Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mother's Wound

Mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled. ~Emily Dickinson

One of the most difficult parts of my job is working on homicide cases. Most all death is devastating, unexpected death often more so. It brings a particular type of loss, grief, and guilt. Most everyone feels they “should have done more.”

I spoke with a mom who lost a grown child to domestic violence. She recalled the last time she saw her daughter alive. She made breakfast for her. She told me in detail how she made pancakes, eggs, and orange juice. Then her daughter went out the door, lost to her mother forever. This mom did not know she was making her last memories with her daughter. I am sure she wishes she could have stopped her from going as she looks back.

She told me that she dreams of her daughter, begging her mother for help that can’t be given. She doesn’t sleep for fear of seeing her daughter suffer, as she surely must have when her ex-husband shot her multiple times. It had been 18 months since her daughter’s murder and the mom carried her pain as though it happened last week. She told me she doesn’t know how to make it stop. I don’t either. Those are the times when we simply acknowledge and witness.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

If I can't have you...

I saw this sign for sale at my local convenience store. Isn’t this the classic example for a “sudden passion” defense? A man comes home and finds his wife in bed with another man, so he kills them. Most of the domestic violence homicides I have worked on involved this sentiment:

She had another man around my kids.
If I can’t have you, no one will (cliché, but true).
I told her I better not catch her with no other man.
She disrespected me.

Nevermind that in most of my cases, she has left him. She left him after he's been beating on her, after he's been cheating on her, after her kids suffered - none of that matters. The point with the sentiment behind this sign and the thinking of most of the domestic killers I've seen is this: She is HIS property. He has a right to defend HIS property.
We know that the most lethal time in a domestic violence relationship is when she is leaving. He is not letting his property walk away. We also know that her danger increases when he thinks she is involved with someone else. I worked on a case in which a woman had been out for a year. After years of beating her, he finally let her go. Her fatal move was when she thought a year was enough time to begin a relationship with a new man - and by all accounts a nice man. Her ex killed them both. When the police caught him, he said he wasn't having another man around his kids - she wasn't going to do that to him.