Othniel Inniss has been charged with murder and aggravated assault with a firearm in the shooting death of Tynesha Evans, his on-again, off-again girlfriend. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Are there warning signs before a tragic ending?

Othniel Inniss was supposed to help his girlfriend catch up on her rent payments, but instead of giving her the money he promised, police say he took her life.

Who does that?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a lot of people. One in 4 women in the U.S. will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

In Georgia, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 130 residents on average lose their lives each year to domestic violence. The number includes children, family members and others killed, and most were killed by a current or former intimate partner, as is believed to have happened to Tynesha Evans, Inniss’ on-again, off-again girlfriend.

The numbers also include deaths of alleged perpetrators, most of whom died by suicide after killing or attempting to kill their significant other.

Either way, Georgia consistently ranks in the top 25 states for the rate at which men kill women — and in recent years, often ranked in the top 10.

Why do men kill the women in their lives?

Coercive control, said Bernadine Waller, adjunct professor in the school of social work at Adelphi University.

“It is not unusual for batterers to suffer from varying levels of dependency or even dependent personality disorder such that they actually depend on the partner they are abusing for nurturing and emotional support,” Waller said. “When abusive partners are rejected, it is not uncommon for them to exercise their control over their partner. Sadly, this oftentimes results in death.”

RELATED: Woman killed at Alpharetta bank was in relationship with shooter, police say

Evans, 45, had fallen on hard times. When Inniss offered to help, her children said, she agreed to meet him at the bank, where the shooting took place.

An armed witness driving by the bank held Inniss at gunpoint until Alpharetta police could arrive, authorities said. Inniss was arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a firearm in connection with Evans’ death. He is still being held in Fulton County jail without bond.

Laura Miller-Graff, an assistant professor of psychology at Notre Dame whose research focuses on intimate partner violence, said intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women here and around the world. It includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors. It occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups. And while women can also be violent in relationships with men, male intimate partners or ex-partners are the most common perpetrators.

Laura Miller-Graff, an assistant professor of psychology at Notre Dame, says intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women around the world. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And not just that.

“When men perpetrate, it tends to be more severe and result in higher rates of injury,” she said.

October is National Domestic Awareness Month, but this is one of the many important issues that should be at the center of our national consciousness right now and prevention ought to be at the top of the list.

Meanwhile, Miller-Graff said there are things women and service providers can do, including taking the risk seriously and being aware of the warning signs.

“Research has shown that if women think that they are in grave danger, they nearly always are,” Miller-Graff said.

RELATED: Domestic violence deaths rise in Georgia

Access to a gun, previous use of a weapon or threats of use, and certain types of abuse like stalking, forced sex, and abuse during pregnancy are classic warning signs of more serious threats to women’s lives. Women who find themselves in these situations, while minimizing the threat posed to them, should seek safety as quickly as possible.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Calling the domestic violence hotline is a good place to start to find safety planning resources in your local area, and a local safety planner can help women start to generate a safety plan and connect them with emergency shelter, Miller-Graff said. If possible, open your own bank account and save some amount of money on a regular basis that your partner will not notice is missing from your household budget; gather all of the important documents for yourself and your children and have them in a safe location, together, that can be easily accessed by you; make sure you know where your car keys are and have a bag already packed in your trunk or safely stowed in another location; consider time of day for departure, and an “excuse” about where you are going, if needed; and finally, conduct a realistic assessment of your friends and family.

RELATED: What is nonviolent domestic abuse?

“If you think they might share your location with the perpetrator, do not contact them and do not let them know where you are going,” she said.

As for service providers such as doctors and nurses, she said asking about intimate partner violence should be a regular part of all care and directing women to resources accordingly, and asking when the partner is not in the room is essential.

There’s a scene in the TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale” in which the actress quotes novelist Margaret Atwood: “Someone once said, ‘Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.’”

In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” it’s considered the husband’s legal right to beat his wife as a punishment. The quote represents not only the stakes for women in Gilead, but the fact that those stakes exist in the back of our minds and in our world, too, with great consequences.

The temptation is to laugh, but there’s nothing funny at all about intimate partner violence. I know. When my sister’s husband killed her 18 years ago, no one in our family laughed.

All of us cried. Some days we still do.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

FOR HELP

Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

gcadv.org/get-help/

24-Hour Statewide Hotline: 1-800-334-2836

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