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Love turns deadly: Domestic violence hits home ... again

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Nikki McPhatter is dead.

You may have been following the story about a young, African-American woman (30 years old) who had been missing since May 6, 2009. Unfortunately, her body was recently discovered in Richland County, S.C. in her car. Police believe that she was shot in the head and then burned beyond recognition. The police are attempting to locate her dentist in order to identify the body by her dental records. If not, identification could take weeks, even months because of the condition of the body.

Allegedly, she met her former boyfriend Theodore Roosevelt Manning IV online and began a relationship. McPhatter had gone to South Carolina to break things off with him because of his reportedly controlling ways when she disappeared. Manning was arrested in connection with her murder. Where was he found? In the safety of his home.

My heart is heavy as I write this, thinking of yet another young woman, senselessly murdered. If Manning is responsible, one has to wonder: "When did breaking up have to end in death? What happened to going our separate ways? What's up with men and women who would rather kill their spouses, than leave or be left?"

Domestic violence is an epidemic that must be eliminated. More measures need to be taken to protect people from batterers. While there has been a lot of awareness about domestic violence, especially in recent months with the high-profile cases of celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, Chris Brown, Rihanna and Phil Spector, the laws have not changed to better protect victims or survivors.

Case in point -- Heather Thompson, whose husband held her hostage for 15 hours and beat her within an inch of her life. Thomas Price Jr. was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but spent an additional five years in federal prison for making threats to his wife and children while in prison. What were the threats? He wrote in a letter, "... I can't wait to see the fear in your eyes ... Before I kill you!!! All three of you will die by my hands!" as reported by The Charlotte Observer.

Price was scheduled for release from prison on Friday, May 29, 2009 -- but was not ordered to stay away from Thompson and her children. How do you release a man from prison who was sent there for trying to kill his wife, continued to threaten to kill her and their children from jail, and not make staying away from her a condition of his release? That is a major oversight, which will undoubtedly have real consequences.

Thompson had to take out a restraining order against Price and go to the media for protection, which of course makes her look like the agitator/aggressor to someone clearly off-center like Price is alleged to be. Thompson is being victimized yet again and must fear for her life. How ironic is it that the man who attempted to kill Thompson is free, while she is imprisoned by the real threat of violence against her and her family?

Domestic violence has really become a normalized part of our society, and it is unacceptable. We have to decide as a community to rebel against it. There are some in the community fighting against domestic violence. United Family Services Domestic Violence programs and the Mecklenburg County Women's Commission Domestic Violence services have joined forces in a collaborative effort to reach a wider audience by forming the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau. Their goal is to reach more of the community by sharing resources and eliminating duplicate efforts in addressing domestic violence issues. The idea is that with more awareness, people will be more inclined to get involved in helping to stop domestic violence matters.

How many of us know someone who is mentally or physically battered? How many of us have lived next door to someone you heard being abused and done and said nothing? A friend of mine was actually considering moving from an apartment complex because she couldn't stand to hear the violence that was happening next door. She had not reported the incidents to the management at the apartment complex, nor had she contacted the police, which is the least that someone can do. If you can't stand to listen to it, imagine how the other person must feel who is actually living it?

What if it was you? If someone saw or heard you getting beat down by your partner/lover/spouse, would you want him or her to ignore it or turn away? You would undoubtedly want some help. A lot of times, victims of domestic abuse suffer in silence because they do not think that they can get help. Sometimes they don't know what's in store, as was the case with McPhatter. Domestic incidents sometimes start as mental abuse, controlling behavior or small incidents of anger and violence that can escalate to someone killing or maiming you or both.

Nikki McPhatter is dead. Heather Thompson is praying that she won't be next. We need to pray for McPhatter, Thompson, victims and survivors of domestic violence. Most of all, we need to pray for ourselves if this is the best that we can do as a community in the fight against domestic violence -- because if this is it, we're all in trouble.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.

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