Tragic toll

12/5/2012

Curbing domestic violence a community-wide priority.

Curbing domestic violence a community-wide priority.

Much attention has been focused on a tragedy that unfolded over the weekend in Kansas City, Mo., when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and later killed himself.

As stunning as the violent outburst was, such ordeals are all too familiar. According to the Violence Policy Center, a national nonprofit educational organization that conducts research and public education on violence, some 1,000 to 1,500 deaths per year in the nation can be attributed to murder-suicide. Most involve people in intimate relationships.

Domestic violence experts say such crimes can be triggered by a variety of stressful situations, such as economic woes. Belcher and Perkins reportedly had been arguing for months over money and other issues.

What pushed Belcher over the edge and resulted in him gunning down the mother of his 3-month-old daughter and taking his own life may never be known.

In the wake of the high-profile tragedy, domestic violence experts understandably are reminding people of the need to speak up and seek help, and to make sure support is available to victims and others in dangerous situations.

As part of a letter to the editor in October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — Family Crisis Services Executive Director Robin Shelden noted that an estimated one in four women and one in eight men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Sadly, domestic violence too often is considered a private issue, with both victims and abusers reluctant to discuss what happened.

Domestic violence and suicide cannot be viewed as personal matters. They're public health issues. It's worth noting that holidays can be a peak time for domestic violence, and also suicide, which claims more than 36,000 lives each year in the United States.

If there is something to hope for following the recent tragedy in Kansas City, it would be in greater public awareness compelling more people to reach out if involved in domestic violence or contemplating suicide.

Seeking help is the best first step. Communities can do their part by supporting programs that let the public know about prevention and warning signs, and offer lifelines for people who are suffering.

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