On Thursday, we learned that a police officer responding to a domestic call in the suburban borough of Canonsburg had been fatally shot. Another officer was seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire. The gunman then murdered his pregnant wife and killed himself.
It is a terrible tragedy – two people murdered, but a tragedy further compounded by the media’s hyperfocus on the fallen police officer and almost total disregard for the only person in this scenario who was not carrying a gun and also ended up dead.
Her name was Dalia Elhefny Sabae. She was 28 years old. She was born in Egypt, spent some time living in Moscow and has lived in the United States. According to her Facebook and LinkedIN pages, Dalia was fluent in three languages – American English · Français ·Arabic and proficient in three others – Hebrew, Spanish and Russian. Arabic was her native language. She was also bisexual, interested in both men and women.
Dalia was a dancer. She had been an instructor and worked various jobs as she pursued her education. She earned a pharmacy degree in 2011 and was working on a master’s program through Washington & Jefferson College near her home. Dalia was a pharmacy intern at the time of her death.
She was a college athlete – basketball and track – in Egypt. She was involved in theater.
This is all information she shared publicly on Facebook and LinkedIN. None of it made it onto the news with the sole exception of her Eyptian nationality. Even so, she was depicted over and over as a dead pregnant white woman. Period. Her PFA’s were dug up and explored, but not a single news outlet reported specifically that she was a woman of color, bisexual or even 28 years old. No outlet reported that she was an accomplished graduate student with an impressive level of fluency in six languages and many, many interests.
I’m not suggesting we not grieve the murder of a police officer responding to a call, but I am insisting that we give the ultimate victim the same degree of respect and attention. Ultimate victim doesn’t mean she was a super-victim, but simply that she was the only person in the scenario who wasn’t armed with a gun, the one who had been terrorized for months (at least) by her husband, and the one whose coworkers feared would end up badly hurt or dead. Which she did.
I wonder a bit if the hyper-focus on the police is a way to sidestep the truth that most of the folks in Canonsburg are more likely to know a woman living with an abusive partner than to know a police officer who will be killed in the line of duty. To avoid acknowledging that the crisis of intimate partner violence is rampant in our society. That Canonsburg was never safe from murderous, gun-owning white men who think they own and control the women in their lives and have such little regard for the justice system that they disregard court orders and police commands.
To make matters worse, the media has been circulating a photo of her murderer-husband and her in an intimate pose. Even in death, she’s basically reduced to her relationship to him. That’s one reason there are no links in this story.
So here are some photos of Dalia that I found on her public profiles, photos of herself that she chose to share.