I had a bit of a scare this week when my reaction to a change in blood pressure medication mimicked a heart attack. I was only in the hospital for 24 hours, but while I was there, three things struck me.

When I was brought into the emergency ward, it seemed like there were police officers and paramedics all over the place. Helicopters were circling above and things seemed even more frantic than they are on the usual television hospital show. When my husband arrived, he told me why.

There had been a terrible shooting, a massacre really. A man had walked into a hair salon and began opening fire. Six people were dead and three had been rushed to the emergency ward where I was. Two of the three died soon after arrival.

It was one of those awful domestic violence tragedies. One of the victims worked there and was the ex-wife of the shooter. The other victims were employees, customers, the owner, and a man who was sitting quietly in a car outside. The perpetrator, wearing bullet-proof clothing, shot him as he left the salon – just because he felt like it, I guess. The police caught him, of course. But he left eight people dead and one in critical condition. Why? His ex had reported him on several occasions to the police and even had a restraining order against him.

Why should every one of us care about this incident?

Later that night, I was moved from the emergency ward and admitted to the cardiac ward. During the intake, I was asked three questions.

1) Whom did I live with
2) Was there any abuse in my past I wanted to discuss with anyone
3) Do I feel safe in my own home

These questions were scattered randomly among the regular questions about my health history. If I hadn’t worked in Women’s Studies or been a feminist activist my whole adult life, I might not have caught the significance. But apparently, the hospital has been screening for domestic violence for some time and, although I didn’t need this service, I told them how glad I was to know they did this.

So it really struck me even later that night when I learned on tv news that Topeka, Kansas had dropped its laws against domestic violence. According to the Los Angeles Times,

          Apparently, the county didn’t want to pay for prosecuting misdemeanor domestic battery; the prosecutor didn’t want to   take the cases without more resources; and the city didn’t want to pay for handling the cases either.

In this battle over the budget, the city finally won by dropping their own law against domestic violence and letting the State law take precedence, which forced the prosecutor to take the cases. But in the meantime, 30 people who should have gone to trial walked away free – or walked back home to deal with the person who reported them as abusers to the police.

I mean if they were having budget issues, why not make convicted abusers pay a fine to both women’s shelters and the city? Why not drop prosecuting victimless crimes or even speeding? Oh, speeders pay fines.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Ironic, no?

And here is why we all should, must care. We know the roots of violence and its cycle. We know violence is learned in the home. Children learn it from parents, and go on to grow up and teach it to their own children. If we want to end violence on the street, we simply must start in the home.

If we ignore this, we are all in danger.

 

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