As a community, we need to pause and contemplate the domestic violence deaths of Tracie Williamson and her daughter, Linzie, who was 10, and Jessica Perez, who was 1. Williamson and the children allegedly were slain by Williamson's live-in boyfriend Peter Perez. They were found dead of multiple gunshot wounds. Perez died of a single gunshot to the head.
We need to think about how these deaths may have been prevented. Tracie Williamson's family says the 28-year-old woman was quietly crying for assistance. However, South Salt Lake police said on the occasions when Williamson called the police she did not ask them for help regarding domestic violence, nor did she seek a protective order. Her calls to police involved a civil matter regarding the repossession of a car and a report of credit card theft.
It is impossible to know what might have happened had Williamson sought help. We do know that by shouldering this burden alone, she left no opportunity for police and others to tell her about assistance offered by the advocacy community or the courts, where she could have obtained a protective order. That would have been the natural opening to help Williamson and the children escape a life of violence.
But that is not the only means by which people can obtain help. Clergy, medical caregivers, friends and neighbors should also consider themselves a resource. They, too, can provide support and refer the battered person to law enforcement and domestic violence shelters.
Dealing with domestic violence is complicated. Many people consider conflict between spouses or partners as personal matters that should be handled within the family. Victims may feel tremendous shame. They do not want others to know about the chaos in their lives. They may experience periods when the violence stops, leading them to believe their relationship may improve. On some level, they are romantically entangled with the abuser, so they feel conflicted about reporting them to police. Some women are more pragmatic. They know if they leave an abusive relationship their income will be cut by at least half; that they may have no place to live aside from temporary shelter; and that immediately upon leaving, their lives and the lives of their children may be in greater danger.
There is no foolproof solution to preventing domestic violence or domestic homicide. However, individuals must come to view domestic violence more as a community issue rather than a private affair. As individuals, we need to take ownership of this issue. That means we lend our support and make people aware of community resources. It means we support the agencies in our communities that help victims escape and live healthy, peaceful lives, and help ensure that batterers are held to account for their actions and that they, too, get help.