A second article detailing the events that lead up to the tragic shooting death does a better job of describing exactly what was going on in that relationship (and kudos to G. Hesselberg and E. Treleven for putting it together), but I can't help but think that more could be done to add information about local domestic abuse prevention and assistance programs. Because that's what's being dealt with here, and there are certainly--and sadly--more such cases that exist in the shadows.
It's becoming more and more clear that this incident was not at all isolated. Weber appears to have had a long history of violent behavior and abuse toward his family. And Francie, for her own reasons, appears to have gone back and forth between getting a restraining order against her husband, to attempting reconciliation (predictably, it never ended well).
The pattern is all-too familiar. Though we've made great strides in educating and changing societal attitudes about domestic abuse, the frustrating fact remains that we're not as far along as we ought to be. That anyone would still think physical or mental abuse was a viable solution to their problems is unconscionable. And that anyone would still find it difficult to remove themselves from such a situation is tragic.
The numbers are staggering. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in Wisconsin, "one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime." In addition, "one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape."
There are an estimated 1.3 million women who are victims of physical assault "by an intimate partner" every year. And this terrible trend has a cyclical effect on the children raised in such environments, as "boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults."
I strongly suspect that most people would find these statistics and realities to be horrifying, but the infuriating fact remains that, as a society, we aren't doing nearly enough to change things for the better. We should all take a long, hard look at how we handle these kinds of circumstances--from our own home lives, to those occasions when we see it happening to someone we know (or don't!), to what our culture feeds us through news, television, and movies.
I'm not talking about censorship, but rather expecting--and demanding--better.
A small step in that direction would be expecting our news media to appropriately label awful situations like the Weber case as being domestic violence, and then doing even a little bit to provide information on related services like Dane County's own Domestic Abuse Intervention Services.
We should also be putting appropriate pressure on law enforcement and the courts to better recognize dangerous people like Steve Weber--who police had been aware of since at least 2006, and then arrested in 2008 after he attacked both his wife and daughter:
A daughter told police she saw her cement construction worker father straddle her mother, hands around her neck, choking her. When he found out police had been called, he choked his wife again, the daughter said, and then he hit Francie Weber with a closed fist, eight times, and said “I’m going to kill you.”His court appearance for this incident was scheduled for this week, for which he was apparently out on a measly $500 cash bail, on the condition that he not have contact with either his daughter or Francie (who had filed for divorce). He was also banned from being in the area of their home.
In the court complaint, the daughter said when she tried to intervene by grabbing a fireplace poker Weber grabbed the poker from her and hit her with it, then slugged her and, when she fell to the ground, kicked her in the stomach, causing her to vomit.
But that wasn't enough, not by a long shot. How is it that the acts of sheer brutality described above were met with such an obscenely low bail amount? Why was a man like that allowed to walk free? These are important--and urgent--questions that need swift and firm solutions.
Because Francie's murder should have never happened in the first place, and should never be repeated for anyone else.
From Shannon Barry, Executive Director at DAIS:
"This unfortunate incident highlights what so many of us in the domestic violence movement already know -- that victims can be more at risk when attempting to separate from their abusers than at any other time. In fact, they are six times more likely to be killed when attempting to leave the relationship.
"As a community we need to stop asking 'Why doesn't she leave?' and start asking 'Why does he do that?' and truly hold abusers accountable for their actions.
"We also want to make sure that current domestic victims know that there is help available. So often we hear from clients how their abusers use media coverage of cases like this to intimidate them further. It is critical that when media are reporting on these crimes that they are including the crisis line number for their local domestic violence agency. The Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) Crisis Line for victims in Dane County is 251-4445."