Punishing Our Partners: Boxer Murders Wife, Kills Himself

Relatives carry Viera's coffin. From http://www.utsandiego.com.
Relatives carry Viera’s coffin. From http://www.utsandiego.com.

Today in Caracas, famed Venezuelan boxer Edwin Valero hung himself by his sweatpants in his jail cell.

That’s the part you’ll see in most headlines posted on the internet so far.

Dig deeper, click on the links, and you’ll discover that Valero was incarcerated on suspicion of murdering his wife, 24 year-old Jennifer Carolina Viera. Their two children are now without parents.

Nowhere, in any news report so far, have I seen the phrase “domestic violence”.

Valero had problems with alcohol and drugs, and reportedly also fought depression. These factors as well as the brain injury he suffered in 2001 will play into many of the analyses of this tragedy.

They aren’t, however, excuses for Valero’s behavior or for a system that may have let his wife and children down. This murder-suicide happened barely three years after Venezuela enacted its Organic Law on the Right of Women to Be Free from Violence.

Some news reports are claiming that the police were suspicious that Viera was being abused, which is a no-brainer considering the injuries she suffered in a March 25th “fall down the stairs”. This was not Viera’s first “fall”, and in that incident she suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.

She would not tell the police if her husband was responsible, but he threatened her, threatened the responding officer, and threatened the hospital staff that was treating her. Valero found himself in a psychiatric hospital as a result.

On April 7th, friends of Valero’s posted bail and he was released—against the advice of his own manager, who had asked authorities to keep him in custody and get him help.

Now, twelve days later, two people are dead. And the inevitable questions begin:

Why didn’t she get out?

What did she do to deserve this?

Why didn’t she tell police the truth about what happened to her?

The public may never know the details of this relationship, and so we may never have all the answers. But I can make an educated guess as to why she didn’t leave and why she didn’t disclose the truth to authorities. I can also say that she didn’t do anything to deserve a violent death.

Asking why someone doesn’t leave an abusive relationship is a common question. But it’s not that simple. The risk of homicide goes up 75 percent when a victim leaves an abusive relationship. Why? Because the abuser wants to maintain control, and by leaving, you are taking control. They may not want you anymore, but they want control over you. That is what a sick relationship is about—not love, but power and control.

Leaving an abusive relationship may be even more dangerous when someone is escaping an abuser who is well-known in the public eye, like an athlete, a politician, or a police officer. These abusers are frequently people who are admired or respected in their professional lives, and they don’t want the image they’ve worked so hard to build “tarnished” by the truth. They may identify so closely with their jobs that if their professional reputations are damaged by an accuser, they feel a loss of identity, even a loss of life.

So they will do just about anything to prevent the truth from coming out. They will threaten the victim—psychologically, physically, financially. They may threaten the children. They will tell her that no one will believe her because of who they are. They will gossip among family and friends and set the domestic violence victim up so that if they come forward, they will be seen as attention-seeking or crazy. I know. I’ve been there.

A victim in these situations can also count on losing at least half of the people they think are friends and watch an entire support network collapse as people rush to the defense of the high profile accused. Standing up to a well-known abuser may leave them with nothing and no one because it’s easier for people to stand by the public image of an abuser than risk their own reputations helping the victim.

From what we know so far, it sounds like Valero was so determined to keep his wife quiet that he showed his true colors and landed himself in lockdown. If only they would have taken his manager’s advice and kept him there.

I wonder if Jennifer Viera was offered any sort of assistance or safety or escape plan in the nine days Valero was in the psychiatric facility. I hope she knew that there was nothing she could have done to save or change a man that abusive no matter how much she loved him. Change was up to him.

Why can’t men stop treating their women like their problems are her fault? So many men treat their female partners this way, whether they have known addictions, unknown mental problems, are insecure with their sexuality, or are just plain mad at life. And this can go both ways, although men are typically more violent. Women are capable of taking their anger and frustration out on their men, and same-sex couples do it too.

The phenomenon of domestic violence seems to boil down to one issue that millions of abusers probably don’t want to hear about and others don’t want to take responsibility for: don’t expect your partner, a human being, to fill a God-shaped hole in your heart.

There is only one perfect love and one perfect being, and so we shouldn’t blame our partners for being fully human and not always meeting our expectations. When things go wrong in our lives, it’s so easy to turn on the most accessible person and take our rage and insecurity out on them.

We’ve all done it to some degree. We nag or we hit or we smother the relationship with the disrespectful silent treatment. We choke them or break things or lay into them with a barrage of heartrending insults.

Instead of venting our pain and turning our disappointment on the person we’re supposed to be cherishing as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime gift, let’s start taking responsibility for our actions. Let’s start getting help when we need it, and seeking support when we feel we can’t change on our own. Let’s reach out to a higher power and pray for divine intervention when we feel we just can’t take it anymore.

You don’t have to destroy your partner’s life to feel like you’re in control of your own.

I hope that Venezuela and other nations claiming to be against domestic violence take a good look at their policies and procedures to better protect people like Jennifer Carolina Viera. There is obviously more work to be done.

©2010 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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