On December 31, 2012, 21-year-old Laura Aceves was found in her Arkansas apartment, lying in a pool of her own blood with a gunshot wound to the head. Her infant son was in the apartment when police arrived and discovered her body. Her ex-boyfriend and father of her son, Victor Hugo Acuna-Sanchez, had punctuated a series of violent attacks and threats with one that finally did the job. Aceves had been trying to get help from the police for months. She knew he was capable of ending her life. She was right.
Earlier in 2012 Acuna Sanchez had strangled her and left her lying unconscious before he fled her apartment with her car keys and cell phone. Their 2-week old baby was on the floor next to her. This was after a no contact order had been dismissed at Aceves’ own request. It’s this back-and-forth – the desperate attempts to flee and the occasional acceptance of your fate that observers on the outside of a domestic violence situation are always so confused about. Why didn’t she move? Why didn’t she pursue the no-contact order? It’s a line of thought and questioning that has always baffled me. Why are so many people comfortable placing the blame for violence square on the victim’s shoulders? It is this kind of completely ingrained victim-blaming that assures domestic violence victims will never be safe. Especially if they fall under the jurisdiction of a man like 71-year-old Sheriff Bob Grudek.
In the last decade, Arkansas has been ranked as “one of the 10 worst states in the nation when it comes to men killing women, according to annual reports by the Violence Policy Center. The ranking is based on FBI data on incidents in which a sole male offender kills a single female victim, a typical indicator of domestic homicide.” Lax gun laws and a lot of guns are a deadly combination for victims of domestic violence: “Research has shown if a batterer has access to a gun, the victim is eight times more likely to be killed. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, in 2010 Arkansas had the third-worst gun murder rate for women in the nation.”
Acuna-Sanchez was out on bail at the time of Laura’s death. He had repeatedly violated the conditions of his release, but was never taken to task. After her death, a very public blame-game started to take place between the office of Sheriff Grudek and the prosecutor’s office. Basically – there were huge failures on both sides. But when a Sheriff believes the following about domestic violence victims – there will be no possibility of safety or help:
”The question you’re asking me is what’s wrong with the courts,” he said. ”I’m asking you, what’s wrong with the women?”
Grudek said domestic violence prevention should focus on why women return to their abusers, and that it wasn’t ”logical or responsible” to think the criminal justice system could solve the problem.
Wow. So the criminal justice system can’t be expected to prosecute criminals? Is that what you’re saying? Or do you just not believe that the life of a domestic violence victim is even worth fighting for? I’d guess it’s the latter. Grudek said about domestic violence, ”This is a very serious social problem. Maybe if our culture goes back to when we had different values … I don’t remember when I was a kid hearing about any domestic violence.”
Men who believe domestic violence is a myth should not be responsible for taking abusers to task. Grudek is unsure that domestic violence even exists – and if it does it’s probably because there is something wrong with the women in the relationship.
The U.S. has the highest rate of domestic violence homicide of any industrialized nation. Three women on average are murdered by intimate partners a day. Three women a day. We have an epidemic of domestic violence deaths in this country – and many of them are on the heads of lawmen like Grudek – who are standing in a monsoon but refuse to acknowledge it’s raining.