Tamara O'Neal and Aisha Fraser Mason, victims of domestic violence

WGN TV/Facebook Aisha M. Fraser/Facebook (Fair Use) Remix by Samantha Grasso

The murders of Tamara O’Neal, Aisha Fraser show domestic violence still isn’t taken seriously

We need to call these deaths what they are: 'fatal domestic violence against Black women.'

Nov 20, 2018, 1:28 pm


Samantha Grasso 

Samantha Grasso

Three people were killed on Monday in a mass shooting at a Chicago hospital, but the aftermath of the shooting appears focused on a Chicago police officer instead of the woman who the shooter had initially gunned down—his ex-fiancée.

The death of Dr. Tamara O’Neal, an emergency room doctor at Mercy Hospital, follows days after the death of Aisha Fraser, an Ohio elementary school teacher who was stabbed to death by her ex-husband, a former politician and judge, in front of their two children on Saturday.

O’Neal’s and Fraser’s deaths are coincidental, yes, but together they help illustrate a pattern of domestic violence suffered by Black women that is yet somehow overlooked by systems that should protect them.

As pointed out by writer Mona Eltahawy and reported by the Violence Policy Center, three women in the U.S. are murdered by a current or former romantic partner every day. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank that focuses on gender parity in the workplace, Black women experience higher rates of physical and psychological domestic violence than white, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander women—more than four in 10 Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner.

And according to a 2016 Violence Policy Center study, Black women were more than two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their white counterparts, and more than nine in 10 knew the men who killed them. Meanwhile, of Black women who knew their killers, 58 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders.

It’s unclear what other similarities O’Neal and Fraser might have shared. O’Neal and her killer, Juan Lopez, were engaged and supposed to have gotten married in October, relatives told ABC7; O’Neal called off the wedding the month before. Fraser, however, had already suffered at the hands of her ex-husband. The two had married in 2005, but separated in March 2014. In 2015, Mason pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and domestic violence after punching Fraser 20 times, slamming her head into the dashboard of a car five times, and biting her during an assault the year prior, according to WKYC3. Their children, 4 and 6 years old at the time, sat in the back seat as their father assaulted their mother. Fraser’s injuries were so bad that she needed facial reconstructive surgery. Fraser filed for divorce two days after the assault, and sued Mason in civil court, winning $150,000.

Tiffany Turner-Allen, program director at UJIMA, the National Center on Violence in the Black Community, told NBC in 2017 that abusive partners often “turn deadly” once the person being abused attempts to leave the relationships. Both O’Neal and Fraser attempted to leave men who ultimately murdered them, and even the city of Cleveland went so far as to support Mason despite him being convicted of assaulting Fraser; after serving nine months in prison, Mason was hired by the mayor as the city’s director of minority business administrator.

Mason’s hiring is indicative of a culture that doesn’t take relationship violence and domestic violence seriously, allowing an abusive man to hold a position of political power, even locally. Even looking to news coverage of O’Neal’s death, publications are just now beginning to align what happened to O’Neal with domestic violence. ABC7 reported that police say the shooting began in the parking lot outside of the hospital after a “domestic dispute,” while Monday’s coverage centered on the death of the policeman, Officer Samuel Jimenez. Tuesday’s coverage, via the Chicago Tribune, reported that police said Lopez confronted O’Neal over a “broken engagement.”

“Before all this, she was looking forward to getting married,” Steven Mixon, an emergency room clerk, told the publication of O’Neal. Mixon had seen her and Lopez arguing in the parking lot when he began to rush over to O’Neal to assist her. Then, Lopez opened fire. “Talking about dresses, all of that. But then something happened and it was called off.”

Even in death, domestic violence cannot be called by name.



In her thread addressing the deaths of the doctor and the teacher, Eltahawy wrote, “Patriarchy socializes men into believing women owe them attention, time, affection. If women dare reject them, women pay with their lives.”

O’Neal called off a wedding, while Fraser attempted to end a marriage, and both of their partners retaliated. We see this at a much more local scale, constantly, with stories of bar-side rejections ending fatally for women at the hands of men who didn’t even know them, yet believed they were owed time and attention. And at a broader scale, we see other mass shooters with extensive histories of violence against women. And yet, even amid a news break of multiple deaths stemming from domestic violence, we’re refusing to talk about the problem at hand.

Fraser and O’Neal were two women were who mattered greatly to their communities—they were valued for how they influenced the people they went to school for and went to church with. They served their community as a teacher and a doctor, respectively. They’re so much more than simply victims of domestic violence, as all victims are. But their communities, and society at large, stopped short of valuing their existences by supporting their abusers—whether that was by granting Mason power in the community or simply chalking up Lopez’s violence to a “dispute.” Unlike Mason, these women cannot be given second chances.

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*First Published: Nov 20, 2018, 1:28 pm