A recently tenured young professor at my university (not in the school of public health, but in a closely related area) was stabbed to death by her boyfriend this week. News reports indicate that she had confided to her friends that she was "worried" about him. In this state (or perhaps county, I'm not quite sure of the level of the regulation), you cannot get a restraining order unless there's been a previous incident...well, it's easy to see that sometimes, like in this case, you can be killed in that first incident. This state constantly ranks in the top 10 for most murders of women.
What will it take for this to change? It's a widespread, heartbreaking problem. I have ached as my former students have told me about the violence and abuse they've experienced from their former partners. These young women inspire me in so many ways- as African-American women, as single parents, in having the courage to leave violent relationships and fight for their education, for a better life for themselves and their children. Unfortunately, the risk of being injured or killed by a violent partner increases when you leave that person - they've lost their control over you, and you've lost your ability to observe, and know what they're up to. "Just leave" is not the answer.
And yet...this is intensely personal. I didn't know this woman, and I can't begin to imagine the pain felt by her friends, family members, and students. I know the university intensely feels this loss- the loss of a scholar, mentor, friend, teacher. We are a community that works to prevent intimate partner violence- by trying to teach men and women a healthy perspective on what masculinity is, by trying to create a culture that refuses tolerate violence, by raising awareness of what happens on this university and in the state around us. To lose one of our own this way is devastating.