Sunday, June 24, 2007

Intimate Partner Homicides and Pregnancy: Jessie Davis

I usually try to avoid CNN, especially because of all the stories of kidnapping and other sorts of horrific tragedy that seem so remote from your life until you watch CNN. But, I have been hanging with my mom in a hotel room the last few days and she likes to watch it and so, I was forced to follow the story of Jessie Davis.

I am about a month, or less, away from giving birth to my first child. I am huge and swollen and every move I take is exhausting. Jessie Davis was due in less than 2 weeks. And, she went missing. They finally found her dead body yesterday and it turns out that the chief suspect is her "boyfriend" the married cop. Before the news announced this latest development, he was ruled out, but . . . I had a suspicion it would be him.

The sad truth is that pregnant women are too often victims of intimate partner assualt and murder. The Women's Rural Advocacy Program reports:

Pregnant or recently pregnant women are more likely to be the victims of homicide than to die from any other cause, finds a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 285, No. 11 ). The study, Enhanced Surveillance for Pregnancy-Associated Mortality, Maryland 1993 - 1998, explores the causes of death for 247 Maryland women who died while pregnant or within a year of having been pregnant.
Here is the abstract to the JAMA article. It is tragedies such as this that should be a reminder to all of us why feminism is not irrelevant. Until a pregnant woman is no longer in danger of being murdered by her husband or lover, we are far from living in a world that values not only women, but mothers.

I am surprised by how affected I am by Jessie Davis' death. So close to birth, she must have been feeling the kicks and hiccups of her baby every day. She must have prepared the nursery and was awaiting, nervously, when contractions would begin . . . what an incredible tragedy. And what is worse is that this is not a rare event.

UPDATE: Salon has an excellent article--"Murder Most Foul"-- up on intimate partner violence and pregnancy. Consider the following excerpt:

"Juley Fulcher, policy director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Washington and an attorney who used to represent battered women in court, many of them pregnant, agrees. "I can't tell you how many times those women were beaten while their abuser would say things like, 'I'm going to kick that baby out of you,'" she recalls. Fulcher believes that hurting the fetus is the most effective way for a batterer to "get to" his wife or girlfriend. "It's what she cares about the most, and that's what abusers focus on," she says. "They are so obsessed with control and power that they will do anything. It's extraordinarily common for men to threaten to hurt or kill a woman's pets, or threaten or hurt the children."

Edelson believes that stress brought on by the pregnancy itself -- such as anxiety over finances -- can lead to increased violence. Or, he says, it may be triggered by simple jealousy. "Suddenly, attention is focused on the woman, and she may pay less attention to the man," he says. "Perhaps she's tired and doesn't make the kinds of dinner he likes, perhaps she doesn't want to have sex."

See also Amanda's analysis at Pandagon.