Why leaving didn't stop Karen Smith's husband from killing her in San Bernardino.

On Monday, April 10, Cedric Anderson walked into North Park Elementary School, where he killed his wife, Karen Smith, as well as a student and, ultimately, himself.

A police officer responds to the shooting at North Park Elementary School. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, Smith, a teacher at the school, was in the process of attempting to divorce Anderson when he murdered her.


Outwardly, Anderson was a doting husband — prone to over-the-top declarations of love. His history of domestic violence allegations suggests a darker story.

While it's unclear what exactly transpired between Anderson and Smith before the shooting, her family reports that she was terrified of her husband, refused to talk about their relationship, and even went into hiding at one point.

Anderson (L) and Smith (R). Photos via San Bernardino Police Department via AP.

When relationships turn abusive — or potentially so — friends and family of the victim are often prone to wonder: "Why doesn't he or she simply leave?"

In Smith's case, she did leave. And she was murdered.

"Leaving is not always the immediate safest choice for somebody," says Bryan Pacheco, public relations director for Safe Horizon, an organization that assists victims of relationship and familial abuse.

Frequently, leaving an abusive partner can increase the danger to the victim. One study, which surveyed data from three cities in three English-speaking countries, concluded that women were three times more likely to be murdered by estranged or former husbands than by their current spouses.

"In an attempt to get the victim to stay, abusers will escalate their tactics," Pacheco says. "They’ll escalate the abuse. They’ll escalate the coercion. They’ll escalate the abusive behavior in an attempt to get that person to stay."

To help provide victims with a way out, organizations like Safe Horizon try to mitigate the risks abusive relationships can pose, even when they're nominally over.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Part of what made Anderson such a danger to Smith was his familiarity with her routine: He knew where she worked — and he most likely knew that, as her spouse, he could access her workplace without raising suspicion.

When Safe Horizon makes contact with a victim who wants to break up with an abusive partner, it helps them come up with a safety plan, which entails determining the least risky time to leave — often when the abuser is at work, on vacation, or on a lunch break.

Shelter locations, where victims might temporarily relocate, aren't made public to prevent stalking or worse. A victim who leaves might be placed in a shelter in a different neighborhood or neighboring town to minimize the risk of running into their abuser.

"This is where you sort of understand how difficult it is to leave, because often someone might have to uproot their life for their safety," Pacheco explains.

For friends and family members, it can be heartbreaking not to urge loved ones to leave their abusive partners.

Pointed questioning can cause victims to shut down, as Smith reportedly did with members of her family. Victims might be hesitant to end their relationships for fear of further violence, and individual situations are nuanced and complex.

A bus waits outside of North Park Elementary School. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

The best thing loved ones can do, Pacheco says, is offer unconditional support — and connect them to organizations that have the resources and expertise to assist.

"Use language that they’re using," he explains. "Maybe you notice a physical mark. You can say something like, 'I notice that you have this scar on your arm. What happened?' and sort of determine how comfortable they are speaking to that."

More importantly, friends and family can simply be present when victims are ready to seek aid.

And the most helpful thing?

"It’s really just to believe somebody," Pacheco says.

Fearing disbelief can dissuade victims from leaning on their loved ones for support. It makes it difficult for victims to go to the police to report early warning signs. And, most critically, it can dissuade them from seeking a safe way out.

Simply believing victims could go a long way to making tragedies like Smith's far less common.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

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An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

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This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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