Domestic violence murders in Lexington are on the rise. Why?
The number of domestic violence-related homicides has skyrocketed in the first six months of 2022, according to statistics from the Lexington Police Department. As of June 1, eight people have been killed by a family member, relative or partner. That’s almost as many in six months as the nine domestic violence-related homicides recorded in the previous four years.
We failed Nikki James and her children.
there is no doubt. A single mother of two young children, who was reportedly on eviction notices, somehow fell into a mental health crisis so bad she killed her two children with a knife. Visits from the police and teachers would have found nothing wrong, but enough red flags were raised along the way, Beth Musgrave reports that she and her children should have been rescued somehow. or another.
We also dropped Lisa Wilson and her daughters, Bryonny Wilson and Bronwyn Wilson. They were shot by their husband and father, Steve Wilson. (We’ve normalized domestic violence by men so much that Steve Wilson’s mental health has been much less discussed.)
We failed Landon Hayes, at just 10 years old. We failed Darian Webb, 18, and Leslie Bales, 54, who were allegedly stabbed to death by her son.
The pandemic has undoubtedly created so many “lives of silent despair”, to quote Thoreau, that anxiety, stress and mental illness can explode into death in an instant. We know that domestic violence is about control and anger, but we never know enough about all the places where something went wrong, which we may have missed.
It is about too few mental health services and too many guns. It’s about our society, forged in individualism, in which we respect people’s privacy to the end. It’s a matter of economics, where too many people have to try to support their families with too little.
This is a system of domestic violence laws that still has too many flaws. As lawyers told reporter Beth Musgrave, a judge has the power to compel a domestic violence abuser to hand over their weapons, the weapons used in two-thirds of domestic violence-related homicides. But who gets the guns, who makes sure it really happens? In Kentucky, it’s an unequal system that depends on which county you live in.
Domestic violence is also a big factor in mass shootings. In more than half of mass shootings — where four or more people are killed — the shooter killed an intimate partner or family member, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
Red flag laws and more intensive background checks on authorized dealers are two common sense ways we could stop some of these murders. The Charleston loophole is another easy fix — currently, if the FBI takes longer than three days to return a background check, the sale may go through anyway. This is how the killer of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston was able to acquire his weapons.
Domestic violence is cyclical and generational, but I still don’t know all the best ways to stop it. We’ll know more in the years to come, thanks to a new law that for the first time will require the state to collect all statistics on domestic violence. But the first report from all state agencies won’t be required until July 2023.
Here in Lexington, we are fortunate to have shelters like GreenHouse17, which has sheltered so many survivors of domestic violence and opened up a better life for them, and throughout Kentucky there are dedicated advocates working tirelessly to make domestic violence a societal blight. Maybe these tragedies can ensure they get the help they need, and we don’t turn away when the next round of news arrives.
This story was originally published June 9, 2022 11 a.m.