TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The tragedy that hit the Kansas City Chiefs community is not an isolated case. Advocates seeking to end domestic violence say homicides perpetrated by a partner don't always make headlines, but they do happen every day and they say the only way to end them is to reach out to all parties involved.
The Kansas City team's linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend Kassandra Perkins and then himself early Saturday morning in an apparent murder-suicide.
"Three women are killed every single day in this country by a current or former partner and when a high profile homicide is happening, it's really important to talk about it," Laura Burton, public educator for the YWCA Center for Safety & Empowerment, said. "This is happening all the time."
The national numbers are just as sobering in Kansas.
"In 2009 saw a spike in domestic violence homicides, to a level not seen since early 90s," Audra Fullerton, communications director for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, said.
There were 35 domestic violence homicides in 2009, 32 in 2010 and 28 last year, according to a report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Those three years are the three highest since 1994.
"So about 30 folks are loosing their lives every year and 25 percent of all the homicides in KS are DV-related." Fullerton said.
Families and friends describe Jovan Belcher as an honorable son, brother and friend and a good father to the daughter he had with Kassandra.
"The one thing that has surprised me in the research about domestic violence homicides is that in about 30 percent of those homicides, there was no prior physical violence,' Burton said.
We may not know the depth of the relationship issues Belcher and his girlfriend Perkins faced, Fullerton said, but "The facts are that Kassandra Perkins was killed by her partner. That by and of itself is an act of domestic violence," she said.
At the YWCA center, survivors created artwork on red flags to illustrate the warning signs pointing to an abusive partner. Flags were decorated with abusive phrases they've heard or behavior they witnessed. "Forces you to have sex," on read. "Makes you keep secrets," another said.
Advocates say everyone in and around the relationship needs to recognize them.
"I encourage people to get involved not just on the victim's side," Burton said. "If you know someone who is abusive, if you know somebody who is controlling their partner and that person is your friend or family, speak up. Tell them that's not okay.
The 24-hour hotline to speak to someone about domestic violence is 888-End Abuse. The service is free, confidential, and Fullerton said, it's available not just to victims.
"I think it's also important that if you feel you're exhibiting these [abusive] behaviors that you reach out for help as well," she said. "Talk to friends, professionals about what constitutes abusive behavior."
The only way that we'll stop domestic violence, is if every relationship is a healthy relationship," she said.
A domestic violence prevention breakfast this Saturday will address the issue in the Topeka community. It'll be held a from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, December, 8 at the Hillcrest Community Center on 1800 SE 21st St.
For the pancake breakfast, attendees can either pay $5 or pay $3 and donate two canned goods.
Proceeds will benefit CASE and the canned goods will be donated to the YMCA’s Center for Safety and Empowerment.