Groups decry Reader’s Digest killing joke on domestic violence

By Todd Richmond
Madison, Wisconsin (AP) 8-09

Wisconsin advocates for domestic violence victims are blasting a joke in last month’s Reader’s Digest magazine that makes light of a man who killed a woman with a golf club.

Police find the man in an apartment holding a 5-iron over the woman’s “lifeless body.” When a detective asks the man how many times he hit her, the man replies, “I don’t know. Five ... maybe six ... Put me down for a five.”

The joke, which was submitted to the magazine, doesn’t explain the relationship between the man and woman. But at least two domestic violence victim advocates have written e-mails to the magazine criticizing the decision to print the joke. University Health Services, which provides medical services to University of Wisconsin-Madison students, has sent e-mail to its listserv members alerting them to the joke, too.

Reader’s Digest spokeswoman Andrea Kaplan said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press during late July that the magazine regrets the decision to publish the joke, which was submitted by a reader.

“We take domestic violence very seriously, and clearly this joke crossed the line,” Kaplan said.

Dena Quinn is a victim advocate in the ,Black River Falls office of Bolton Refuge House a nonprofit support service for domestic violence victims. She wrote a letter to Reader’s Digest calling the joke “garbage.”


“Women have a hard enough time coming forward to report the abuse and/or to leave their abuser – now she gets to feel as though it’s ok for people to joke about it?” she wrote. “It’s obvious that you have no sensitivity to victims of domestic violence and have no clue of the prevalence of this crime.”

Terri Burl, a victim advocate at the Forest County Potawatomi tribal community’s domestic violence shelter , also e-mailed the magazine, saying she was disgusted.

“When will society stop joking about domestic violence and begin to get serious?” she wrote. “Until people start to take this problem seriously, we will never eradicate this national human disaster.”

Nationally, 1,332 people died at the hands of their husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends in 2007, according to the most recent FBI statistics available.

Thirty-nine people died that year because of domestic violence in Wisconsin, according to the latest data from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

During July a Madison man fatally shot his estranged wife, 51-year-old UW-Madison research grants administrator Shereen Beaulieu, before killing himself.

University Health Services sent out a mass e-mail to victim advocates Tuesday mentioning Beaulieu and asking them work together to ensure domestic violence jokes no longer appear in the media.

“This was not a joke that made me feel safe as a woman,” said Carmen Hotvedt, a University Health Services violence prevention specialist. “It’s not funny to make light of murder, especially murder at the hands of someone who says they love you.”