The occurrence of violent crime has escalated significantly in my lifetime. As you can see from the charts below, the worst of it occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.
In North Carolina, the overall crime rate increased 39.6 percent between 1984 and 1994. The state’s violent crime rate experienced the greatest spike between 1988 and 1992, with a 35.3 percent increase. This was the period in which I became immersed in murder cases.
One cause commonly cited for the increase in violent crime during the 1980s and ‘90s is the emergence of crack cocaine. I can think of another: there was a dramatic change in attitudes about violence against women and children. I can remember when hitting your wife and even raping her were not crimes. “She must have driven him to it or even wanted it” was a common response.
Thus, the increase in violent crime is, in part, perception. Acts once tolerated as part of domestic relations became criminal. As a result, women began acting accordingly and reporting it. Of course, even today, many women still do not report violent acts perpetrated on them.
I grew up among rocky domestic relations. I witnessed first-hand my mama and the men in her life argue, stomp, slam doors, and even pull the keys out of the ignition while traveling down the road. I never saw physical violence, though it likely happened. I also heard the tales of the affairs of my father and my grandfather, a different kind of disrespect and abuse of women. Then there was the legendary abuse by my uncle T.W. of his wife and son, ending with his son shooting him dead. https://mysites.charlottelaw.edu/personal/cadcock/Personal%20Documents/Blog%20entries.docx
I was one to stay out of the way. I was not a vocal child. Nevertheless, there was early evidence of feminism. I was one of three girls who became the first female members of the Key Club at Coosa High School. The boys, by the way, showed no mercy in our initiation.
In college, I was introduced to the wide world of “women’s issues.” Whenever given the chance, I studied and wrote on women and religion. My mentor was the only female religion professor, Carolyn Blevins. I loved her classes on women in the Bible and in Baptist history.
In Seminary, my service gravitated towards helping women and children. I spent one summer volunteering at a battered women’s safe house in southeast Atlanta, a poor, primarily African-American community. I saw firsthand the plight of poor women trying to gain independence from abusive men.
When I returned to Louisville, I began volunteering at the local rape crisis center. I was on-call just a few nights a month. If called, I was required to rush to the hospital to meet a rape victim and accompany her through the process. Or, if lucky, the call would be from a victim who was having a hard time coping and just wanted to talk. (more at https://mysites.charlottelaw.edu/personal/cadcock/Personal%20Documents/Blog%20entries.docx) I saw and listened to women in terror.
Fast forward to 1993 and my first months as a death penalty defense lawyer. I wondered how I would handle being an advocate for a man who had killed a wife, girlfriend or child.