As the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence gets underway (13-19 June 2011) this opinion piece by Michael Marlier whose sister-in-law was killed on 27 May is a stark reminder about the prevalence of armed domestic violence, not only in the US but around the world.

How many more women have to die in domestic violence?
5 June 2011 by Michael Marlier
News and Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Early on May 27, an ex-boyfriend came armed with a handgun to the Greensboro home of my sister-in-law, Christina Maxa-Gross. The embodiment of terror, he berated her with threats and violent language for nearly two hours, then fired a round into her chest. After stealing her life, he turned the gun on himself.

Perhaps as tragic as Christina’s senseless death is the nightmare witnessed by her only son — my precious, exceptional 9-year-old nephew. Imagine him roused by arguing, hearing his mother plead for her assailant to stop, followed by a “something” (most likely gunfire) that he chronicles in his horrifying 911 call widely broadcast by the media (a separate issue in its own right), his trademark calm intact as he speaks with the dispatcher. That call haunts me beyond my deepest fears.

Now imagine a place where a man repeatedly assails women with near impunity. Punches, kicks, chokes and whips our mothers, sisters and daughters with hateful words for years. This is a place where women put their faith in the judicial system only to have their oppressors released to stalk them again. These atrocities occur before the eyes of the law and the courts.

I’m not writing about Grozny or Kabul. It is your home, Greensboro. It is your home, America.

Since 1996, her killer racked up a litany of charges, including driving while impaired, a hit-and-run, numerous speeding violations and felony possession of cocaine, before his violence against women showed up in the system.

From 2007 to 2011, he was charged with four counts of assault on a female and two counts of assault by strangulation. Four of those six charges involved Christina. Twice over those five years, her murderer was brought before the Guilford County District Attorney’s (DA) Office for wrapping his hands around the throat of Christina and also another woman.

Most abused women live in such agony and fear they never make the call to police or seek shelter. Christina was one of the few with enough spirit left to call the cops. She asked the judicial system to save her life.

Did the District Attorney (DA) mandate anger management for the assaults? Did the DA mandate counseling? No. Did he put him in jail for more than a day? No. The district attorney dismissed three of his assault charges from 2007 to 2008.

That lapse of judgment infuriated me at the time. Then, when I read the statement from the killer’s attorney, Taylor Browne, that they had worked out a deal with the DA after the killer strangled Christina on Feb. 26, I burned with fury. As quoted by the News & Record, “He wouldn’t have served a single day in jail,” Browne said. “This is all sort of a shock.”

How can Christina’s murder be a shock given her killer’s history? What does the District Attorney’s Office think about its decisions now? How many times can a troubled and disturbed man assault a woman before he is deemed too dangerous to walk among the public?

And how does a man with his record acquire a firearm? If it was registered, to whom? We may never have the answers to my family’s questions.

Christina’s murder is no isolated statistic. According to the North Carolina Coalition of Domestic Violence, there were 73 domestic violence murders in North Carolina in 2010. Because of the failure of the courts and their willingness to allow a dangerous repeat offender to walk our streets, our dear and beloved Christina is gone.

Now is the time to ask what we as a society can do to prevent another murder like Christina’s. Action must be taken before any other women are killed by the hands of murderous men and a broken judicial system that lets them roam the streets.

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