On August 31st, The Associated Press published a story about a North Carolina woman who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend after changing her Facebook status from “single” to “engaged.” The man then turned the gun onto himself. According to Onslow County Sheriff’s Maj. Donnie Worrell, Jacksonville native Karen Rooney was shot twice in the torso by ex-boyfriend Peter Terrence Moonan, with a .357 caliber handgun. Moonan and Rooney had previously dated for more than sixteen years, even buying a house together in 2002, before ending their relationship in February of this year.
Neighbors reported that Rooney had already begun dating another man.
What was perhaps most shocking about the incident, however, was not just the suddenness and senselessness of the incident (there had been no previous indications of domestic violence from the couple), but the ages of the persons involved. Rooney, age 63, was just a year older than Moonan, age 62, and both were just a few years shy of the national retirement age. Both had apparently remained amicable even after the split, and while family close to Moonan said that he was visibly depressed, there had been no prior indications that he had been dangerous or violently so.
One common domestic violence stereotype is that instances of DV tend to involve young individuals, and usually involve at least one partner with a history of violence, depression, or abuse. However, the incident in Jacksonville serves as a tragic and painful reminder that when it comes to domestic violence, there is no “typical” DV situation; there is no “profile” that can applied, either to perpetrators or victims, and sometimes triggers for domestic violence can be as sudden and without-warning as a simple Facebook status.
As with any tragedy of this nature, there will undoubtedly be a wave of “could-haves” and “should-haves” and “what-ifs,” from all parties affected by the incident. But if anything is to be learned from this event–and with tragedies such as this, answers are often few and far between–it is perhaps that the issues related to domestic violence are ones that transcend all boundaries; be they race, culture, religion, or age.
It is also worth noting that no incident of depression, particularly surrounding older adults or sudden life/romantic changes, should be treated as trivial or fleeting. Even in the absence of any history or predilection towards violence or suicide, desperate individuals have, when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, resorted to drastic and desperate actions, often with tragic and heartbreaking results.
But another important aspect of this terrible incident is the role that social networking media, in this case Facebook, played in the tragic events in Jacksonville. While by no means a “cause” for the incident, it is worth noting that “over-sharing” personal information can sometimes have drastic and unforeseen consequences–particularly information pertaining to one’s personal and intimate relationships.
From a DV perspective, this is especially important, living as we do in an age of digital communication; an age in which stories travel farther and faster than they ever could before. All too often, information has a way of getting ahead of us, finding its way into unexpected (and unintended) hands, sometimes out of context, and very seldom for the better. Simply managing all this information–both data coming in, and going out–can be confusing enough, even without the added burden of controlling who has access to what.
And when the information being shared consists of the things best kept under wraps or to ourselves–“private matters”, perhaps, if not actually our “secrets”–the need for constant awareness can be that much more important.
Think about the things that you share over social networking media like Facebook and Twitter; the photos you post/are tagged in, the messages that get left on your wall or Tweet history. Think about the comments that you leave, or that are elicited and left by others, that together make up your electronic “internet personality.” But beyond just thinking about what this information “says” about you, think carefully about who this information is available to; be they friends or employers, family or lovers.
And, most importantly, think about which bits of information you might share openly with one group, only to guard jealously, even possessively, against access by another.
How do you protect your information, allowing the right information to stay in the right hands, and keeping the wrong information out of the wrong ones? How might you be vulnerable, and what steps can you take to help protect your personal details from unwanted and unnecessary scrutiny?