TW: Domestic abuse, assault
“American Murder: The Family Next Door” came out on Netflix on Sept. 30, 2020. As the title reads, this documentary follows the tragic story of a mother, Shanann Watts and her daughters, who were all brutally murdered by her husband, Chris Watts.
I watched this documentary right when it came out because it seemed interesting. As someone who used to watch “Forensic Files,” my tolerance for crime stories has always been better than most. However, I was met with a gruesome story that fueled me with rage and made me erupt in utter despair. The New York Times even describes this documentary as, “A film that feels eerily intimate but also expansive enough to reflect the distance between the online performance of a happy marriage and the devastating truth of a relationship’s unraveling.”
Chris Watts is a North Carolina native; nevertheless, I don’t claim him as a part of Carolina culture. He is nothing more than a disgrace and a pathetic excuse for a human.
At the end of the documentary, the director added in some text that read, “In America, three women are killed by their current or ex-partner every day. Parents who murder their children and partner are most often men. This crime is virtually always premeditated.”
I can’t imagine Shanann ever believed this would happen to her, as many women don’t believe their partners could hurt them. Seeing these stats as a woman, I became saddened at the reality and fear that women face every day living in America. More specifically, young women ages 18-24.
When I first came to NC State, it was hard to get used to the big-city life, where many terrible things can happen. I’ve met many young women, mostly fellow students, who carry pepper spray, mace, knives and brainstorm numerous other ways of staying safe while walking at night. Even on TikTok, I’ve seen many videos about objects women can buy for their apartments, their keys, and their cars to avoid getting brutally murdered, sexually assaulted or kidnapped.
I even once saw a tweet that said, “If you woke up as a man one day, what would you do?” and thousands of women replied saying, “Walk alone at night” or “go for a run at night.” Tasks that may seem feasible to many are things that women cannot do without being in constant fear.
Unfortunately, living near or on a college campus comes with these risks. In the most recent news, Technician reported a WolfAlert issued about a report of a man sexually assaulting a female student on campus after meeting on a dating app. This isn’t the first time that this happened, but with a lot of work it can certainly be one of the last.
This culture of unsafety that women are feeling must come to end, and it can start on our own campus. As Carlyn Wright-Eakes, the interpersonal violence prevention education coordinator at the Women’s Center, said in the Technician article, assault is never the victim’s fault, and in Shanann’s case, it wasn’t her fault either. What we can gauge from this documentary and the very tragic story of Shanann is that we should always believe the victim first and stop putting all this pressure on women to protect themselves.
Secondly, concepts like the bro-code or girl-code are applicable when wing-manning your bro by helping him pick the right cologne for a first date, or helping your friend get over her ex for the millionth time and buy her ice cream; but it does not extend to protecting a predator.
This pressure to merely stay alive on the daily basis is beyond overwhelming. Men: you must do better at holding other men accountable and taking care of women beyond your own self-interests, and ladies: we can try looking out for each other as well. The life we live now is pretty sad if we look at it, and we must make strong efforts to change that.