Man kills wife, shoots self: Reporting on Domestic Abuse

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Reporting on domestic violence often misses women's voices and skews the real story behind gender based violence.

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Man kills wife, shoots self: Reporting on Domestic Abuse

  1. 1. Man Kills Wife, Shoots Self The New York Times, October 30, 2006 A Dissection of News Coverage of Domestic Homicide
  2. 2. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and yet most news reports paint a different picture. In four parts we'll look at how one report from the New York Times shifts focus from the victim to the perpetrator; paints the act as a stand alone event; softens the violence and buries a history of abuse. Man Kills Wife, Shoots Self
  3. 3. Crucial detail not included Women are at the highest risk to be murdered immediately after separation from spouse or partner. A Brooklyn mother of two was killed yesterday afternoon while accepting a housewarming gift when her newly estranged husband rushed up and shot her with a shotgun he had hidden up his sleeve, the police and witnesses said. He then reloaded and shot himself to death. The woman, identified by friends as Karen Skellas, 44, an administrative worker at Lutheran Medical Center, had just days ago moved into an apartment at 2261 East Second Street in Gravesend, having left her husband, Ioannis Skellas, 49, with plans to divorce him, said a coworker, John D’Atri. Mr. D’Atri dropped by to deliver a housewarming gift shortly before 1 p.m. yesterday, he said, and watched in horror as a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt approached and shot Mrs. Skellas. Part I
  4. 4. Part II The police said there was no history of domestic violence between the two. Friends described Mr. Skellas as a construction worker who enjoyed hunting. He did not appear to have a criminal record, the police said yesterday. The owner of a nearby deli in Bay Ridge, who gave her name only as Mrs. Lee, 59, said Mr. Skellas came in most days for his favorite chewing gum, and yesterday also bought a loaf of Italian bread, displaying no sign of what was to come. “He’s such a nice person. Nothing trouble. Like a happy family,” Mrs. Lee said, describing Mr. and Mrs. Skellas walking their pet pit bull together. “Every time quiet, and he smiled.” No One Saw This Coming Describes assailant as a regular guy—and gives work history. “He is such a nice person.”
  5. 5. Part III George Lykourezos, 52, the owner of Spartan Souvlaki, where Mr. Skellas often came for Greek salads, said Mr. Skellas approached him about four days ago with a hint that there was trouble in the marriage. “He came in and asked if I knew any investigators,” he said, referring to his friend as everyone did yesterday, by the name John. “I said, ‘John, I don’t know anybody.’ ” The next day, Mr. Skellas returned, Mr. Lykourezos said. “He said, ‘Forget about it. I took care of it. I don’t need him anymore.’ ” No one from the neighborhood seemed to know about trouble in the marriage. Ultra Kind Description of Violence No one from the neighborhood seemed to know about trouble in the marriage.
  6. 6. Part IV Mr. D’Atri, the coworker, said he believed Mr. Skellas had threatened violence in the past, leading to the separation. “To my understanding, she was waiting to see his reaction to the divorce, if there was going to be a necessity for an order of protection,” he said. “She had felt threatened in the past.” Now You Tell Us! This information was reserved for the final paragraphs. Does it not place the entire event in a different context, from an inexplicable act to one that is all to often predictable?
  7. 7. Rewrite Desk! A Brooklyn mother of two was killed yesterday afternoon while accepting a housewarming gift when her newly estranged husband rushed up and shot her with a shotgun he had hidden up his sleeve, the police and witnesses said. He then reloaded and shot himself to death. The woman, identified by friends as Karen Skellas, 44, an administrative worker at Lutheran Medical Center, had just days ago moved into an apartment at 2261 East Second Street in Gravesend, having left her husband, Ioannis Skellas, 49, with plans to divorce him, said a coworker, John D’Atri. Government statistics indicate that women are most vulnerable of being murdered shortly after separation from their spouse or partner. Mr. D’Atri, the coworker, said he believed Mr. Skellas had threatened violence in the past, leading to the separation. “To my understanding, she was waiting to see his reaction to the divorce, if there was going to be a necessity for an order of protection,” he said. “She had felt threatened in the past.” The police said there was no history of domestic violence between the two. Friends described Mr. Skellas as a construction worker who enjoyed hunting. He did not appear to have a criminal record, the police said yesterday. Neighbors also said they were unaware of any violence in the household.
  8. 8. Now We Get It Facts from the story that put the woman in the picture and reveal the hidden truths of domestic abuse: • She left her husband, probably fearing for her life; • She confided in a coworker who was glad she left; • Her husband gave at least one person an indication that he was planning something • She did not reveal what she was going through to her neighbors

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