Don’t Excuse Domestic Violence With Diagnoses

When I initially read about the death of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, I was sympathetic. But as more details are coming out, I find myself taking a hard stance that might be unpopular. As tragic as the situation is, I don’t feel sorry for Belcher. At all. Before I get into why, here’s a rundown of some facts:

* Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins were 25 and 22, respectively.

* They’d reportedly had a sometimes volatile relationship.

* He was the sole breadwinner thus held majority control.

* He owned several guns. It’s been reported that he actually used 2 different guns that morning.

All of those things separately mean nothing and wouldn’t make you bat an eye. But in its totality, anyone who knew this couple should have been able to see that this relationship could go awry at some point. The argument in fact was about Belcher not feeling comfortable with his girlfriend going out because they had a new baby at home. Now to a guy in his 30s, I get it. I wouldn’t want my wife to be out in the streets that soon either. But to a youthful, vibrant woman like Kasandra, going out and having a break from motherhood is a normal want.

But what frustrates me the most about this whole situation is because Belcher killed himself as well, mainstream sports media is indirectly absolving him for being a murderer. Then you have other outlets that are focused on making this a gun control issue. Election time is over. Let’s be straightforward about what happened on Saturday morning. He shot this young lady 9 times. N-I-N-E! In front of their infant daughter. He then got into his car, drove to the stadium, confessed what he’d done to the Chiefs owner and head coach, then proceeded to shoot himself. IN FRONT OF THEM! I just can’t blindly buy into the notion that this was the result of traumatic brain injuries or the stressors of being a black man in a hyper-masculine society.

What’s getting lost in the message of victim blaming and medical rhetoric is Belcher wasn’t thinking about the 1 person who truly mattered; their daughter. In any domestic violence tragedy, it’s the children left behind whose lives will be riddled with unresolved heartache. Not only do they have to grow up without their parents (who they’re sometimes better off without anyway), but they’ll have to confront truths. 1 parent was taken from them at the hands of the other. No amount of therapy will ever be able to make sense of that.

So it's ok as long as you can blame it on mental health huh?

So it’s ok as long as you can blame it on mental health huh?

My second issue with this tragedy is I think it’s does a great disservice to categorize this simply as “oh he just had mental issues.” Additionally, Belcher wasn’t some wayward, malevolent stereotype. He was a model student athlete and took a pledge with Males Against Violence while at the University of Maine. Thus far, no one has come forward to say he had a history of any type of illness. I can point to 2 different cases of minority murder-suicides where there was a clear motive that had nothing to do with legitimate medical issues. In Feb 2010, Kinaya Byrd, was attacked outside her home and then dragged back inside where she was stabbed to the death by her ex-boyfriend. In Feb of this year, Philadelphia model Vanessa Watson was shot to death by her boyfriend; who then killed himself. In neither case were there implications that something was off internally with the aggressor.  Statistics will tell you that black women are being murdered at an alarming rate by their boyfriends and former partners. Are all of those men mentally-handicapped too? Think of it this way; if Kasandra Perkins was your daughter/sister/cousin/friend, would you accept a school of thought that said it’s the system’s fault she’s dead? Or would you demand that the person, dead or alive, accept culpability?

I’m not saying that no murder-suicide can be the result of psycho-emotional disturbia. But in my opinion, domestic violence on its face value has very little to do with being mentally ill. You can go to any white collar law firm or police station and see tons of woman-beaters who are completely functional when they want to be. Domestic violence tragedies are rooted in the desire to control and the obsession with being dominant.

So let’s not disrespect Kasandra Perkins’ memory by making this about gun laws or by positioning Belcher as a martyr for the mental health crises in the black community. As a culture, we have to stop accepting excuses from men that violently murder the women they love. How can that be done? Where do we start? There is no definitive answer for that. However, at some point, we have to get fed up with reading the same tragic story over and over again.


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