By Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor
Let’s call it what it was. Kasandra Perkins was murdered in a domestic violence attack. This was not about a football player who took one too many hits to the head. This was not about a good, loving family man who was driven to take this terrible action. This was not about someone who snapped from stress (would he get enough playing time? would he make enough money to pay for his expensive new car?).
This was about what domestic violence is always about: control, rage, and power. There is no mystery here—we don’t need to search for reasons why a good, loving family man would shoot someone he loved. Because they don’t. Violent men commit acts of violence.
This searching for a reasonable explanation distracts us from the truth. It bolsters myths and misconceptions. It creates the illusion that each domestic violence attack is a special case, not part of the fabric of our society. One in four women experience domestic violence. Over a thousand die every year. Do the math—Kasandra was one of at least three women we could expect to have been murdered in a domestic violence attack on Saturday. We didn’t read about the other two. We wouldn’t have read about Kasandra either if her murder weren’t at the hands of a professional football player.
Not that the coverage has had a great deal to do with Kasandra. Most news stories tell us little about her—not who she was, what she hoped to become, if she worked, went to school. Because she really doesn’t matter—the attention to this case has nothing to do with her. It’s all about Belcher. And what do we hear about Belcher? We hear about what a good man he was, his perfect teammate persona, his hard work to earn a place on the football team. We also hear a lot about the team. How will the Kansas City Chiefs navigate this public relations disaster? How will they help their players grieve while not seeming disrespectful? How will they win football games under such circumstances? Frankly—who cares? Yes, they have suffered a loss and each individual will have to deal with it in their own way. But where is the outrage for Kasandra?
It’s time to stop being shocked and incredulous that this could happen. Again and again and again. Domestic violence is senseless. It is time to be angry. It is time to act. It is time to demand change in the societal and cultural norms that propagate it.
Nurses, there are things you can do. Screen everyone for domestic violence. Examine your beliefs about culpability, responsibility. Know what your community resources are. Treat abused women with respect and dignity. Speak up. Model behavior for your sons and daughters that empower them to be loving, strong, confident adults. Teach them to abhor violence in all its forms.
Many nurses have experienced domestic violence. I am one of them. We need to speak up. We need to end the stigma. I call on all survivors—when you are ready and it is safe to do so—speak up. The shame doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the perpetrators and to society; give it back to them.
It is up to us to keep talking about Kasandra and all the women lost to domestic violence. Others may be talking about it this week, but they’ll move on too soon. Until the next time. Because women will continue to die. How many more before we finally say, “Enough”? And mean it.