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Hooper: Don't leave 'domestic violence tragedy' out of murder-suicide stories

A funeral service was held Oct. 1at Bell Shoals Baptist Church for Samantha Keithley, who deputies say was killed by her husband Kirk Keithley, a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, who then committed suicide. Abuse advocates say the media needs to describe such incidents as domestic violence to help raise awareness of the issue. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Oct. 8, 2018

It's time for journalists covering a murder-suicide to describe it as a domestic violence tragedy.

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tony Marrero recently chronicled how a spate of murder-suicides and one attempted murder-suicide during a five-day period in late September may have been a result of a contagion effect rising from media coverage. But let's not ignore the volatile mix that usually fuels murder-suicides: angry or depressed men with access to guns.

A Centers for Disease Control study indicates more than half of female homicide victims are murdered by intimate partners. Intervention programs offered by domestic violence shelters like the Spring of Tampa Bay, Sunrise of Pasco County and Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) of St. Petersburg can literally save lives.

But raising awareness about domestic violence and the assistance available to victims must be an ongoing goal.

CASA chief executive officer Lariana Forsythe said the news media can help by labeling murder-suicides as domestic violence. It's a point that needs to be embraced not only by reporters, producers and editors, but by law enforcement.

The more we push domestic abuse prevention to the forefront, the more we increase the possibility for the kind of intervention that can prevent these horrific deaths.

And men need to challenge other men to stop engaging in acts of anger, power and control against women. We — and by "we" I mean men — aren't asking ourselves often enough what we can do to bring about change.

So see these events as domestic violence tragedies. Because when people are murdered by "intimate partners" they once trusted with their very lives, that certainly fits the definition of tragedy.

That's all I'm saying.

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