- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

Oh, no, not another one. Can it be that yet another area woman was doused with gasoline and set afire?

This weekend there was a third such fiery example in 15 months of the vicious depths to which domestic violence has sunk. Despite the coordinated efforts of law enforcement and social workers, particularly in Prince George’s County, this scourge remains a horrendous crisis in the metropolitan area.

Bad enough that domestic violence victims — male and female — have been beaten beyond recognition, choked, shot and stabbed in the past. All too often these cases have resulted in murder-suicides, as one did last month in Prince George’s.

Is torching to become the latest trend?

“I don’t know if this is an up-and-coming thing, I hope not, but it’s terrible,” said Michael Keel, brother of the latest burn victim, Patricia Scales, in a television interview.

It really makes you stop and ponder what kind of sadistic mind is capable of torching another human being, someone they supposedly once loved.

What makes Saturday’s case even more outrageous is that this attractive 45-year-old D.C. woman’s 7-year-old son and teenage daughter saw it all, according to reports.

Terrance James, 48, of Southeast, has been charged with assault with intent to kill his former girlfriend, who was set on fire while lying in bed in her apartment in the 5000 block of D Street Southeast.

Little else is known about this incident, which occurred after a domestic dispute, based on court testimony, but the couple reportedly had not lived together for months. Miss Scales’ relatives told WRC-TV (Channel 4) that Mr. James still came to the apartment to visit their son.

Mr. James was arrested at the scene. Television footage on NewsChannel 8 showed him being carted away on a stretcher because he somehow received burns on his hands and forearms. The case against Mr. James, who has denied involve-ment, was postponed yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.

Luckily for Miss Scales, good neighbors came to her aid just in time. She continues to fight for her life at Washington Hospital Center with second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body.

In the previous domestic-violence burnings involving women with estranged partners determined to leave an indelibly angry mark, the victims somehow managed to survive their severe wounds and scarring. We pray the same for Miss Scales.

The most infamous torching case concerns the brave Yvette Cade, who has since become a national spokeswoman against domestic violence. Her ex-husband set her on fire in the cellular-phone store where she worked after the protection order she sought was denied in 2005. He was sentenced to life in prison last summer.

A Landover man remains in jail without bail awaiting trial next year for attempted murder in the burning of Frida Edwards last summer. She, too, was ignited after gasoline was poured on her.

Studies indicate that domestic-violence victims face the most dangerous period when they attempt to break away from their abusers, as Mrs. Cade did.

In a NewsChannel 8 interview, a member of Mr. James’ family said, “He was very sweet to her, and you’d never think anything would happen like this.” Really? Rarely do such egregious acts happen without warning.

What occurs more often is that folks simply turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to cries for help and signs of trouble. That is why domestic violence has been called society’s dirty little secret because too many people who suspect there is a problem refuse to get involved in what they consider other people’s business.

But getting involved when you notice hot tempers, unexplained bruises, timid and jittery behavior could save lives.

You would hope that the previous burning cases might have served as a deterrent to such abhorrent behavior.

Not so in an increasingly misogynistic culture that continues to glorify blood and gore and desensitize us to dehumanizing crimes committed particularly against vulnerable and marginalized women.

Just as criminals are automatically awarded extra time for using a handgun in the commission of a crime, anyone who dares to burn someone alive ought to spend the rest of their life in prison or even be executed.

Enough. We must halt immediately this abominable trend of making a bonfire of human flesh.

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