Rising economic stress cited in domestic violence increase
The Westford man who shot his wife Monday, critically wounding her, before fatally shooting his daughter and himself is the second to allegedly kill a family member in this suburb in less than a month, and the fatal shootings are the latest in a rash of domestic killings in Massachusetts this year.
Since Jan. 9, at least five women have been killed in domestic violence. Two others were severely wounded in the total of six different incidents.
The violence has alarmed authorities and advocates for women, who point out that women’s groups are reporting dramatic increases in domestic abuse in Massachusetts and across the country.
“I haven’t seen this level of violence - and it’s not just the homicides, it’s the assaults and attempted murders - and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.’’ said Joanne Tulonen, director of the YWCA/Battered Women’s Resources organization in Leominster, where a domestic dispute led to a knife attack on two women Sunday morning.
There seem to be few common threads in the deadly domestic violence that began Jan. 9 in Westford, where a man allegedly shot his 43-year-old wife before turning the gun on himself. In Spencer the following week, a man facing a foreclosure auction took his own life after shooting and killing his sick wife and their horse, setting fire to their home, and torching his pickup truck.
On Jan. 16, a Fall River man allegedly shot his wife at a Westport restaurant before killing himself. His wife survived. The next day, a 23-year-old Seekonk man and a 20-year-old woman died in an apparent murder-suicide at a motel in North Attleborough after police tried to arrest the man on an outstanding warrant.
A Fitchburg State College freshman, Allison Myrick, 19, of Groton, was stabbed to death Jan. 23, allegedly by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Robert Gulla of Shirley. Gulla stabbed and shot himself, but survived, police said. In Leominster on Sunday morning, a 23-year-old man allegedly slashed the throat of his girlfriend
Women’s advocates said they believe that despite the varying circumstances, at least one underlying cause is an unforgiving economy that has intensified family disputes, inflamed some men’s abusive tendencies, and left some women more reluctant to leave violent relationships.
“The story behind the story is the economy,’’ said Suzanne Dubus, executive director of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, a domestic violence organization in Newburyport. “Bad economic times do not create batterers, but they do exacerbate problems. And women who are lying in the dark at night, thinking about leaving, they have no idea how they’ll support themselves and their kids on their own.’’