We need to start calling domestic violence what it is.
It is not an “incident.”
It is not “domestic-related.”
It is violence. And it is the most frightening kind of violence because it is an assault perpetrated by someone who purports to care.
Too often in reports about deadly domestic violence incidents, the word “violence” isn’t even used.
For instance, Ashley Shanta-Nicole Harrison, 26, was shot multiple times and killed last month in Lawndale. Brian A. Jones, 34, then fatally shot himself. Police called it a “domestic incident.”
A week ago, Simone D. “Coco” McKay, 26, was found dead on her front porch in Rosemoor on the South Side. The mother of two had been shot in the head. A police source said the shooting “may be domestic-related.”
That choice of words minimizes the impact that McKay’s death has.
Domestic violence isn’t a personal thing.
It is something that often affects families and, therefore, communities.
But when there’s a fatal domestic violence incident, police are quick to assure community residents there’s no need for worry.
While I understand why they would want to ease minds by letting people know a murderer isn’t on the loose, domestic violence is still cause for grave concern as “it often leads to injury or death of bystanders,” as the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence points out.
In its yearly “Domestic Violence Homicide Report,” it cites 44 instances of domestic violence that resulted in 61 deaths in a year.
The incidents of lethal domestic violence are shocking.
In May, April Pryor, 24, of Woodridge was seven months pregnant when her estranged husband tracked her down and killed her. He also shot another woman in the home and committed suicide.
In June, Lisa Fisher, 49, jumped out of a car on the Chicago Skyway and was fatally shot by her abuser. He shot himself as police tried to apprehend him.
In September, Tiara Goodman, 25, was killed in the hallway of an apartment building on the Near South Side. Her ex-boyfriend then shot himself.
My own parents used to call domestic violence “fighting.” The fighting would happen often enough for me to remember the dread that gripped me when they went at it.
We seem to be clear that when someone is persistent in making unwanted sexual advances, it is called sexual harassment.
We need to be just as clear about domestic violence.
Kathy Doherty, executive director of Illinois Women’s Battered Network, says her organization has been doing work with victims who have been criminalized because they have survived the abuse.
“When they got pushed into a corner by the abuser and put into the Cook County court system in circumstances where they killed their abuser, we have been able to take it to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for review. In some cases, the charges have been reduced to manslaughter.”
Doherty cites the case of Naomi Freeman, 23, who was charged in 2015 with fatally running down her boyfriend after a fight.
Freeman’s supporters said that before the fatal incident, the boyfriend had pulled Freeman from a van by her hair, slammed to the ground and punched in the face more than 20 times.”
“She had her case reduced to manslaughter and is now on parole,” Doherty says. “People are taking a second look at what’s was going on in these cases.
“We are now working on both ends of this — folks who have been in horribly abusive situations and those who have been pushed to the point that hey have to make difficult decisions,” she says.
This is Domestic Violence Month. It’s a good time to start calling this scourge what it is.