Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeardley Love and Dating Violence

Recognize the name George Huguely? He is the former boyfriend charged with killing UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love. We wouldn't be surprised if you recognize her name but not his. Reporting on domestic violence often concentrates on the victim, why she stayed, what she could have done to stay safe, and often erases the culpability of the perpetrator entirely. Even Newsweek, who ran a story on the case this week, felt the need to title their story "Turns Out, Yeardley Love Couldn't Have Gotten a Restraining Order If She Wanted To".

Despite that, the article has good information about dating violence. Dating violence is the common term for domestic violence (or family violence, or intimate partner violence) that is used when the couple is not married, has not lived together, or do not have children together. The title of the article draws attention to a major difference in the way that the law addresses domestic violence vs. dating violence. In many states, victims of dating violence cannot apply for a restraining order.

The tragedy has also brought new light to dating violence on college campuses, where as many as one in four female students experience sexual assault. But perhaps the most disturbing new revelation is the fact that, despite Huguely's violent past, Love couldn't have filed for a restraining order against him even if she wanted to. Virginia is one of eight states that excludes people in dating relationships—in other words, unmarried couples or partners—from getting protective restraining orders, and for the past three years, the state has failed an annual assessment of domestic-violence-protection laws. Presented by Break the Cycle, a national nonprofit that works to end domestic violence, the State Law Report Card assesses how easy, or difficult, it is for teens seeking legal protection from abuse.
In Georgia, Love could have applied for what our state calls at Stalking Protective Order. She would have been required to document repeated acts that caused her to fear for her own safety or the safety of a member of her immediate family, and that caused her emotional distress. It would have been up to the judge to determine if these things qualify:

[Huguely] had been Tasered by a female police officer in 2008, after threatening her in a drunken rage. He had to be separated from Love at a party, and allegedly attacked a sleeping teammate, leaving his face bruised, after hearing that the player had kissed Love. He'd been charged with underage alcohol possession, reckless driving, and in 2008, police were summoned by the 22-year-old's father after the two got into a heated argument aboard a fishing boat and Huguely tried to swim the quarter mile to shore.
It is pretty clear to everyone reading that summary that Huguely was a guy who had trouble with violence and anger. He had been arrested and he had had friends physically separate him from Love at a party, illustrating for him that his behavior had gone to far. However, he was never kicked out of school, or even off the lacrosse team, for his violent behavior. The University has been hammered over that very issue, but claim that they had no way of knowing of Huguely's violent past because police aren't required to notify universities of the arrest of their students. Until we get to a place where we are taking violence against women seriously, until we are notifying those who can hold perpetrators accountable when it happens, until we are holding violent abusers accountable in meaningful ways, tragedies like this will continue to happen. That's not happening now. What is happening now is that people are completely missing the point:

All we know about Love’s death is that she was likely killed by someone close to her. So why are UVA police responding to the murder by warning students against crimes committed by strangers?

The e-mail, from University of Virginia Police Chief Mike Gibson:

While Charlottesville remains a relatively safe environment, crimes do occur in our community. The best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and for that of your friends and fellow students. A few key reminders:

Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately report your concerns to police by calling 911.

If you are on the Grounds and need help, pick up one of the blue-light telephones. You will be immediately connected to University Police. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not let a cell phone conversation or listening
to music distract you when crossing the street or in any type of situation that calls for your full attention.

Avoid isolated areas and walking alone at night. Use SafeRide (434-242-1122), walk with friends, or take a late-night weekend bus.

Keep your doors and windows locked.

Never allow strangers to follow you into a locked building and gain entry by “tailgating” you once you swipe the card reader in a residence hall. Also, never prop open card-reader doors.

If you see any of the following, immediately call the police at 911: a prowler, someone peeping into a residence, an individual watching, photographing or filming an area, or any other suspicious behavior.

Work with your neighbors and fellow community members to ensure a safe

UVA police have instructed students how to avoid and/or respond to the following: An attack on the grounds of the university. Getting hit by a car. A late-night street attack. An attack by an unknown intruder. An attack through the window. An attack by a prowler. An attack by a peeping Tom. An attack by a suspicious filmmaker.

Police believe that Love was killed by a more likely suspect—a man she knew. In general, women, and particularly young women, are more likely to be killed by someone they know than by a stranger. So why hasn’t UVA included any information here about domestic violence?

UVA student Madeleine Conger, forwarded Gibson’s e-mail. “I find it appalling . . . that no mention is made of how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship, how to avoid escalating aggressive confrontation, resources for people in abusive situations, or tips for friends of those who are,” says Conger. “Not even the number of the amazing women’s center we have here.”
She adds: “I just don’t understand why we can’t speak honestly about violence. . . . Locking your doors isn’t going to keep your boyfriend from hitting you.”

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