And So It Goes

On September 30th, a panicked, crying teenager called emergency services and told the dispatcher that his mother had just shot his father.

“My parents got in an argument, and there were shots fired. It’s my father. He’s in the house, OK? It wasn’t my mom’s fault. She was defending herself.”

And so it goes. You can listen to the full audio here.

It made the news because the father was the mayor of a Los Angeles area city called Bell Gardens. According to the wife and son, the man abused his wife for years. They’ve been married since 1986.

On September 30th, the story goes that the man was beating his wife, their son tried to intervene, the man punched his son in the face. The wife grabbed a gun and shot the man multiple times. Today, they are holding a public memorial for the man.

This quote from the mayor’s brother is not outside the norm of historical reactions:

“He loved [his family] more than life. He loved his wife a lot, he always loved his wife. I never saw any evidence of [abuse]. Show me the evidence. It has to be proven. She doesn’t want to go to jail–that is why she is saying that. I just want justice for my brother.”

And these quotes from area residents:

Residents described Crespo as a friendly man who ‘just helped so many people.'”

“I don’t believe what happened in here, because he is my neighbor, and he was a very friendly person,” Laura de la Cruz said. “I don’t believe it.”

Meanwhile, the wife’s lawyer said of the wife:

“Her husband’s death was a ‘very tragic loss for the family.’ But, he said, his client had long been a victim of domestic violence — and was prepared to show investigators statements, photographs and other evidences proving such.”

There were no prior law enforcement calls to the residence, and of course, neighbors said they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

What surprised me about this story when I first heard it was not that he was an abuser and she shot him, not his family’s or the general public’s reaction, but that, after a forthright confession of having shot her husband and hours of police questioning, both the mother and son were released without being charged. It’s still under investigation, but as of now, she has not been charged.

A woman shot her husband, not in strict self-defense, but in defense of her son. There was no on-the-record data showing abuse. The husband was a well-regarded elected official who is now dead. Yet, the wife was not charged. That would not have been the case a decade ago.

You can’t shoot your own husband in self-defense. That’s silly talk. He’s your husband.

You can’t defend your children against an abusive monster who happens to be their father and not go to prison.

You can’t expect anyone to believe there was abuse if the neighbors didn’t know and you didn’t even call the police. If there was trouble, why didn’t you call the cops?

She’s making it up. “She doesn’t want to go to jail–that is why she is saying that.” It couldn’t have been all that bad if she stayed all those years.

Why didn’t you just leave?

That’s how most people who’ve never experienced it react to domestic violence. Domestic violence has always been America’s dirty little secret. People do not believe it, even when faced with undeniable evidence.

Victims have historically been treated guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof is on us, not the other way around. If he had killed her, it would have been a quickly forgotten tragedy. But, she killed him. He’s a martyr–a friendly, helpful neighbor, defamed and murdered by a conniving she-devil.

Even without facts or germane experience, people summarily judge. In my experience, women are quickest to dismiss and scoff with a “I would never stay in a relationship like that” tsk tsk. Before I practically begged my abuser to kill me after eight years of abuse, I thought that way, too.

However, this case shows that, recently, there has been an ever so slight paradigm shift. People aren’t quite so quick to jump to conclusions. I think it’s due, in part, to national news stories like the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator.

People are starting to see that it happens. It happens a lot more than they realize, and sometimes, it takes a gun to stop it.

Domestic violence is something we fell into. It happened so gradually that we can’t even pinpoint when it started. They are master manipulators. They convince us that we are stupid, worthless; that we deserve it. We do not deserve it. We did not ask for this. It is not our fault.

It can befall the strongest, most independent women. It can occur in any relationship given the right circumstances. It can happen to anyone. People who’ve never experienced domestic violence do not–cannot–see the amount of strength it takes to pull the courage to act from deep within our battered and broken souls. It is not easy to overcome years of abuse and the results are often deadly.

Please, if nothing else, do not judge the victims without all the facts, because we were lucky enough to survive.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.