An Epidemic of Domestic Violence
10 deaths in 24 hours
By DIANA GONZALEZ
Sep 28, 2010
Riviera Beach early Monday morning, a man forces himself inside his estranged wife’s home, kills her, four of her children and then himself. In the afternoon, a second murder suicide in Lauderdale Lakes. A woman moved to a home there from Philadelphia to escape an abusive relationship. He found and killed her, then shot himself. Hours later in Tamarac, police discover the bodies of a couple, bringing the total up to 10 murder/suicide deaths in one day. The husband had sent relatives a letter, warning them of his plans to kill his wife and himself.
“It’s horrible for one life to be lost, but when you have 10 in one day and all with domestic violence,“ said Mary Riedel, president and CEO of Women in Distress of Broward, “it’s a wake up call for the community.” As a result, more calls are coming into Women in Distress, which provides emergency shelters and services for families suffering from domestic violence. "It’s such an epidemic problem now," Riedel said. "If you think about it, one in three women at sometime in their life will be affected by domestic violence. That’s a huge number." She adds that incidents have been getting more violent.Abusers often have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, according to the Chairman of Psychiatry at UM Miller School of Medicine Dr. Charles Nemeroff. “So there’s obviously a tremendous amount of rage here," Nemeroff said. "I can’t emphasize enough the contribution of alcohol and drug abuse, because these are factors that disinhibit people.”
I don’t exactly know how to say it. In Charlie’s world, a mental illness is like an entity, a thing. And there’s a treatment, discovered or not, probably some chemical, that will fix it. So a person has psychotic depression, and you treat it with a drug. If they don’t get better, you try another one, or add one. People who don’t respond are called "treatment resistant" and get put in a trial to try something else, like an atypical antipsychotic or a vagus nerve buzzer or maybe even a morning after pill. Here are the things in that logic stream that are unproven – all of them.
So when he says "Abusers often have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness," what he means is that the kind of crazy, controlling men who get drunk and kill their wives and themselves in a fit of jealous rage have a mental illness entity and need treatment with some as yet undiscovered drug and also have substance abuse entity. What the hell is he talking about? Such men are a complex of biological, social, and psychological forces that each have their own wide spectrum of expressions – one of which is that they rarely come to see psychiatrists. My point is that what he said doesn’t mean anything.
All of his thinking is predicated on a simplistic notion that mental illnesses are a discrete set of entities, each having a specific treatment [biological entities, biological treatments]. I guess it’s more like an infectious disease theory or a genetic disease theory. I worked in two clinics yesterday and I saw only one patient that might fit such a model – a sixteen year old with Attention Deficit disorder with Hyperactivity [diagnosable from 100 yards]. Everyone else had the kind of confusing complex of problems that afflict real people – no entities noted. Some got medicines. Some got taken off medicines. Some were helped. Some weren’t. But there was none of the clarity advertised by Dr. Charlie’s World. There never is.
My point is that I don’t know exactly what I might have said to a reporter who called about a cluster of crazy murders by jealous or crazy husbands, but it wouldn’t have been what I read in the paper up there from Dr. Nemeroff. I think it might have been a plea for women who are dealing with such a situation to never look on the earlier signs that their ex-husband/boyfriend is threatening lightly – and to take definitive and dramatic action as soon as possible. I might have said that the cluster highlights the prevalence of the problem and how such cases often end up. Once they start, there is an immediate clear and present danger. I’d say that because it’s something we know to be true, and it might make a difference.