A Pittsburgh woman was buried this week leaving behind an 11-year-old son. She was a victim of domestic abuse. She had finally, seemingly broken free of the terror of her ex-boyfriend. She had moved out and was about to start a new job in the new year at the place were she had been an intern for nine months. Before that could happen, she was murdered by her former partner. She was 33 years old.
Her name was Ka'Sandra Wade.
People often ask why woman stay with someone who abuses them. Well, Ka'Sandra's story illustrates one reason why: Leaving can be dangerous. According to a United States Department of Justice National Crime Victim Survey, the most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave.
Ka'Sandra had people trying to help her, including at her job. Tragically, when she reached out to police one last time, the system failed her.
She called 911 in the waning hours of last year. She requested that police come to her home, but then the 911 operator heard a commotion and the call went dead.
Two officers responded. They were denied entrance by a man (her ex) who spoke out of a window saying no police were needed. They spoke for some ten minutes to the man and then left the scene. They left without ever speaking to the woman who placed the call even though, "The officers ... knew the caller was female. They knew the woman was calm at first. They were told that there was some sort of commotion. And they knew the line had been disconnected."
When Ka'Sandra's mother called police the next day, concerned that she hadn't heard from her daughter, police went back to her home. They found her shot dead.
What followed next was a standoff at the ex-partner's apartment. Her murderer eventually killed himself -- but not before telling the police that they could have saved her the day previous. It is unknown whether or not she was killed before the police arrived the day before or shortly thereafter as it's impossible to pinpoint a time of death quite so precisely.
What is known is that the Pittsburgh Police 'do not have a specific policy on how officers should handle “unknown trouble” calls such as the one at the center of a murder-suicide investigation.'
Can we all agree that they should have policies in place? Can we all agree that there was a breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect her and all of us?
To make matters worse, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had emailed questions (the required format) to the police to break this story, they were not only met with resistance, something quite extraordinary happened:
Diane Richard, the department’s public information officer, tipped other news organizations off to the P-G’s investigation when she sent the release to about 200 journalists.
Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman tells Romenesko readers:
“This is probably unprecedented and certainly unprofessional. It is a horrifying, disrespectful departure from every interchange I have had, or been witness to, with public-relations professionals in four decades in journalism.”
The Board of Ethics and Professional Standards at the Public Relations Society of America is looking into the matter, PRSA’s Arthur Yann tells me.Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh City Paper adds:
I've been in this business for more than 15 years, and have never seen anything quite like this. And if the idea was to somehow dissuade the P-G from working the story, well ... clearly it didn't work.Clearly, we have not heard the last of this -- nor should we.
In the meantime, there are ways that you can help.
There will be a vigil for Ka'Sandra Wade tomorrow:
ACTION United Vigil for Ka'Sandra WadeThere will also be an online vigil tomorrow. Please click here for more information and to get a button for your blog/Facebook page/etc., like the one on the sidebar of our blog.
When: Saturday , Januray 12 2013, 4:00 PM
Where: 5907 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
What: Vigil Announcement: ACTION United and Pgh Women will hold a Vigil in Memory of Ka'Sandra Wade on Saturday, January 12, 2013. We will meet at 5907 Penn Avenue on the 3rd floor, at 4:00 PM, and hold a Solemn Procession to Eastminster Presbyterian Church. There will be a Potluck Repast, so please bring something to share if you can. A collection will be taken up for the trust fund we are setting up for her son. Womens Organizations should bring their banners or signs...There will be an opportunity to sign up for our Campaign for Ka'Sandra's Law Please RSVP and SHARE!
RSVP: Facebook (or just show up)
You can also find information and resources on domestic abuse from the Women's Center & Shelter of Pittsburgh and The Center for Victims.
Also from Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents (who initiated the cyber vigil):
Finally, we ask that you mention that a fund has been set up for Zaire, Ka’Sandra’s son – donations can be sent to made payable to Sharon Jordan to this address: Sharon Jordan, c/o ACTION United, 5907 Penn Ave, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15206. Sharon is Ka’Sandra’s mother and she is now raising Zaire. The family may have other needs – please contact ACTION United if you would like to help. The number is 412-567-7275.