Sonya Garth was at home on a cold night in late 2014 when her ex-husband broke in, gun in hand, and started shooting.
Amid the gunfire, Garth was hit, and her 12-year-old daughter Davia jumped in front of her and caught another bullet.
“All I can hear in my mind is, ‘He shot me, Mommy,’” Garth told a Cleveland TV station.
Davia died in her mother’s arms, murdered by her step-father, Rufus Gray, just days after he’d been released from probation for a previous domestic violence assault on his ex-wife.
As tragic as the incident is, it’s one whose circumstances are repeated every day across the country: A person in a domestic relationship abuses the other person physically, verbally and/or emotionally, and the situation can escalate to murder.
Rufus Gray may have received a life sentence in prison, but Sonya Garth will also spend her life dealing with health effects from the mental and physical trauma.
With October designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, organizations are releasing stats that show domestic violence (DV) to be a national crisis, with Black women being twice as likely to be victims.
In Kansas, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the YWCA.
National DV hotlines receive 21,000 calls per day, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In Kansas, authorities responded to 23,000 general DV incidents in 2016, resulting in 11,400 arrests, according to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation report.
Locally, KC police file about 4,500 DV reports a year, but field many more calls that don’t get full reports.
KCMO police reported 10 DV homicides in 2017 while Wichita police reported 8 in 2017.
The KBI estimates that DV accounts for 25% to 30% of homicides during any given year in the state.
Nine out of 10 black women murdered by men are killed by someone they know, most often with a gun, according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2016 Homicide Data.
The study found that in 2016 nationwide, across all races, 1,809 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents at an average rate of 1.20 per 100,000. Of those, 517 were Black females murdered at a rate of 2.62 per 100,000. The rate for white women was 1.03 per 100,000.
The numbers tell us how widespread the problem is at a basic level, but the health problems can affect every aspect of the victims’ and their families’ lives.
In addition to the immediate injuries from assault, battered women are three times more likely to have gynecological problems than non-abused women and may suffer chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, eating problems, and psychosomatic symptoms like muscle spasms, sexual problems and inability to sleep, according to the Stop Violence Against Women Project.
Mental problems include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Women who are abused suffer increased risk of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. They also are at risk for abusing drugs and alcohol, reports the World Health Organization.
Some studies estimate 23% of DV survivors later attempt suicide, versus 3% of non-abused people.
If you have a family member, friend or co-worker in an abusive relationship, you can do several things to help them.
Help them connect with support groups and other community resources.
Encourage them to seek help for the domestic violence to break the cycle.
If there’s a dependency on drugs or alcohol, encourage them to reduce their intake or seek professional help.
Build a stronger bond with them so they can build solid relationships outside of the abusive relationship.