The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) grieves with the families and loved ones of the victims in yesterday’s Chicago Mercy Hospital shooting and with a community that will spend years healing.
Dr. Tamara O’Neal was a devoted emergency room physician who was doing what so many of us do every day -- going to work. But in yet another ultimate act of power and control, the shooter, who had been in an intimate relationship with Dr. O’Neal, targeted her in the parking lot of her workplace, a hospital, and killed her with a gun before turning his weapon on bystanders, including a police officer.
Many witnesses have expressed shock that such a thing can happen at a hospital. The reality is that schools, hospitals, churches, and other workplaces are not safe places when you are a victim of domestic violence. Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser, or 78% of women killed in the workplace during this timeframe.
In the hours since this crime occurred, the media coverage has mostly focused on the law enforcement officer killed as a result of this tragedy, with Dr. O’Neal’s story - the primary victim - either marginalized or ignored. This continues the alarming tendency of media and others avoiding the truth -- shootings like this are more often than not connected to domestic violence. It is important for the media to connect domestic violence to these incidents so that the public has a better understanding of domestic abuse, power, and control. If and when the media (and we as a culture) do that, we can begin to better understand how to prevent these incidents from occurring.
Until we have a basic understanding of abusers’ need for control and the lethality a victim faces when she removes herself from the controlling, abusive individual, we will continue to witness these killings. We will continue to have hospitals, churches, schools, and other workplaces and communities impacted and law enforcement, co-workers, and others will continue to lose their lives. A study of intimate partner homicides between 2003 and 2009 found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partner (primary victim) themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.