Here We Go Again

An Alabama man named Kevin Garner killed his wife, Tammy Garner, their 16-year-old daughter, his sister, and his 11-year-old nephew before shooting himself. In court documents seeking custody of their child, the woman told officials her husband was abusive, both "physically and emotionally." One of the relatives Garner killed was his sister, Karen Beaty, who had sided with Tammy Garner in their divorce proceedings and was staying with her when Garner went on his rampage.

I'm pretty sure you know where this is going.

The media has had two spins on this story. First, "No one could have seen it coming." "No one" referring not to Tammy Garner, of course--who most certainly had cause to be afraid of her husband--but court officials, neighbors who didn't know Garner, and Garner's attorney, all interviewed after the fact.

From the AP:
A man who police say shot and killed his estranged wife, their daughter and two other relatives before burning down his house and committing suicide on the eve of their divorce trial gave no hints of the mayhem to come, police and court officials say.

While Kevin Garner's wife accused him of being abusive in court filings, authorities said the 45-year-old chemical company worker gave no indication that their split could result in the violence that occurred Tuesday.

Garner's behavior didn't seem odd during a brief court appearance Monday, Circuit Judge Sherrie W. Paler said, and the divorce wasn't considered particularly contentious by courthouse workers or the lawyers who were involved.

"I was terribly shocked and saddened by this unexpected tragedy," said Jerry Knight, an attorney who represented Garner in the divorce, which was scheduled to go to trial Wednesday.

Knight, in an e-mail to The Associated Press, said Garner "had a terrific work ethic and value system."
No indication, huh? Let's look at the evidence. On one side: A history of abuse; a contentious divorce; a custody battle; a sister who was about to testify on Tammy Garner's behalf in court; and a pile of statistics showing that the risk of rape or homicide increases dramatically when a woman leaves an abusive relationship--precisely the reason so many abused women are afraid to leave.

On the other: A judge who didn't know Garner (and, in truth, said only that "his behavior didn't appear odd" in court, not that there was no indication he was capable of violence); unnamed "courthouse workers" whose anonymous opinions apparently outweigh allegations of abuse made under oath; and an attorney for the accused killer, whose wackadoo quotes ("terrific value system"?) would make his credibility pretty suspect even if he wasn't working for the murderer.

The second media spin, predictably, is: What did she do to set him off? Nearly every account of the story--including the AP account quoted above--mentions Kevin Garner's allegations that his wife had been unfaithful and "misappropriated" money from their joint bank account when she left, as if those charges were in any way relevant to his decision to murder his family. And few accounts fail to mention the fact that the murders came "on the eve of the divorce trial"--as though she could have stopped him, if only she hadn't left him, if only she hadn't pissed him off.

No, not every media outlet has engaged in outright victim blaming. Some have even focused on Tammy Garner's allegations of abuse. Perhaps that's because, unlike the similar case this week in Washington State, this woman didn't survive her husband's rampage. But even so: Not one story I read connected the dots between leaving an abusive relationship and subsequent violence. Not one tried to see the whole picture. Different day, same infuriating story.

h/t to Shaker Kathy.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus