On Saturday, 25 year old Jovan Belcher, a Kansas City Chiefs football player shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their three month old daughter, during an argument. Then he went to the stadium and in front of his coach and general manager also took his life. At the Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday, a moment of silence was held before the game for both lives taken and those of domestic violence. No names were announced. A viewer of Washington, DC TV station WUSA 9 commented in an Email read on air that the loss of Kasandra Perkins was the real loss. Belcher chose to take his own life.
Imagine for a moment that the suicide-murder was conducted by a non-sports or by a person not in the media. It would be rare that we would be focusing on the killer instead of solely on the woman whose life was cut short by murder. But the media appears focused more on the Kansas City Chiefs player and murderer. And I believe in compassion. Yet, I believe in supporting domestic violence. And taking his girlfriend’s life during a domestic argument was an act of domestic violence. And it is a tragedy. Should the tragedy focus on one or both of them is the question? And why does the answer differ depending on the profession of the killer. The focus here should be on Kasandra Perkins. She is the real victim in this case.
In many other murder suicides where persons involved are not in the media or sports world, there is less or no focus on the killer and more focus on the person who is murdered. Even though Belcher also died, he murdered Kasandra Perkins. Whatever demons that Belcher suffered from, it is sad and tragic that he felt he had to take his life and kill the mother of his daughter. It is even sadder that he was not able to get the help that he needed. Kasandra Perkins was an innocent party and bystander to all of his demons.
Whether the attention should focus on both parties is one to be debated. What should be addressed are the thousands of women who are killed each year by their husbands, lovers and boyfriends in the name of love and arguments. It is called domestic violence. The attention should be brought to all the nameless and faceless murder victims of domestic violence that never get mentioned in the newspaper, on TV, in social media or given a moment of silence at a football game.
As women, we can all be Kasandra Perkins. Domestic violence affects women regardless of color, race, ethnicity or income level. According to domestic violence statistics, three women a day are killed by an intimate partner. And three out of four persons knows someone who is a victim of domestic violence. That means 75% of Americans know someone who has experienced domestic violence. And for young women, “ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)” Kasandra Perkins was not one of the lucky ones to live. Yet, her life must not be in vain.
If anything is to come out of this senseless murder-suicide, a foundation should be established in the name and work of domestic violence victims. The lives cut short by domestic violence should not be in vain. And it should be called the Kasandra Perkins Foundation, in memory of the woman whose life was cut short by domestic violence. Her name must be remembered and her life should not be in vain.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.