Kasandra Michelle Perkins didn’t deserve to die. Described as full of life, smart, and dedicated by those who knew her, the 22-year-old new mother and aspiring educator was just starting live. Instead, she was murdered at the hands of her boyfriend, pro football player Jovan Belcher.
After the media painted Belcher as a good man who simply “snapped” and shot Kasandra and then himself, more details have begun to leak about their troubled relationship.
Reportedly, the pair’s union took a hit after the birth of their daughter. One of Perkins’ relatives said their relationship “wasn’t a healthy thing,” another friend admitted Belcher drank “a lot,” and others are hoping this heinous incident had to do with the pro athlete’s football career that could have resulted in a brain injury, rather than something more difficult to cope with: domestic violence.
While more details will surely come out in the coming weeks and months, the facts remain the same: Kasandra Perkins was killed at the hands of the one she loved.
Although tragic, sadly Perkins’ fate isn’t unique. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center three women and one man are murdered every day by their partner, and if you’re a black woman like Perkins, your chances of being killed by your significant other dramatically increases. As a matter of fact, the number one killer of black women in Perkins’ age group (15 to 34) is homicide by a current or former intimate partner.
While the media continues to grapple with the hows and the whys of this tragic situation, I can’t help but wonder how we can prevent these types of crimes from taking place.
As evidenced by my previous article, I feel that if our society was less reliant on guns perhaps this, and other senseless tragedies, could have been avoided, but as many readers pointed out the problems are deeper than merely controlling guns.
Though it’s unclear if Belcher was in fact mentally ill, or simply “snapped,” or killed Perkins in a fit of jealousy, or rage, the fact remains that he didn’t have the tools to cope with his emotions and he hurt the one he vowed to protect. And unfortunately, Perkins was unable to get the live-saving help she needed to survive.
For many African Americans—and especially those under the glaring spotlight of the media—getting the mental health services necessary to cope with life’s stressors or past emotions is sometimes last on the list. We are taught to pray about it. Many of us find comfort in the bottle. And others take their dysfunctions out on others. But admitting that you need help is often seen as a sign of weakness, and for many young black men like Belcher, being weak is seen as the worst possible thing a man can be. And sadly, the way many men choose to express their manhood comes at the expense of the women closest to them.
It is unclear where Belcher fell on this spectrum, but Kasandra Perkins lost her life because he couldn’t cope with whatever was going on in his head, and that is beyond tragic because it could have been avoided.
As writer and activist Kevin Powell pointed out, men’s reliance on violence as a means to express their manhood can be combatted through intense therapy, surrounding themselves with supportive people, and a willingness to change.
Ironically, back in his college days Belcher, who held a degree in child development and family relations, joined the organization Male Athletes Against Violence and took a pledge to educate himself about domestic violence while upholding anti-violence views, be a positive role model for his community, and look “honestly at [his] actions in regard to violence and make changes if necessary.”
I wished he, and other men who have taken the lives of their loved ones, could have kept that pledge.