Despite his father’s abusive behavior, relatives of the 2-year-old boy didn’t think he was in danger. Police later found him home, alone, with his mother’s dead body.
A second victim’s parents knew that his ex-girlfriend, depressed and angry, had threatened their son. They never told police. Now, their son is dead, too.
Daddy Bang Bang
2-year-old child of slain domestic violence victim
Mecklenburg County’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team examined five separate domestic violence homicides in which seven people were killed within the last year. Each case had a common theme: Friends and family were aware of abuse between the partners but never intervened.
“Our review showed no calls to police from these observers and no calls to child protective services, despite children being in the household,” said Sarah Morton, task force chair.
The team, in its fifth year, presented findings from its latest report to the board of county commissioners last week. The task force includes domestic violence survivors, families of victims, clergy and officials with the schools, social services, police and courts. Together, they review domestic violence deaths countywide and issue recommendations to stem the trend.
This year’s report, titled “Daddy Bang Bang” for the words the 2-year-old child spoke to police when they found him, emphasizes correcting flawed perceptions of domestic violence, and raising awareness about the tragic ripple effects if it goes unreported.
4 of 5 convicted killers had criminal histories
2 of 5 completed a batterer intervention program
18 age of youngest victim
71 age of oldest victim
Morton told commissioners last week the report isn’t meant to cast blame but encourage friends, relatives, neighbors and strangers to be “upstanders as opposed to bystanders.”
“It is not an uncommon stigma that domestic violence is a family or private issue,” she said. “Violence has become normal to a lot of people.”
Commissioners questioned whether the recommendations helped reduce domestic violence incidents.
That’s hard to say, said Helen Lipman with the county’s community services support division. Some incidents are not always reported; others spike during public anti-domestic violence campaigns. The year the team formed, they examined seven intimate partner fatalities. Last year, they reported four. “In truth, the numbers fluctuate,” Lipman said. “The numbers could go up again.”
Taking issue with some of the data, Commissioner Bill James said he’s unsure if the county is “moving the needle” on preventing domestic violence. He said government has conflicting goals – preventing domestic violence but also curbing jail overcrowding by releasing violent criminals.
But the scope of domestic violence is so broad that officials say it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 911 system receives an average 36,000 domestic violence calls each year that result in more than 9,100 criminal incidents, said Mike Sexton, community support services spokesman.
That’s why “the community involvement piece is key,” Sexton said. “If you see or hear something going on, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to call 911.”
Helpful numbers and links
▪ Mecklenburg County Community Support Services: 704-336-3210
▪ Safe Alliance domestic violence shelter: 704-332-2513
▪ Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
▪ Find local events for domestic violence awareness month at dvam.charmeck.org