Friday, January 6, 2012

"Attitude Adjustment"

By Susan Murphy-Milano

"How many times do we have to mourn young women and young men. We never expect to be the one on the poster. I have lost friends and been what I thought at the time in Cassies position. We can mourn her but we really must remember there are still women and men out their in her place. We don't want to be there we want out. But who will be patient and wait and encourage us to be strong enough to leave. Leaving is a process that is harder than staying. I didn't know Cassie and my heart goes out to her family and friends. As much as we want to know if there was something that could have been done, remember that the only thing we can do is to help someone else. It is not fair that we give these abusers power. It is time to take back the power and think of our safety before we think of what could happen to the person who abuses the victim. May God Bless Cassie's friends and family with the courage to make a difference and not let her death be another win for domestic abusers."

The comment above was left yesterday on my blog. Cassie Leigh Cotta, 24 Fort Smith, Arkansas was last seen on December 30, 2011. Her mother Pearl knew something was terribly wrong, especially when her daughter failed to show up at her job tending bar New Year's Eve. In addition, the media was all but ignoring the plea's of Cassie's mom until she literally went down to the stations and pleaded with the media to get the word out her daughter was missing. Likely ignored because Cassie did not fit the "pretty white clean cut cookie cutter image," for a news story.

In my opinion, it was all the more reason to have national coverage on this case. Cassie Leigh Cotta represented reality for others just like her in violent relationships. She believed her husband would change. Cassie loved him and thought she could handle the verbal and physical assaults. She never for a moment felt as if he would actually kill her. Yes, her husband was controlling and jealous but again Cassie was tough! But not strong enough when it came to her feelings for her husband. The couple would go back and forth, breaking-up to making-up, even with a court order of protection in place. Her relationship was toxic as hell. And without proper support and counseling to move forward, she was marked for death. Her husband could charm a snake out of spitting deadly venom. Like the majority of offenders he knew how to play the game. So much so that prior to him confessing to Cassie's murder on Tuesday, he was on searches, talking with media and consoling his mother-in-law.

The photo at the top is one of the few I could locate that does not show Cassie's tattoo's. It is also a picture that captures her beauty. As an observation, after the fact, if the family had used that photo perhaps the media would have done more to spread the word she was missing.

Instead, photo's of who Cassie Leigh was were used in the media and on her missing person poster. This is one flaw that must be corrected when it involves those who suddenly vanish. Especially in cases of Intimate Partner Homicide. When we try to sugar coat and put "pretty pictures" of those affected by crimes we play into the myth that violence only happens to "certain people." Or that a lifestyle choice dictates in the early hours of a reported missing person case who receives attention both from law enforcement and the media.

Cassie Leigh Cotta, tough as nails on the outside- warm sweet and wonderful on the inside. She used an art form to communicate her life; tattoos and body piercing. A victim of Intimate partner violence who would lose her life to a man hell bent on controlling her because she was finally working on ending the relationship.

The attitude adjustment in the general public is all of our responsibility. Abuse and staking is an epidemic with and without tattoos! Think this can't happen to you, or someone you hang with in the neighborhood?

I am sure if Cassie could speak to you she's say something like "Hey beyotch, pack your shit and crash someplace till you can figure out what to do. It ain't cool hear what I'm telling you-get the out ."

Susan Murphy Milano is a staff member of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education as a educator and specialist with intimate partner violence prevention strategies directing prevention for high risk situations and cases.
A national trainer to law enforcement, training officers, prosecutors, judges, legislators, social service providers, healthcare professionals, victim advocates and the faith based community and author.. In partnership with Management Resources Ltd. of New York addressing prevention and solutions within the community to the workplace. Host of The Susan Murphy Milano Show,"Time'sUp!" . She is a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated "The Roth Show" with Dr Laurie Roth and a co-host onCrime Wire. Online contributions: Forbes : Crime, She Writesproviding commentary about the hottest topics on crime, justice, and law from a woman’s perspective, as well as Time's Up! a blog which searches for solutions (SOS) for victims of crime


  1. This story is a classic example of perception versus reality.... Remember when our mothers used to tell us always to wear "good underwear" in case we are ever are in an accident? Well, we can't easily change our tattoos. Even if the tattoos were hearts and flowers, "covering the body landscape" completely, brings the perception that you are "one of those girls." Once photos like these are seen, whatever else happens in her life, by the offender or not, goes out the window by the casual observer.

    In the old days, artistic kids would have carried around an artist sketch pad. The irony, is that Cassie's "landscape " will make her easily identifiable, when she is located... in this world or the great beyond. Maybe we should start a campaign to educate tattoo shop owners and customers.... Post this story on the wall!

    Donna "Ladyjustice"

  2. I so agree. when I first saw this case on lost and missing on Twitter. It was the picture of Casie with tattoo with sleeveless shirt next to the one without any tattoos showing. I actually felt my normal reaction between the 2 pictures and thought this did not even look like the same girl. You do -even if subliminally-judge a "book by it's covers."

  3. This happened in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Please, while you are Googling pictures and stories at least get the fucking town correct.

    1. Thank you so much for your observation, it will be corrected immediately. And while you are Googling perhaps you will find something on how to be more polite when finding other's mistakes. Kind of like the title of this post….maybe an "attitude adjustment" is in order?


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