EVERETT — Again in Snohomish County, parents are burying their children after a young man’s loss of control in a relationship apparently led him to pick up a gun and kill.
Studies show more than half of all mass shootings around the U.S. included as a target a romantic partner or family member. The end of a relationship is one of the most dangerous times for victims of domestic violence, which includes emotional and psychological abuse that often starts with jealously and control.
On July 30, a 19-year-old Mukilteo man allegedly shot and killed his former girlfriend and two friends at a party, while wounding another. Allen Ivanov is charged with aggravated murder and attempted murder.
In 2014, Marysville lost five young lives when Jaylen Fryberg opened fire in his high school cafeteria, killing his friends and himself. Fryberg was depressed, suicidal and fixated on a girl he had been dating.
Domestic-violence experts call it “spillover” when an abuser’s targets grow to include a victim’s friends, family or coworkers.
So far court documents have only detailed how Ivanov viewed his relationship with Anna Bui, 19. He claimed she was his first kiss and characterized her as his “dream girl.” He also told detectives he was jealous and angry that Bui was seeing other guys after their recent breakup. He said he had been checking her posts on social media and that he stalked her during the final moments of her life. He said he saw his military-style rifle as a “symbol of power.”
The arrest report didn’t say if there was any history of physical or emotional abuse in the relationship. Ivanov also killed 19-year-olds Jordan Ebner and Jake Long. Will Kramer, 18, was seriously wounded. All four victims were his former classmates at Kamiak High School.
Every domestic-violence killing is different, but there are patterns. A state-funded review found that in nearly every case, a victim felt a sense of danger and tried to get help or talk to someone. For teens, more often the abuse is emotional rather than physical. That makes the danger tougher to spot.
In Snohomish County last year, Kandra Tan, a 16-year-old junior at Mountlake Terrace High School, was shot and killed by the man she had broken up with a few days before. He then took his own life. So did the ex-boyfriend of Dayna Fure, after he fatally shot her, a senior at Stanwood High School, in 2004.
Yet domestic violence doesn’t always generate the same national attention as the seemingly random mass shootings. That’s according to Jake Fawcett, who leads an annual review of domestic-violence killings in the state. His 2016 report for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence was released June 30. The report counts four mass shootings in Washington since 2006 that involved an abusive relationship as a factor. The list includes the murders at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
After mass shootings, people talk about the “deeper social significance of what it says about our society,” Fawcett wrote in a 2013 blog post. “Domestic violence rarely prompts the same soul searching. That double standard reinforces old myths. That the ‘real’ danger is outside your home, not inside. That men’s violence against their families is a private tragedy, not a social injustice, not a matter for collective action and public policy.”
The state’s domestic-violence fatality review, which started in 1998, has found that “domestic violence homicides are not unpredictable, isolated tragedies,” Fawcett wrote in the new report.
“In virtually every case, communities did not have the tools or resources to change the conditions that made victims vulnerable,” he wrote. “As violence continued over time, victims’ choices narrowed. By the time a homicide occurred, options for effective intervention were slim.”
When a firearm is introduced into an abusive relationship, “that intersection is just an incredibly dangerous point, dangerous not just to the victim but other people surrounding the victim or their community,” Fawcett said in a recent interview.
Ivanov reportedly told police he purchased his Ruger AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle about a week before the killings.
Domestic violence happens on a spectrum, and homicide happens at the extreme end of that spectrum, said Vicci Hilty, the executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.
“Its foundation is power and control,” she said.
The nonprofit’s outreach efforts for young people now include high schools and middle schools, said Jenny Wieland, who works in teen dating-violence prevention. She talked to 6,400 students in classrooms around the county this past school year. She makes clear in her talks that women and girls can be abusers, too, and boys and men can be victims.
Growing up means encountering the euphoria, adrenaline and intensity of romantic love, especially that exhilarating first love in high school or college. Still, love is never supposed to bring with it arguments about jealousy and control. For young people without years of dating experience, at first jealousy from their partner can seem like a confirmation of love, Hilty said.
But it’s not healthy, and it usually signifies the presence of deeper and more serious issues than young people are equipped to deal with. And when it comes to dating, they statistically are not likely to turn to their parents for advice. That’s in part because it means admitting to the people they love that they’ve found themselves in a situation they don’t know how to fix.
Domestic-violence prevention groups have been increasing their focus on the friends and family of people who may be in need of help, Fawcett said. Sometimes the most important thing is for a friend to say they see a problem and to communicate they’re always there to listen, even if the victim isn’t ready to talk about what’s going on, he said.
Local campuses, including University of Washington Bothell, offer freshman and transfer students “bystander intervention” training about what to do if they witness violence and bullying.
Wieland tells teens to watch out for friends who start spending less time at home or in their normal activities; if a friend gets a lot of texts asking where they are and why; and if a friend’s grades start changing. Healthy relationships don’t come with rules on who you can talk to and what you can wear.
If there is any sense of danger or violence, find an adult to talk with, someone who won’t behave rashly or betray the confidence, Wieland said.
“That is a responsibility you should not have to carry on your shoulders,” she said. “You need to find someone you trust.”
Young people often don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents about their dating lives. Sometimes that’s because parents are dismissive, viewing the relationships as “puppy love,” Weiland said.
Hilty encourages parents to be calm listeners. The conversation could be as simple as, “It will be OK. We’ll talk this through.” It’s important to validate their feelings, to keep the dialogue open.
A lot of progress has been made in recent decades over how society sees and reacts to domestic violence and abusive relationships, Hilty said. Legal reforms at the federal and state levels have provided more help and safety planning for victims, Fawcett said. The courts and police are much more informed now, but there is a need for social services and other community organizations to also watch for warning signs and patterns, he said.
Anyone can call a hotline and get help with thinking through the issue and what happens next, he said. Having that conversation doesn’t have to mean staying at a shelter or filing a protection order. It’s OK to ask, “How are you feeling? How is the breakup going?”
Monitoring social media is a part of that. Teenagers often share their feelings via vague posts, memes and emoji. There’s no flashing light above their head that shows the world when they’re afraid, uncomfortable or not sure if this is what love is supposed to look and feel like.
A harder question, Fawcett said, is how to address the behaviors of abusers, many of whom learned about violence at home as children. That’s part of a larger conversation about gender and masculinity and social change.
Those who work with victims every day talk a lot about prevention and education but also recognize the problem may never be eradicated, Hilty said. They do what they can: talking and sharing, repeating their message, trying new ways to reach people.
No one knows when the heartbreak will stop.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know needs help regarding domestic violence, contact the Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County hotline at 425-25-ABUSE, or 425-252-2873. The hotline is free and confidential, and advocates can help with safety plans. Friends, families and colleagues of victims also are encouraged to call. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
The nonprofit also offers free Teen Dating Violence Prevention presentations for high schools and youth-based organizations, including summer programs, throughout Snohomish County. More info: 425-259-2827 ext. 1025.