(OXFORD, Miss.) — The death of University of Mississippi student Alexandria “Ally” Kostial, and the subsequent arrest of one of her male classmates for murder, has drawn renewed attention to violence against women, particularly gun violence.
The body of Kostial, a 21-year-old St. Louis native studying marketing at Ole Miss, was discovered with multiple gunshot wounds in Harmontown, Mississippi, Saturday morning, authorities said.
Brandon Theesfeld, 22, has been arrested, and his defense attorney, Tony Farese, told ABC News Thursday that he plans to enter a plea of not guilty.
Friends of Kostial say that she had known Theesfeld for several years. Rachel Macdonald, a friend of Kostial’s, told ABC News that they met four years ago.
The nature of Kostial’s relationship with Theesfeld was not immediately known, but friends of Kostial and strangers have been using the #JusticeforAlly hashtag to both pay tribute to Kostial and encourage a conversation about women’s safety.
Dozens of people attended a vigil at Kostial’s high school in St. Louis Thursday night. One of Kostial’s best friends, Samantha Martin, told ABC News her late friend was the “kindest, nicest, sweetest person,” who, “didn’t have a bad bone in her body.”
Data compiled by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a non-profit that works to stop gun death and injury, shows that when men murder women, a gun is the most common weapon used.
“What I find time and time again is that we have never been taught how to resolve conflict,” said Wendy Mahoney, executive director of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “And the emotion that comes out of conflict, most of the time is anger.”
“Then when you’re that angry, you feel like this is the only way to deal with it,” she said, adding that “hurt people hurt people.”
Around the world, 58 percent of women who were intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by intimate partners or family members, according to a report released last November by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
That year, some 50,000 women were killed globally by someone they knew, the organization estimated.
That works out to 137 women per day — nearly six every hour.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — estimates that 43 million women have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and noted that it starts early in women’s lives.
About 11 million women reported they experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or other forms of violence or stalking by an intimate partner before the age of 18.
More than 90% of women murdered by men are killed by someone they know, 63% of whom were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers, according to the Violence Policy Center. Most often, according to the most recent data from the VPC, females were killed by males during the course of an argument.
Experts say intimate partner violence can also play a role in mass shootings.
Seven of 20 deadly mass shootings in 2018 identified by ABC News involved men fatally shooting either their girlfriend, wife, or ex-partner, along with at least three other people. Some of those other victims were relatives of the female victim; others were bystanders.
“These are not just personal issues,” Bryan Pacheco, the spokesperson for Safe Horizon, a crime and abuse victims’ services agency, told ABC News in January. “These are community issues that we all should be tackling.”
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