I read comments on an online story about a car that had gone into an Arizona Lake early in the morning of Sunday, October 19, which had a family with small children in it. One commentator wrote that he lived around the area, and he couldn’t imagine how a car could end up in the Lake unless it was a deliberate act. I wished that time won’t prove him right. Unfortunately, he was right. Surveillance camera revealed that Glenn Edward Baxter had deliberately driven the van with his estranged wife and three children into the Lake. His estranged wife had left him, but “trusted” him enough to still be around him.

To reduce the occurrence of incidents like this, we need to educate our communities on myths about domestic violence. When a Judge sentenced three children to Juvenile Detention recently, she said, “Your father has never been charged with anything, your father’s never been convicted of anything. Your father doesn’t have a personal protection order against him.” The notion that victims will always get a chance to report physical abuse in order to establish precedence is incorrect. A previous episode of physical violence or attempted murder is not a prerequisite for a murder to occur. Domestic violence is fundamentally about “power and control.” To leave an abuser is to make “nonsense” of their claims to having “power and control.” Since this place of being confronted with having no power or control is a new one for the abuser, their behavior is not best predicted by what they haven’t done before. Studies show that women are at increased risk for being killed after leaving an abusive relationship. The risk factor is not the abuser’s previous behavior – it is the act of departing from the abuse.

Efforts to stay safe can be influenced by the determination of the abuser to do harm. Whereas a protective order can be helpful in keeping an abuser away, many have found out that it doesn’t make much of a difference. Radcliffe Franklin Haughton had a restraining order against him when he killed his estranged wife and two others at the spa where she worked. Turning in a gun won’t matter to someone who is going to drive you into the river. People have met their abuser in “public” and during “day time” only to be attacked or killed. Cheryl Okafor, had agreed to meet her husband, a Kutztown University associate professor, from whom she was estranged at his sister’s residence on a Sunday afternoon. He shot her then killed himself. The problem is with the parents; the children are safe. Not really. Kurtis Birth killed his two children then himself, leaving his wife to face the trauma of his actions. Josh Powell blew up his house with his sons, while a social worker sat outside in the car.

It is a myth to think that the only abuser who is dangerous is the one who has been physically abusive before. We don’t need more people to die to establish this.

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