A domestic and unthinkable tragedy

My introduction to domestic violence took place early in my life. I saw it firsthand and often in my mother and late father’s 43-year marriage. It was brutal. It was devastating to watch two people you love kick, claw and scream at one another almost every day. Oftentimes, my mother, who has 11 children, bore the brunt of abuse by a man suffering from bipolar disease and schizophrenia.

To this day, my mother is both broken and bitter about what took place in her relationship with my father. No doubt, the violent episodes between my mother and father left a searing and inedible scar on me. However, my early education on domestic violence didn’t stop in my home.

I remember one day getting a rude and almost unforgivable awakening about the issue as a middle school student when word around the neighborhood that I lived in, started surfacing about a young lady who I grew up knowing, was senselessly murdered by a boyfriend she reportedly broke up with.

The young lady was a high school student in Long Beach, California. Her young life was cut down by domestic violence. She was chocolate and she was beautiful. To the neighborhood kids, she was a bronze goddess. She carried herself like an ebony princess with her stately walk and larger-than-life presence. She had a high-pitch laugh that simply would unarm you and make you feel like you were family.

Whenever my friends and I would see her, we would all gush whenever she glanced our way and sent over a safe, but flirtatious smile. Of course, all of us took turns telling each other who was going to marry this future queen when we grew up.

None of us got the opportunity. That’s because one weekday morning, shortly after allegedly breaking up with her boyfriend, this young woman (whose real name I have chosen not to reveal out of respect for her family) lay lifeless on her own front porch, the victim of a reported gunshot wound to the head.

From what I remember, the student’s ex shot and killed her before she knew what was happening. When I heard the news, I cried and my heart sank in sadness. The wonderful and irresistible smile of this young lady would never be seen again. And that hurt. It hurt a lot.

Domestic violence has no boundaries. It has no barriers when it comes to ethnic background or economic buffer. As we saw in the murder of comedian and actor Phil Hartman, who was shot and killed by his wife as he slept in a bed in the couple’s home,  it does not give a hoot about what income bracket a person is in. Silver’s wife later turned the gun on herself after killing her husband.

As the American public found out once again last week it can happen at any time and anywhere. The obvious connection of domestic violence to the rest of us came in the form of a professional athlete playing in a high-profile sport that went out and shot and killed his girlfriend before eventually turning the gun on himself.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher went AWOL and shot Kasandra Perkins, mother of their infant child, multiple times in the home they reportedly shared together in front of his own mother before speeding away. Belcher then allegedly drove to the team practice facility where he shot himself in the head, reportedly in front of his coach and the team’s general manager.

The face of domestic violence: Ardena Carter, a Georgia Southern University student, was shot and killed by Michael Antonio Natson, a military policeman in 2003. Natson, convicted in 2007, is now serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering Carter and her unborn fetus.

An immediate gush of sadness and outrage resonated within so many people once the news hit the airwaves. But the trail of domestic violence doesn’t stop because it rears its ugly head in a relationship between a professional football player and his girlfriend. Domestic violence can take place anywhere.

Domestic violence has a habit of working its way into the most unlikely places and uses the least likely individuals to continue to perpetrate this maddening cycle of suffering and fear. Too many times, family members are left behind to piece the puzzle together a scenario played out by the destructive form of domestic violence. Too many times, it is unbearable to comprehend.

Just ask the family members of the 75-year man who shot and killed his 74-year-old wife as she lay comatose as a terminally ill patient at the Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California. Late Saturday evening, the same day that Belcher committed his murder-suicide act, Marlow H. Galbraith took his wife’s life before turning the gun on himself.

This domestic violence problem thing is much bigger than a celebrated sports figure like O.J. Simpson or a celebrity like television and film actor Robert Blake. Unfortunately, it is an occurrence that takes place every day. Victims are often left paralyzed with fear.

More often than not they don’t survive or know how to get away from the perpetrators of domestic violence. A former co-worker of mine was one of those victims.

My friend worked as a nurse at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. Before my journey into journalism, I worked at the hospital for nearly a decade as a custodian. One of my designated stations or units to stop by was where this individual worked. She and I developed a very good friendship, and she would often share stories with me about her young daughter.

On a much darker note, my friend would also share information with me about her on-off-on-again relationship with her boyfriend, whom she would often describe as “very jealous.” She talked often about being scared of this man and the need to get away from him. She didn’t get away far enough. Our last conversation went along the lines of her trying to do what she needed to do for the future of her daughter.

I never saw my friend alive again after that discussion. She was gunned down and lost her life at the hands of the man she tried to escape from. I wrestled with pain and anguish upon of learning about her passing at the hands of this obsessed murderer. I remember asking myself, “Why?”

That’s a question many victims’ families ask. One person who asked that question was Diane Croomes, the mother of Ardena Carter, a young woman caught up in the web of love with a married man by whom she became impregnated. Ardena was a student at Georgia Southern University when she came up missing one day in the fall of 2003 after a visit to see her boyfriend Michael Antonio Natson, a military policeman.

Her remains and that of her unborn fetus were later found behind the Fort Benning military base where Natson was stationed. Natson now sits in a prison cell with a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of Ardena and her unborn baby after shooting her in the back of the head. Domestic violence is not a one-trick pony.

According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one out of every four women falls victim to this reality. It’s up to society to be part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem.

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