The Dallas murder that ‘sparked changes’ on domestic abuse

A few hundred people at a rally against domestic violence outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday. (WFAA)

I know I should see this as good news: The Dallas Morning News reports that the city has gotten serious about domestic abuse since the January murder of a woman, abused by her husband for years, who “waited three weeks for protection” from police after finally leaving him. It never came.

“Finally, police promised it was coming,” the story said. The woman, 40-year-old Karen Cox Smith, said thank you, hung up the phone, and was killed by her husband half an hour later.

Well, “finally” is right — and it wasn’t only this woman’s death, but “a series of domestic abuse deaths that followed,” that, as the story in the Morning News puts it, “helped prod Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to lead a crusade against domestic violence.” At Dallas City Hall on Saturday, they held a rally and everything.

More from the glass-half-full report: “Her murder also sparked changes within the Dallas Police Department. In mid-January, Chief David Brown made serving domestic violence warrants a priority. Since then, the department has cut the number of outstanding warrants by about half.”

That’s after what Maj. Jeff Cotner of the crimes against persons division called a “series of failures” that “led the department to re-examine its handling of domestic violence complaints.”

When I covered police for the Dallas Morning News decades ago, they were pretty candid about where “domestics” rated, not only in terms of the attention and resources they were given, but in terms of the level of respect the victims deserved, which in general was not high. The world has changed since then, of course, and sometimes I even dare to hope that we’re reaching some kind of tipping point on violence against women.

In part, that’s thanks to technology, as in that terrible case of the passed-out high school girl who was violated and urinated on last summer in Steubenville, Ohio. The defense, as is customary, argued that the 16-year-old girl knew everything that was happening and consented. But this time, the video showed otherwise.

Yes, you have to allow people to evolve on abuse, and give them credit when they do. But it’s both too late for Smith and too early for us to know whether her death has really spurred change in Dallas; I look forward to hearing a year from now that the city’s newfound focus has held.

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors She the People. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melinda Henneberger has been writing about politics and culture for the Washington Post since 2011.
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Diana Reese | March 22, 2013