Kasandra Perkins, who was murdered by her baby’s father on Saturday, wrote on her Instagram page: “September 11, 2012. Best day of my life.” It was the day her three-month-old daughter Zoey was born. Yet you would think from the coverage in the New York Times (and elsewhere) about her murderer, who also happened to be a star NFL player, that he was the doting parent — and she, a forgotten side note.
The coverage about Jovan Belcher couldn’t be more fawning, despite the fact that he pulled out a gun and shot the mother of his child nine times — while his child and his mother were in the next room. He then drove to the Kansas City Chiefs’ training facility where he shot himself in front of his coach and team manager.
One particular New York Times article is dominated by descriptions of Belcher as an upstanding young man who was polite and worked hard. The article ends with a quote describing him as “a good man. A good, loving father, a family man.” On the other hand, the article’s only description of Kasandra includes her name, age and relationship to him.
After reading this and other articles in the Times, one is only left to wonder — what on earth did this woman do to make such an exemplary, hardworking role model shoot her? It’s easy to blame this sort of coverage on the media, until we remember that the media is in fact a reflection of our larger society. Still, one would expect more from The Grey Lady.
I remember my small subsection of society’s reaction to my revelations about my abuse. “Jason? (not his real name) Really? Not him. He’s always so charming and good-natured. I can’t imagine him doing something like that.” My own family exchanged pleasantries with him at my college graduation and went so far as to give him my address so that he could write me. To their credit, they didn’t yet know many of the details of his abuse — but they couldn’t help but notice that when I saw him approach us, I turned and told them I was leaving before walking off. No one wanted to believe that he could appear one way and act another.
As Jovan Belcher proves, domestic violence is still a crime that is regarded as a private family matter, with cause and blame equally distributed between both parties. Domestic violence perpetrators know their audience. They understand that if they appear one way, many will question if it’s really possible for them to act another way. And until we acknowledge our society’s complicity and continued insistence on blaming the victims, domestic violence will continue to be a crime that is kept behind closed doors.