Thursday, March 13, 2008

Take it Seriously

John Gambrell of the Associated Press reported Tuesday that Katharine Wood, 24, an English major at the University of Arkansas, had been found dead in her bathtub on Sunday, March 9th 2008. Hours later, Wood's ex-boyfriend Zachariah Scott Marcyniuk, 28, of Fayetteville, was arrested in western Oklahoma and charged with her murder.
A man [Marcyniuk] accused of murdering a University of Arkansas student told others "I think I hurt her real bad" but said he blacked out and couldn't remember what happened, a police affidavit says.
The affidavit also said Wood appeared to be the victim of a violent struggle, but police say the actual cause of death has not yet been determined. Friends and family told the AP that Wood recently complained that Marcyniuk was harassing her, stalking her, and "acting creepy." For example, Wood told friends he stalked her at a nightclub and tried to monitor her phone calls.

"After they broke up three or four weeks ago, she'd become increasingly afraid," said Michelle Mustion, a friend of Wood's. "She'd talked to her mom and I about getting a restraining order, but she had reason to believe everything was going to work out."
We now know that Marcyniuk had a history of violent behavior, having been sentenced to two years' probation in July 2005 for aggravated assault on a former girlfriend. Without this knowledge, however,Wood, her family, and her friends probably just saw a guy who was having a hard time with a break up. It is cases like these that illuminate the need to educate our society about domestic and dating violence. This is the third murder in the last three weeks that we have reported on that could have been prevented if the warning signs had been recognized and taken seriously.

Most recently, we reported on the murder of Kristina Lamberson who was killed in front of her 4-year-old child by her husband Robert Lamberson, just one day after he had been arrested for violating the protective order she had against him. As we reported then, this tragic situation carried two important lessons. The first is that there needs to be a better system for keeping victims informed when someone who poses a known threat, like Robert Lamberson, is roaming free. The second comes from the statement of a family friend: "He liked to run his mouth a lot and I don't think anybody took him serious...."

On February 20th, we reported on what is probably the most glaring example of a severe (and ultimately fatal) threat of violence that was brushed off and normalized, not only by civilians but also by trained law enforcement officers. Natasha Hall was only 17 when she was shot by her 19-year old ex-boyfriend, Clay Kufner. In the months prior to the shooting, Ms. Hall had reported to police that Kufner hit her in the face, threatened to burn down her home, and posted nude photos of her on the internet. Despite this, the DeLand Police Department's Chief Deputy Randel Henderson had this to say in response to allegations of police inaction, "Basically we have a very young couple who are experiencing, at least up until last Friday evening, just very normal relationship problems."

In a society where one in every four women will experience domestic or dating violence within her lifetime and and an estimated 1.3 million women are physically assualted by a partner each year, we cannot afford to downplay this kind of behavior. There is no such thing as too cautious when it comes to saving a life. Speak up if you think something is wrong, and reach out if you need help.

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