We like to think we have this problem licked. We like to think this will never happen to us. We like to think that if we ourselves aren’t violent or don’t come from a violent home, we are not responsible for family violence. None of that is true.

The headlines in the paper this week only give more urgency to the small, needed steps that are being taken to find a new line of attack against family violence. North Carolina has made some major strides with its new domestic violence law. But approaches that are limited to the criminal justice arena will never be enough. Dujuana Massenburg, who was beaten to death by her husband on Monday in Raleigh, had been through the system and taken out two protective orders. And now she’s dead.

The reason punishment isn’t enough is because domestic violence is a complex problem–part crime, part social issue. It describes a set of behaviors that can escalate–not just one thing. And it still suffers from years of being underreported and under-cared about.

Just the term “domestic violence” sets it off as a private issue–no one else’s business–says activist Marcia Owen. Looking at this as a public health issue would go a long way toward erasing the stigma and making it everyone’s business. And it would harness new advances in research so strategies for both prevention and intervention would be more effective.

The problem is, we’re relying on the same folks who have always done the work on this issue–the grassroots shelter movement–to push prevention. They have the desire but lack the resources, and that squeeze is only getting tighter. Events like the one in Raleigh this week show us we shouldn’t have to choose between prevention and intervention–we should be funding and supporting both. If we don’t, people are going to keep dying needlessly. We no longer accept that with drunken driving or smoking. Why should we tolerate it with a problem that’s as widespread, ugly and with such far reaching ripple effects as domestic violence?


A reminder that the Independent is sponsoring a Dinner a l’Art fund-raiser for the Durham Arts Council–dinner, live music and the chance see some of the best work by our past and current photographers (Lissa Gotwals, M.J. Sharp, Jenny Warburg and York Wilson) on Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mad Hatter’s Café; and Bake Shop in Durham. Tickets are $55. For information, call 560-2707.