A mother and her 15-year-old daughter were slaughtered with a hammer and a rope in their Raritan home on Friday. Police arrested the mother's boyfriend who was found sleeping in his car. The suspect has a long criminal history, including an aggravated manslaughter conviction, for which he served 8 years in prison.

My heart is heavy when I think of the last minutes of these victims' lives. I can hardly stand to think of the pain and grief of their loved ones.

The media doesn't report this as Domestic Violence. Instead, it's reported as a double homicide that speculates on the behavior of the victims that may have led to their brutal murders. I won't mention specifics because they are rumored and completely irrelevant. There is never an excuse for domestic abuse, murder and brutality.

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This year in NJ, we've read about a woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend in her driveway with a machete, a woman suffocated at home by her estranged husband while their 15-year-old daughter was in the next room, a sister and brother shot to death by the sister's fiancé, a man who slashed his wife's face with a kitchen knife after she told him she wanted a divorce, a mom shot dead in the street in broad daylight by her ex-husband while their daughter watched. These are only a handful out of approximately 50 Domestic Violence related deaths in NJ this year.

Domestic Violence causes two million injuries per year in America. Domestic Violence killed more than 1,300 people in America last year. Horrific crimes against humanity are committed by intimate partners every nine seconds in our cities, suburbs and our rural countryside. The victims are poor, wealthy, students, women, men, children, your age, your parent's age, educated, all religions, atheists, all skin colors. They are members of your family. They are your neighbors. Your friends. Your colleagues.

When does this qualify as a public health crisis? What will it take for us to say that we've had enough? When can we stop blaming victims? When will we stop pretending that a restraining order will stop a madman from killing his family? When can we put violent criminals behind bars and keep them there? When can we fund education about healthy relationships for our teens?

Dedicated counselors, advocates, social workers and volunteers will continue to care for victims. It's just not enough. Victims of abuse hide in our shelters with their children while their abusers live freely. Lawmakers and family court judges should visit shelters and look into the eyes of victims and children who live in fear with strangers because they are not safe at home.

How long will we live with the inadequate laws from 35 years ago when people are murdered by their intimate partners every day? Minor amendments to the current laws are just that. We need tough laws for these criminals. While we'll never eliminate Domestic Violence or stop all criminal behavior, let's agree that the status quo is unacceptable. Then let's work on a real solution to combat the prevalence of Domestic Violence. We will not tolerate Domestic Violence.

 

Wishing all peace at home,

Christine M. Schaumburg
Executive Director
Resource Center of Somerset