Kasandra Michelle Perkins and Zoey Perkins

Kasandra Michelle Perkins and Zoey Perkins

I am sure that by now many of you know the name Jovan Belcher.  If you didn’t know his name (as I didn’t) before this weekend, you know it now.  He is the Kansas City Chiefs player who shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life on Saturday.  Headlines and news stories have focused on the tragedy from the lens of the perpetrator (including speculation of potential brain trauma, his involvement, as an undergraduate, in a Male Athletes Against Violence initiative, and his standing as an all-star athlete), in some ways dismissing or overshadowing the lens of the victim, who in headlines is simply referred to as “(his) girlfriend.”

Her name is Kasandra Michelle Perkins.  She was 22 years old, a new mother, and an aspiring teacher.  Her picture shows off a beautiful smile and her friends describe her as selfless, kind, and generous.  She was excited about being a mother to her newborn, Zoey, and was optimistic about her future.  But her future was cut short, her life was taken away, and I think you should know her name.

This tragic story pushes to the forefront an important issue in terms of domestic violence and murder.  When the murderer is famous, attractive, rich, or charming people don’t want to believe that they are guilty.  I don’t pretend to know Jovan Belcher’s heart, motives, or mind set when he fired numerous gunshots into the body of his baby’s mother, and then turned the gun on himself.  I don’t know why his only option, in that moment, felt like a desperate one.  I don’t know what caused him to murder Kasandra, but what I do know is that it was not Kasandra’s fault.  I know that staying out until 1 o’clock in the morning at a concert was not an invitation to die.  I know that it doesn’t matter what she wore that night, or what she may have said, or whether or not she may have been intoxicated, or rolled her eyes at him, or called him out of his name, or talked to another guy in passing, she didn’t deserve to die.  I know Kasandra didn’t start it, or run off at the mouth, or otherwise instigate her murder.  I don’t know what happened in her relationship, or in that room that night/morning, but I do know that there is nothing Kasandra could have said, done, or imagined that would justify what happened to her.

Sins Of A Father - Rae Carruth [VIDEO]

Sins Of A Father - Rae Carruth 

It is ridiculous that I have to write a disclaimer of responsibility, anticipating an assumption of accountability for the victim, a young woman who had not even began to live her life, a new mother who will not get to see her child’s first Christmas…but there are (or will be) people who, in Jovan Belcher’s defense, will ask aloud (or wonder silently) what she did to set him off.  They will say she had no business going out with a three-month old at home.  They will wonder what she did to make him so mad that he would jeopardize everything he had worked so hard for.  They will speculate about her cheating, or lying, or disrespecting him.  They will assume that somehow she is at least partially to blame for her own demise.  But I posit that there is nothing that she did do, didn’t do, or could have done to justify her tragic, violent and untimely death.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt that Jovan Belcher was a good man, a good athlete, a good friend, a good father, or a generous son, but his desperate act in a moment of rage or confusion made him a murderer, and his pre-death accolades and post-death reputation should not be protected at the expense of the person he killed.  Many articles are focusing on how shocked people are that this happened because he was such a good man, and did not have violent tendencies…but imaging that makes him a martyr is problematic because it makes it seem like Kasandra Perkins must have provoked him.  The insinuation, even mildly, that the victim of a violent act is somehow responsible for what happens to them is reprehensible…but unfortunately not uncommon when the victim is black, brown, nonheterosexual, working-class, non-cissexual, disable bodied, or a woman. (NOTE:  A recent example of this “blame the dead victim” mentality was shown when George Zimmerman’s defense requested access to Trayvon Martin’s social media records, as if a facebook status, re-tweet, or candid photograph of a 17-year-old black boy would somehow prove his culpability in his own killing).

Do you remember Cherica Adams?  Eight months pregnant, she was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on November 16, 1999, when Rae Carruth, then a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, conspired to have her killed because he did not want to pay child support (she had refused his insistence that she get an abortion). With a will to