Domestic violence epidemic continues

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By Don Whitehead

It is much too easy to write a column about domestic violence these days. Sadly, there are abundant examples all over the news. I wish these stories never happened.

In Middletown, Md., an accountant for a railroad company killed his wife, his three children and then himself. The bodies were discovered by the children's grandfather on April 18. The 33-year-old mother and three children received "traumatic cuts" and were also shot. The father left five notes and apologized to family members in one of the notes. He apparently faced psychological and financial problems.

No one who was interviewed by reporters had any inkling that there was a problem in the family. A teacher at the preschool that the 4-year-old boy attended described the mother as a "vibrant, bubbly and loving person."

A neighbor said, "I'm still sick to my stomach. Just to see it end so quickly is so devastating and makes you realize that you never know what's going on in people's lives." (Information is from the New York Times' Web site.)

Another victim in Jackson County, Miss. was more fortunate. In fact, her survival is almost unbelievable. Donald Ray Sexton came home early one morning and shot his wife in the head. He then went out on the back porch and shot himself. He died from his wounds, while she miraculously survived. In fact, when the police officer arrived, she had made tea and offered some to the officer. The officer said she was holding a rag to her head and was somewhat confused about what had happened.

The Jackson County Sheriff explained that "a slug from a .380-caliber handgun struck her in the forehead, passed through her skull and exited through the back of her head." He said the bullet "apparently passed through the woman's brain without causing major damage." She was still hospitalized three days after the incident. (Information is from the MSNBC.com Web site.)

While it is impossible to predict human behavior, there are some warning signs that should not be ignored.

1. If your partner ever threatens to kill you, take him seriously. This is not a statement that you should allow him to explain or take back. If he threatens it, he may do it. And if he has a plan for how he would do it and get away with it, that means you are in even more danger.

2. If he has ready access to firearms, consider the danger. An angry abuser is a scary sight, but an angry abuser with a gun is even scarier.

3. If he has ever stalked you, consider that a warning. An abuser who follows you, shows up at places the same time you do, or has someone else follow you is more dangerous than one who does not.

4. If your partner threatens to kill himself, realize that abusers who kill themselves often kill their victims first. This is what happened in both of the incidents cited above and only a miracle saved Mrs. Sexton from dying.

5. If your partner has ever been cruel to animals, know that it is more likely that he will be cruel to you.

6. If your partner considers you his possession and is extremely jealous, he is more dangerous.

If you are in an abusive relationship and you need help, call Bethany House Abuse Shelter at (606) 679-8852 or (800) 755-2017.

- Don Whitehead is a counselor at the Bethany House Abuse Shelter in Pulaski County. Contact him at (606) 679-1553 or bethanyhousedw@newwavecomm.net.