Count to nine.
During the same time it takes to send a text or check your email a female is beaten by a man she believed loved her. Throughout the course of one day, 24 hours, three of those 9,600 beatings will result in the murder of a female by an ex-boyfriend, spouse, or ex-spouse; and in one year nearly 5 million women will "experience physical violence" on some level.
If these numbers reflected the Ebola virus, we would be screaming epidemic, closing schools and shutting down airports. Cable TV news would be 24/7 across the board with coverage.
The stories these women tell are ubiquitous; the cornerstone of what is a social crisis. Take, for example, the case of Herneatha McGill and Karra Blackburn. McGill and Blackburn were standing inside a Las Vegas nightclub when a man they knew walked in. Upon seeing him, both women decided they'd better leave. As the man, the boyfriend of their friend, made his way toward the women with two of his friends in tow, McGill could read his lips as he spoke to his companions: We should hurt her ... A moment later, the man approached McGill and Blackburn, punched McGill in the jaw and Blackburn on the side of the head. Both women were knocked to the ground.
That man was Floyd Mayweather, the WBC lightweight champion. Mayweather was eventually found guilty of two counts of battery in that case. The mother of Mayweather's kids, Josie Harris, told police in 2005 that Mayweather "punched" and "kicked her," before dragging her by her hair across the floor of their home.
Harris eventually recanted and Mayweather was found not guilty then; but in 2010 Mayweather wound up pleading guilty to the same crime--i.e., punching Harris and dragging her by her hair. He spent two months in prison. Mayweather's abusive behavior toward women began, according to court documents, in 2001, when he punched Melissa Brim, the mother of his daughter, three times in the face. For that assault he plead guilty and received a suspended six-month jail sentence, paid a fine, and did some community service. Still, with Mayweather proving repeatedly that he is a chronic woman beater, in 2015 he was rewarded with a $200 million payday for one fight.
Be it a sports figure, a blue-collar machinist in Middle America, a Wall Street exec, a middle class insurance salesman or a pimp, men seem to get a free pass for the first few beatings, as DAs are reluctant to prosecute without support from the victim.
Add status and fame to the equation and a man can get away with beating his girlfriend, wife, ex-wife several times without severe punishment. Just recently, L.A. Kings star hockey player Slava Voynov's wife reported to police that Slava "kicked, punched and choked her," before smashing her head into the TV set as though he was mixing it up with a rival hockey player. In the end Slava was able to cut a deal and plead his case down from a potential nine years in prison to a misdemeanour: a month or two in the pokey and some community service.
Nine years down to two months.
Need we be reminded of the Ray Rice elevator video? Chris Brown? Charlie Sheen? Yanni? And the poster-child for female beating, Ike Turner. Or the fact that more than forty women have come forward and accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault; but not until Cosby himself admitted to drugging women for sex did the waters recede and opinions change.
Denial and a blame-the-victim mentality in this country is as endemic as racism or hunger--and violence against women, especially, is something the media does not want to report. Cable news would rather bloviate about Trump and his bigotry or obsess over a missing airplane. As it stands now the statistics posted by Safe Horizon and other reputable stat-keepers are beyond disturbing: "1 in 3 female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner every year."
Our court system is designed to protect the abuser. He gets a slap on the hand for a punch in the face. We protect animals in this country better than abuse victims. If a woman is fearful of coming forward and reporting a crime because her abuser will be walking the streets within days of his arrest, what incentive is there for her to stand her ground and proceed? And we all know a punch can lead to a beating and a beating can metastasize to murder.
We need to take the victim out of the prosecutorial portion of the crime and cease and desist from making domestic abuse a private matter. It's incumbent upon us to protect victims, if only because the abuser's crimes affect us all. The chief witness for the crime has been intimidated and emotionally abused by that same man and is terrified. But prosecutors can step up and judges can hold zero tolerance court. It just takes backbone. Remember, every child watching from the sidelines as the abuser strikes is a student--and if the stats are correct, we have millions in class every day.
New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps is the creator/producer and host of the Investigation Discovery series DARK MINDS, an acclaimed investigative journalist and winner of 2013 Excellence in Journalism Award; he has made over 100 television appearances and written 27 nonfiction books. His latest, TO LOVE AND TO KILL, follows the missing-persons case of Heather Strong.