According to social media reports, Ronke Bewaji Shonde, a young mother of two, was allegedly beaten to death by her husband, on Friday May 6th at their home in Egbeda, a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria. Her lifeless body was found inside her home with her two young children, ages 6 and 4, while her husband, Lekan Shonde is nowhere to be found. Her friends have reportedly disclosed that her marriage was abusive. Consistent with the “blame the victim” syndrome practice, many have berated her for staying until she was killed, and have called on many in physically abusive relations to “run!” Yet, the evidence shows that leaving your abusive relationship is not a foolproof strategy to save your life.

According to reports, about 75% of women are murdered when they decide to leave – while they are preparing to, or after they have left. Sadly, Gladys Tordil became part of that statistics on Thursday, May 5th. Gladys had decided to “run.” She left her abusive husband, Eulalio Tordil. She filed to get a protective order against him. Her temporary protective order issued on March 3rd was finalized on March 17th. The terms of the protective order were that, Eulalio Tordil “Shall not abuse, shall not contact, shall not enter residence, shall stay away from school, shall stay away from employment, emergency family maintenance, use and possession of vehicle, and surrender firearms.” According to media reports, police seized weapons from Eulalio’s home after the order was issued. Yet, he went ahead to get another gun. He went to the school he was ordered to stay away from. He shot and killed Gladys. And in the act of “he that is down needs fear no fall” went on to terrorize the state of Maryland the next day, shooting five other people and killing two.

Ronke Shonde stayed; she was killed. Gladys Tordil left; she was killed. The only way to prevent domestic violence deaths is to prevent domestic violence. Although there is a place for individual behavior modification, society stands to benefit more from an ecological model intervention. Abusers live with us in our communities. What is the strength of the message we send about a lack of tolerance of abusive practices? It is not enough that some people “get the message.” Everyone needs to be on board. We must not continue to hide under the cover of religion and culture to overlook abusive behavior, and re-traumatize victims by disbelieving them, or offering them “solutions” in a vacuum. We pass a law that allows a victim to apply and get a protective order. Why is someone who was disposed of weapons, because of the likely threat they posed to the safety of another, able to obtain weapons shortly thereafter? Why did we just lose three lives in Maryland at the hands of an abuser who should not have had a gun?

A victim alone cannot bring about modifications in the behavior of an abuser. As long as abusive practices continue, victims will remain at risk of death, whether they stay or leave.

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