BY LINH NGO AND LAN PHAM
On Sunday, Nov. 6, Edmonds police found the bodies of Evelyn Matsen, a 34-year-old Filipina woman, and her 13-year-old son, Wahren Agonoy, shot to death multiple times in their East Bremerton home. Her husband, Bryan Christopher Matsen, 35, was arrested for two counts of first-degree murder on Nov. 10 at the University of New Mexico, while seeking aid for stab wounds. Local Edmonds police impounded Bryan Matsen’s car, seizing a loaded 20-gauge shotgun believed to be used in the double-homicide.
This double-murder is not just another family tragedy. Unfortunately, the pattern of threats and physical violence leading to the deaths of Evelyn and her son is too commonly seen as the result of domestic violence.
It was less than two months ago when the police first went to the Matsen residence in response to a domestic violence call. Evelyn cited that her husband “threw [her] out in the living room.” Police responded to another call by Evelyn on Oct. 26, when Bryan locked her and Wahren out of the home. On Oct. 27, Evelyn filed a protection order against her husband fearing for the safety of her and her son. Within the same day, the police came to the home twice, including once when Bryan showed up with a metal baseball bat, with reports noting that Bryan Matsen had planned to use the bat to assault his wife.
The tragedy of Evelyn Matsen and Wahren Agonoy reminds us that domestic violence continues to plague our communities, affecting the lives of victims and their families. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that each year 1,500 women are killed by a husband or boyfriend. Statistics on domestic violence in the United States are staggering: A woman is beaten by an intimate partner every 9 seconds; Every year, there are two billion women beaten and abused; In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, a number higher than car accidents, rapes, and muggings combined.
Domestic violence is not a private matter. It is a crime that impacts victims, families, and communities. A survey (by M.A. Straus and R.J. Gelles) of 8,145 families revealed that 50 percent of the men who assaulted their wives also abused their children. Children in domestic violence households are not only at increased risk for physical abuse, but also mental stress, manifesting into chronic illnesses. In addition, children who witness violence are at an increased risk for victimization (girls) or perpetration (boys) in adulthood.
As in the case of Evelyn Matsen, the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community is not immune to domestic violence. Moreover, API women are at greater risk of domestic violence-related homicide than White women, according to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review. Lan Pham, executive director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center, stated that “though domestic violence does not discriminate based on class, race, or ethnicity, API and immigrant women are at increased risk because of language and cultural barriers, and lack of culturally relevant domestic violence resources to inform, support victims, and prevent further abuse. Many API and immigrant cultures believe that domestic violence is a family matter and is shameful to be shared with others outside of the family, thus prolonging the time for survivors of domestic abuse to seek help. There is also a dearth of resources that are culturally and linguistically relevant to assist API and immigrant women once they are ready to seek assistance.”
Domestic violence, though prevalent in all communities, is highly preventable. Lan Pham suggests that, “Ending violence against women requires a coordinated effort among individuals, communities, and government. Individuals could assist by providing friends, families, and neighbors in need with emotional support and assist them in locating and connecting to existing victim support services. Communities and community leaders could speak out against violence and work with their constituents such as religious congregations, ethnic groups, or neighborhoods to strategize ways for providing victim support and response. Government could ensure adequate funding for prevention and victim support services such as community outreach and education, victim advocacy, housing, and legal assistance. Ending domestic violence is within our reach, but we must all work together.”
For more information on how to safely respond to domestic violence please call:
– Asian & Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center: (206) 467-9976
– Chinese Information & Service Center: (206) 624-5633
– Chaya: (206) 325-0325
– Refugee Women’s Alliance: (206) 721-0243
– Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-562-6025 (voice/TTY)