. Naming domestic violence allows readers to identify patterns of abuse in their own lives and to recognize the real, fatal danger it poses to our community.

— Salome Blignaut and Kelsey Ryland, Seattle

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