A deadly relationship
“I’m sure she had no idea that relationship was going to cost her life.”
I paused the Springfield, Mo., KY3 News clip, allowing the woman’s words to swirl around my head and trickle out of my ear like blood from a perforated eardrum. No, I doubt any woman – or man – believes their relationship would lead them toward their death.
I scrolled down the article and clicked to enlarge the thumbnail photo. Though I didn’t recognize her name, those crystal blue eyes were unforgettable. Even when we were children, I thought they were the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen.
It had been a decade, probably more, since the last time I’d seen her. We weren’t close, or even really friends for that matter, but if I closed my eyes and concentrated, I could hear her laugh over the roar of the school bus engine.
“What a senseless tragedy,” someone posted.
Tragic, yes. Meaningless, pointless or stupid, I sure hope not.
Valerie Williams was 27 and 16 weeks pregnant when she was killed. The news reports say things like “succumbed to her injuries” but succumbed is too gentle of a word and domestic violence is anything but gentle.
When Valerie, a mother of two boys, arrived at the hospital during the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 1, doctors found her body discolored and riddled with bruises. According to police reports, she had a bruise on the small of her back that “seemed to be from being struck with an object or pushed into something.” Her skull was fractured and she had a brain bleed – this was ruled her cause of death – and she had a laceration on her liver.
The entire thing made me sick to my stomach, but the last part hit me really hard. She had been hit – beaten – so hard that she had a gash on her liver.
I had to click out of the article and video playing in the background. I made my way for the bathroom, first hoping none of my coworkers could see the tears streaming down my face and then praying they couldn’t hear me crying for the girl I once knew and the family that still lived down the street.
How could anyone hurt another person like that?
Simply put – rage. I’ve seen rage build up and boil over, turning a person into a madman in a matter of seconds. It’s a dirty little secret no one wants to talk about.
“It’s another domestic homicide in Springfield,” Lt. Cully of the Springfield Police Department said to the camera.
Again, my stomach dropped. I rewound the clip. “It’s another domestic homicide in Springfield.”
Statistically, that sentence shouldn’t be shocking. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (NCADV) a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. In 2011, 6,628 domestic violence incidents were reported in the state of Iowa. Many others, however, went unreported.
In Greene County, where Valerie lived, law enforcement officials saw a five-year high in domestic violence cases last year, according to KY3 News. And of those 2,882 cases, one was against Valerie’s abuser and eventual (alleged) killer, Derik Osborn.
Last fall, Osborn was charged with three misdemeanor counts of third-degree domestic assault. The case is still pending in Greene County Associate Circuit Court, according to news reports.
Osborn is currently charged with two counts of second-degree murder for the death of Valerie and her unborn child.
But why did she stay? It’s maybe one of the most common questions people ask about victims of domestic violence. I know it’s a question I asked one of my girlfriends when I found out she was in an abusive relationship. “Don’t you think you deserve better,” I finally asked?
There are countless reasons people stay in abusive relationships, according to the NCADV. The victim loves their abuser and believes they can change, they think the abuse is normal, it’s their fault or they have low self-esteem. Some victims have no where else to go, are financially dependent on the abuser, want their children to have two parents or have been threatened to have their children taken away by their abuser. The list goes on and on.
I don’t know why Valerie stayed. But I do know there are thousands of more women – and men – like Valerie. Domestic violence shouldn’t be a taboo topic. We shouldn’t hide our bruises and pain, or whisper and speculate why someone would continue in an unhealthy relationship.
What we should do is open up the lines of communication and start the conversation. Become an advocate. Demand state legislators and members of Congress support funding for programs and shelters for victims. Work with local schools or organizations to teach children about healthy relationships. Or simply learn the signs of domestic violence.
Valerie shouldn’t have died at the hands of her abuser. She shouldn’t have been abused, period. Let’s work together to provide resources for victims and teach future generations what a healthy relationship looks like. For more information about domestic violence, visit www.ncadv.org. To find local programs, visit www.domesticshelters.org and for help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).