I am an avowed true crime junkie and I am not ashamed to say it. Give me all the true crime podcasts, Investigation Discovery shows and Dateline episodes. For whatever reason (and much to my husband’s chagrin), I AM HERE FOR ALL OF IT. So naturally, when I heard Netflix had a documentary coming out about the horrific 2018 murder of Shanann Watts, her unborn child and her two daughters at the hands of her husband, Chris, I did what crime junkies do. I set a reminder, poured myself a cup of coffee and turned it on at 7:15 a.m. the morning it appeared on my Netflix feed.

The Shanann Watts documentary is extremely unique: it is made up entirely of social media video clips, police interrogation and body cam footage, and home videos.

There are no formal interviews at all. It is as if you are watching the drama play out as a physical bystander. It is powerful, shocking, and most of all, deeply tragic. The emotions as I watched Shannan, Bella, and CeCe’s story turned very, very heavy. I wanted to understand how this seemingly perfect family could have imploded the way it did. How could a man kill his own children with his own hands?  

The documentary did not bring me any understanding. Shanann had painted a very rosy picture of their family life with her social media posts, and I don’t think anyone could have seen the murders coming.

But a social media post published after the documentary aired shed some light on how these things can and do happen, and they are really not rare.

According to a viral post by Facebook user Jessica Angelica, Shanann is one of three women killed every single day in the United States by a romantic partner. Pregnancy adds another risk factor: homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women, followed by heart disease. 

Did you know that? I didn’t.

RELATED: Silence Fuels Domestic Violence, So I’m Speaking Up

Jessica Angelica’s post on signs of domestic violence is now going viral, and for good reason. While she notes that Chris and Shanann Watts’ relationship does not appear to have been affected by any of these factors, I believe it honors Shanann and her children’s memories to share them as Jessica did.

Here are some important points her post makes that all women should be aware of:

Shanann said this man was her rock in May. He killed her and all their children three months after she posted this picture. (Her family has left it up for awareness, Netflix has made a documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door.)
Men who commit familicide:
  • Previous domestic violence history (prior domestic violence history is the #1 indicator)
  • Generally non-Hispanic white male
  • Own/access to a gun
  • There are 1 million women in the US who have survived being shot or shot at by an intimate partner.
  • Roughly 3 women are killed every day in the USA by an intimate partner. Between Oct 1, 2020 and Dec 31, 2020 that’s another 276 of you. By this late in the year he’s already shown you the signs. Get out.

One thing Jessica’s post and the Netflix documentary about Shanann Watts points out is that we never truly know what’s going on behind closed doors in someone’s life.

Our social media highlight reels can be authentic as can be, or they can just be one big cover for all the things we don’t want others to see. I hope that we all learn from the Watts’ story to ask our friends and loved ones what is truly going on in their lives and to be that safe person anyone can open up to.

RELATED: From the Other Side of Survival

If you are in a domestic violence situation, please get out while you still can. Jessica offers some resources and encouragement in her post and I will repeat them here:

24 Hour National Confidential Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
“Stay Tough. Stay Alive.”

Your life is WORTH it. Please reach out for help!

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Jenny Rapson

Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.

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