In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of progress in the fight against domestic violence. From increased awareness to stronger legislation, stiffer penalties, and better services, there’s been a lot of positives to come out of it all. Unfortunately, though, the 2020s have so far shown us that America is still struggling with this issue right along with other nations and has yet to find an answer for how to completely eradicate it from society.
One in three women and one in four men have been the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime–and most experts agree these numbers are underreported. For this reason, it’s important once in a while to review human stories and news articles to raise our awareness and learn. Let’s take a look at some of the more important and higher-profile domestic violence stories since the 2020s began.
News Coverage of Gabby Petito’s Death Raises Questions
For several weeks in early September 2021, the media coverage of the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito was nearly constant and drove high ratings as viewers and readers were captivated by the story. She had been on a road trip with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, when she disappeared, and Brian came home without her. When questions were raised about her disappearance, Laundrie, now a person of interest, also disappeared.
In the weeks that followed, Petito’s body was found–dead by strangulation–and reports surfaced that suggested domestic violence between the two of them, including a roadside conversation with police caught on bodycam. After a weeks-long manhunt, Laundrie’s remains were discovered–his death ruled a suicide.
This story has much to teach us—not just about the violence itself, but the way the story was covered and the attitudes revealed along the way. Here are some of the important points:
- Americans still have too dismissive an attitude toward the signs of violence. Between the news reports and the responses from high-profile social media stars, it was apparent that Americans were treating the Gabby Petito story as a reality show or mere entertainment than a tragedy.
- The police still suffer from male trivialization. Even more telling was the bodycam footage from the police who stopped Petito and Laundrie on the road, which shows the police joking with Laundrie while Petito hyperventilated in the car, and we overhear the suggestions that Petito was “crazy,” and one of the cops can relate because he is married. Between Laurie’s sense of calm and Petito’s agitation, the police decided she was the aggressor in the incident and let them go. Considering what followed, it’s apparent the incident was minimized and trivialized.
- The coverage revealed a racial disparity in our culture, as well. While Petito’s story was tragic and did raise awareness of a problem, critics also noted that Americans and the media took special interest because Petito was an attractive white female. As advocacy groups have correctly stated, domestic violence and homicide are much more prevalent among women of color, yet these stories rarely receive the national attention that Petito did. Hundreds of Black and indigenous women vanish each year, and many are found murdered, and we never hear about them.
Security Video of Zac Stacy Domestic Violence Incident Reveals Stark Reality
In November 2021, former NFL running back Zac Stacy was caught on security video in a brutal attack on his ex-girlfriend, Kristin Evans, the mother of his infant son, in their Florida home. After the victim posted the video online, it went viral, leading to Stacy’s arrest and subsequent criminal charges. Stacy is out of jail on a $10,150 bond pending his trial, but he is prohibited from entering the State of Florida except for court hearings.
Again, there is more than one thing we must take note of from this incident. Two of the most important takeaways are:
- The video shows a disturbingly brutal attack, but survivors say it is not unusual. The fact that so many people saw the attack caught on camera has raised awareness of how brutal domestic violence can be–but survivors want the public to know that this isn’t an extreme example. “This happens every day, in normal people’s households, and not just you know, a seemingly angry NFL football player,” says domestic violence survivor Christy Carpenter. “It happens everywhere.”
- The courts don’t always give the victims adequate protection. While a court document prohibits Stacy even from being in the same state as his alleged victim except for court dates, attorneys for Evans were unsuccessful in their bid to increase the bail amount, place Stacy under house arrest, or even fit him with an ankle bracelet, to ensure their client’s protection. Evans said she was afraid to go home after Stacy was released, and continues to fear for her and her child’s safety.
Granted, not every domestic violence incident is as profound and brutal as these stories show (although they certainly can escalate to that point). In some cases, the person charged with violence had no predetermination to cause harm, and in others, a simple misunderstanding can escalate into an arrest. If you are currently facing domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, we can provide compassionate legal representation. Call our offices today for a free consultation.