It is a tragedy that Angela Covington is dead.
Police say the 37-year-old Covington was shot at her workplace on July 16. Her boyfriend, Dearin J. Leggs, 28, faces first-degree premeditated murder charges in her killing. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 7.
Pensacola Police investigators believe the shooting occurred over pending break-up between the couple, according to Lt. Chuck Mallett, who supervises investigations.
It is a miracle that more Escambia County women don’t suffer the same fate.
Because Angela Covington lived in a county with some of the highest incidence rates of domestic violence for its population.
If you look at the rate of domestic violence incidents in Escambia County for the last 10 years, we have never ranked lower than third when compared with 10 counties of similar population, according to data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In six of those years, Escambia County ranked first of those 10 peer-sized counties in domestic violence crimes, including 2013, when 3,113 domestic violence crimes were reported.
Those crimes ranged from murder to simple assault. You can see the database here.
Dr. Kimberly Tatum is president of the board of directors of Favor House, the area’s shelter for domestic violence victims. In April at a conference on the topic hosted at the University of West florida, she said several factors could contribute to the high incidence of family violence crimes in this area, including a high poverty rate and limited access to services.
FavorHouse last year received an IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area grant to expand its transitional housing for clients and to build one long-term and one interim kennel for pets from homes where abusers have threatened to abuse or kill the pet.
But turning the tide on an intimate crime that remains cloaked in secrecy requires more. FavorHouse’s work is invaluable. They have without a doubt kept many women from ending up like Angela Covington.
But they cannot do it alone.
Ultimately it means changing what kind of behavior is acceptable in intimate relationships. It will take teaching boys to become men who respect women rather than view them as things to possess.
Thanks to changes in the way colleges and universities are required to handle sexual assault complaints, the University of West Florida has codified and clarified procedures around reporting -- and appealing -- such reports filed on campus with the Title IX coordinator.
Gentry McCreary, associate dean of students, said that just meant putting some of these practices in writing, or collecting them from where they were written in the student handbook or other publications.
“This summer at orientation, we’re hitting them hard,” McCreary said. “I do a parent workshop. New students do an online program before they start class. In first couple of weeks they receive email about student code of conduct and sexual misconduct policy is highlighted.
“New freshmen have heard it three times in the first two weeks.”
It is a message that needs to be carried throughout the community, from college campuses to conference rooms. Clearly it’s not getting through to everyone who needs to hear it.
Domestic violence cases for 2014:
From January to June of this year, Pensacola Police have received 296 domestic violence reports.
From January through April of this year, The Escambia Sheriff’ Office saw 835 reported domestic violence crimes. The Sheriff’s Office has not yet provided monthly data from May and June.