Until recently, cases of a parent’s killing his or her whole family were extremely rare. Such mass killings have escalated, Katherine van Wormer of the University of Northern Iowa writes in Women’s eNews . A scan of news reports shows these horrible crimes becoming even more common, occurring at the rate of one every week or two. If that rate holds up, the increase is huge. The previous rate was one or two every three months, according to Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center.
In a book, “Death by Domestic Violence: Preventing the Murders and the Murder-Suicides,” van Wormer and a co-author found that unemployment and other financial difficulties were themes in whole-family murder-suicides but not the whole story. More commonly, the crimes involve an abusive, extremely possessive man. When the woman threatens to leave him, he kills her and himself. Common to every case is a precipitating crisis and the failure of the man to call out for help. The culture defines what it means to be a “real man” in our society and produces men who react to personal crisis with premeditated violence against the women and children in their lives, van Wormer says.