Our community suffered a heartbreaking loss when Ashley Midby was murdered by Jared Murphy. Let’s stop calling this a murder/suicide and call it was it is, a domestic violence homicide. They dated and lived together. Jared claimed to love Ashley. It is important to name this violence because abuse thrives in silence. If we can’t talk about it, how can we end it? Domestic violence homicides do not happen by surprise. There are always warning signs that the relationship is unhealthy.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that happens on a continuum that is well studied and known. These behaviors include intimidation, physical assault, emotional abuse, threats of violence or suicide, sexual assault and/or other abusive behaviors. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically, but it always includes one partner having power and control over another.
Domestic violence is a leading cause of death for women in the United States. When there are previous incidents of abuse and the offender has access to firearms, both of which were present in the Murphy case, the likelihood of homicide increases. There are many warning signs that a person may escalate to the level of murder. When multiple signs are present it is time to mobilize—get a victim to safety and apprehend or stop the perpetrator.
Warning signs of lethality include the following:
• Prior history of domestic violence or police contact
• Extreme possessiveness
• Use of weapons in prior abusive incidents
• Threats to kill the victim, children or pets or threats of suicide
• Serious injury in prior abusive incidents
• Forced sex
• Abusive incidents while victim is/was pregnant
• Violence increasing in severity and frequency
• Stalking behaviors
• Perpetrator has access to guns, a criminal history, uses drugs or alcohol
• Victim has a civil protection order, has left or attempted to leave the relationship, or is afraid they will die.
Abusers killing their partners is not a rare occurrence. In the United States, a woman is killed every eight hours by an intimate partner. Data collected by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that 1 in 4 homicides in Idaho is an intimate partner homicide. Fifty-seven percent of those homicides are committed with the use of a firearm. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. Locally, The Advocates answers an average of 36 phone calls a day and helps hundreds of people each year.
No longer is it acceptable to think, “But that doesn’t happen here.” Our ignorance and minimization of abuse create a culture that allows perpetrators to continue to abuse and get away with it. It is too late for Ashley, but it is not too late for the thousands of people experiencing abuse today. Our community must take a zero-tolerance stance against domestic violence. People we know and care about are affected: 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 children will experience some form of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or family member in their lifetime. A community that cares never blames the victim.
A community that cares advocates for system change that holds abusers accountable and results in a stronger safety net of prevention. A community that cares offers help, including safety planning, 24 hours a day. For help call The Advocates at 208-788-6070 or text via OkaySo App, or call the National Hotline at 800-799-SAFE. Survivors and others who would like to participate in a group healing circle are invited to email The Advocates for more information at email@example.com.
Tricia Swartling is executive director of The Advocates in Hailey.