Months ago, I tried to write a column about a case of domestic violence involving the murder of a beloved woman named Leslie Pinkston.
It never made the paper because I couldn’t think of anything to write that wouldn’t lead to that dark place, where young women are brutalized and manipulated in unhealthy relationships that play out in plain sight every day.
Pinkston was only 32 when she was shot in the face as she sat in her car outside her workplace in Winters. She left a young daughter, a grieving mother and a long line of brokenhearted friends and family.
“Harassed, stalked and threatened via social media, through email, phone and in person, Leslie tried to prevent and stop this behavior on her own and with the help of family and friends,” Katie Winkler, a longtime friend of Pinkston, wrote in the Davis Enterprise. “She changed her number, she moved, she stayed under the radar, all in an effort to keep herself and her daughter safe.”
William Gardner III of Sacramento, a former boyfriend, is scheduled to stand trial for Pinkston’s murder beginning next month in Woodland.
There is a gag order in the case now, but last year officials from the Yolo County district attorney confirmed a fact that Pinkston’s loved ones had difficulty believing: That Pinkston had paid Gardner’s $130 bail in the days before her murder.
Richard Haywood, Pinkston’s cousin, told the Enterprise: “She did things for him she shouldn’t have done, out of the kindness of her heart. Leslie was a good person. She would help people out. I can’t put it past her to say that she gave him $130.”
Because of this, I chickened out on writing about Pinkston’s case because I didn’t want to appear to be blaming her in any way.
But that’s what we do in domestic violence cases. Janay Rice, the wife of former NFL player Ray Rice, is being blamed nationally for staying with and marrying Rice after he knocked her out in a hotel elevator.
The emergence of a video showing this heinous act has made Janay Rice the poster child for victim blaming as people wonder what’s “wrong” with her.
This is what I should have written about Pinkston last year: She did not deserve to die. It wasn’t her fault.
Her actions and her tragic last days fit a profile of a domestic violence epidemic in America. According to FBI statistics, there were 12,765 murders in the United States in 2012. Nearly 1,000 of those victims were wives or girlfriends – about one in every 13 homicides.
These crimes weren’t about romantic love gone wrong. They are about abuse and domination in countless forms. In these cases, there are perpetrators and there are victims and we should never, ever confuse the two.