Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What does this say about us?

This article from the Charleston Gazette follows up a story that has been bothering me. A young black woman was killed this past weekend. It's a tragic story. A teenage girl with a three-year-old son was killed by her ex-boyfriend. A tragic case of domestic violence that has reached a bitter end, leaving a three-year-old motherless and essentially, an orphan.

What disturbs me is that the police were quite familiar with this relationship. There were about 20 cases of domestic violence on the record. Violent, violent behavior, including kidnapping and weapons violations. Yet he was walking free, his restraining order apparently just a suggestion.

What does this say about domestic violence? That it's her fault? That she would leave when she got tired of it? Well, she did leave. And she was shot down as she was hiding from him.

Perhaps it's part of the Appalachian ethos that we don't interfere in family matters. West Virginia has a very low murder rate. But of these murders, most are related to domestic violence. If you're killed, you're most likely to be killed by a member of your family. Perhaps it's that we think that women who get in these situations and can't get out shouldn't have gotten into them in the first place. Perhaps it's that she's poor. Her family conducted a fundraiser today to pay for her funeral. Nothing about a college fund for the boy as a proper burial for the mother is more pressing. Perhaps it's that she's black. I'm not saying that we're burning crosses in yards. But there is a part of racism that suggests that a black person has less value. It's deeply embedded and harder to face.

Perhaps for Nalisha Fiona Gravely, the combination of being a young poor black woman trying to end an abusive relationship was the perfect storm that ended her young life.

Rest in peace, Nalisha. Your troubles are over. Now we need to face our troubles and see what we can do to see that your story is not repeated.

Crossposted at Appalachian Greens.


Maura said...

One thing that would help efforts to shelter and aid women in this danger would be for the media to stop blaming the victim. I kid you not last night a local news story on this case mentioned that while he was pulled over in Dunbar and she in the car days before her murder she "could have escaped" - i.e. got out of the car, and went to them asking for haven - but didn't. Bullshit. That kind of suggestion and "well, the right thing to do wasn't done" against a tragic murder victim really tees me off and shames people too scared or oppressed to flee. it is never the victims fault.

sorry - tangent :)

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Hi Laurel. Glad I found your blog. It's cool. Added you to mine.

Domestic violence is a monster. Some women literally have to move or kill the man to get safety, and there are quite a few in jail who did the latter. It's sad.

Race and zip code may be a factor why the police or some judges don't take a situation seriously, but in my mixed-population area, I've seen more white women in battered women shelters than men.

The last time I was in court for my kid, I was blown away when the white judge released a white man who had a history of battering his wife and had threatened to kill her if he got out. He'd locked up again over that weekend for hanging her out their 2nd floor story window, and get this, the woman had osteosporosis. I think I mentioned a little about it in my article, I Wept In The Courtroom which you may have already read. All that wealthy older guy got was an order to stay away from their house. Not the block, but the house. What a joke.

~ Kit

MountainLaurel said...

Thanks, Kit. I'm honored to be in your company. I did read the post to which you refer. I've been limiting myself on your posts and reading backwards as there are so many rich thoughts that I enjoy savoring them. I've often wondered whether this country is more racist or sexist. My BFF says sexist, and I'm beginning to see her point. I certainly see the domestic violence across race lines, and there are plenty of white victims around here. I think, though, that the combination of race, gender, and poverty is a death knell.

Maura, that victim-blaming angers me too. What gets me even more about that news story (I saw it too) is that not only was there victim-blaming going on, the very same dude was defending the police officers who didn't show up at the hearing. Hence, the charges were dismissed. So at the same time the guy's blaming the victim AND exonerating the man that could have done something to prevent this. It made me sick.