Monday, December 3, 2012

Murder-Suicide: What Caused Jovan Belcher To Do What He Did?

Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher
Everyone is grasping for answers after this Saturday's horribly tragedy. Jovan Belcher, professional football player, shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home. He then drove to the football stadium and shot and killed himself in front of his coach and general manager.

What caused Mr. Belcher to do such a thing? A quick internet search revealed the following list of causes for this murder-suicide:

1. Guns (Bob Costas, among others)
2. Not guns (Fox News)
3. The violent culture of football (
4. The fans insisting on violence in football (
5. Traumatic brain injury (
6. The "strained" relationship between Mr. Belcher and Ms. Perkins (lots of news agencies)

Here is what most everyone is ignoring:

1. This incident isn't really all that shocking

Yes, murder-suicide is relatively rare, and it always makes headlines when someone in the public eye is involved. Very few of you who are reading this post probably know that a murder-suicide occurred on a college campus in Casper, Wyoming several days prior to Mr. Belcher's act.

Even though murder-suicide is rare, incidents of domestic violence are not. According to the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. About 1.3 million women are victims of intimate partner abuse every year in the United States. About 20% of non-fatal violent crime against women is domestic violence. Further, about one-third of female homicides are committed by their male intimate partner.

In about 75% of domestic violence cases that end in homicide, the man has abused the woman prior to the killing (this includes cases where the man kills the woman and cases where the woman kills the man).

Finally, researchers in 2003 discovered domestic violence ending in homicide is five times more likely when the abuser has access to a gun. In fact, the Violence Policy Center states that almost 66% of women who are killed by a gun are killed by their male domestic partner.

So, what is to blame for the deaths of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins? We can blame guns, we can blame brain injury, we can blame the rabid fans. We can complain that the NFL encourages violence in men who are prone to mental instability. All of these so-called causes may have contributed to their deaths. None may have contributed. We don't fully know.

What we do know is there was nothing particularly special about this murder-suicide, except that it happened on the national stage. And that is a very, very sad thought.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


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