Saturday, November 3, 2012

Article: Domestic violence: Why loved ones kill

Donnie Ray Plater murdered his wife and turned the gun on police in the midst of a domestic dispute last week.
That came months after Danny Battle killed his girlfriend as the woman attempted to leave his Caddo Heights residence. Both cases rocked a community still absorbing the shock of four unrelated murder-suicides in the span of two summer months last year.
“If you love somebody, you don’t hurt them and you sure don’t kill them,” said Latrina Johnson, whose sister fell victim at the hands of Plater. “Love is not supposed to hurt. Why he killed my sister I don’t know.”
Like Johnson, many question the complex reasons seemingly ordinary men, and sometimes women, are driven to murder their significant others. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common, but experts say intimate partner murder can’t be explained on the basis of a single personality trait.
It’s a combination of factors that produce the lethal violence. It also could be conditions of risk that combine together and act on each other, said Richard Cason, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
For example, when the tradition that males have full power, honor and control runs counter to his dependency on a woman, there’s the possible appearance of weakness and humiliation, Cason said.
Others call it an unintended result of violence that goes too far. “We want to believe the murders can’t be understood in terms of loss of control or a moment of insanity,” Cason said. “Instead it’s viewed as more of a deliberate act, one which is the culmination of emotional distress that prepares the psychological grounds for the murder.”
Cason describes it as dashed hope with the readiness to destroy another even if it means destroying self. “There is this notion that if they feel they can’t carry on in this world, there is no need to stay behind,” Cason said.
According to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of 408 homicide-suicide cases viewed, 91 percent of the perpetrators were men. The study shows intimate partner violence had occurred in 70 percent of them.
However, only 25 percent of prior domestic violence appeared in arrests records, the study found. In Caddo and Bossier parishes, only one of the recent cases had prior arrests.
Shreveport Police Department records reveal 658 domestic violence-related arrests since Jan. 1. In Bossier City, 442 people were arrested over the same time period, the Bossier City Police Department reports.
Police responded to Plater’s home for a domestic call in May, but no charges were filed, authorities said. Bossier police responded to several calls at Angela and Allan Haltom’s residence before the man killed his wife, then himself Aug. 30, 2011, in the parking lot of a Bossier City church.
Allan Haltom had at least two prior domestic violence arrests, and his wife had an active restraining order against him.
Carol Gelles, professor of sociology and criminology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said explaining the phenomenon of how men wind up committing such acts is difficult.
Women think they are safe, but the largest number of female violent deaths in the U.S. occurs by a family member or significant other, she said. Gelles believes the typical motive is revenge or altruism.
“There are certain factors we find in almost all women deaths by a significant other, especially the ones with revenge,” Gelles said. “The precipitant usually is a nasty divorce or custody battle. There’s a cast of blame and the man believes the woman is responsible for destroying the family.”
When the motive is altruism, reasoning points to financial problems. The man no longer believes he has the ability to take care of the family. “This is usually when the male kills the woman, himself and sometimes the children,” she said.
Statistics show that it takes a woman leaving seven to 10 times before she leaves for good, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Statistics also show that 75 percent of women who leave their abusers are at a greater risk of being killed than if they stay.
Numbers from law enforcement on both sides of the river are showing a drop in time spent on domestic violence calls, and not all victims are women. Last year, local police reported eight domestic-related deaths, and there are two so far this year.
“We see a lot of calls,” said Bill Goodin, spokesman for Shreveport police. “But in terms of domestic violence-related deaths, the number is down.”

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