Reaction to the murder of Jennifer Boyce underscores how stereotypes still cloud our views of domestic violence and likely keep some potential victims from seeking help, one advocate said Friday.
"There's still this very pervasive mythology that domestic violence happens only to certain people," said Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), a Madison shelter.
Barry said she was struck by a comment from a Boyce family member that "these things happen on TV, they don't happen to us." The family member went on to say, "We're middle class, normal Americans, and she was a nice girl."
Local and national statistics show domestic violence crosses racial, educational and socio-economic lines, Barry said. "There's this idea that, 'This doesn't happen to people like me. I'm strong, I'm independent. I'm well-educated. I come from a good family.' That can be a real barrier to reaching out for assistance," Barry said.
Boyce, 31, was an epidemiologist with the state Division of Public Health and had completed her first Wisconsin Ironman triathlon in 2011. Her estranged husband, Bernard Grosso, died from what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The two were due in court Friday morning to finalize a divorce.
The risk of being murdered increases sixfold when a person is attempting to dissolve a relationship, Barry said.
"We've seen that over and over with the homicides in Dane County," she said. "It's all about control, and homicide is the ultimate form of control."
DAIS operates a 24-hour crisis help line at 608-251-4445. Victims of abuse and their friends and families are encouraged to call the number to learn more about the resources and support DAIS can offer.
Callers can remain anonymous. Calls are confidential and do not trigger police involvement unless the caller seeks police assistance, Barry said.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-7233. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a list of state domestic abuse shelters at www.wcadv.org.