Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Where Domestic Violence Comes From

Today in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd paints a disturbing picture of the culture that produced George Huguely V, the Virginia lacrosse player who has been charged with murdering his girlfriend Yeardley Love.

It was set up like a fantasy football league draft. The height, weight and performance statistics of the draftees were offered to decide who would make the cut and who would emerge as the No. 1 pick.

But the players in this predatory game were not famous N.F.L. stars. They were unwitting girls about to start high school.

A group of soon-to-be freshmen boys at Landon, an elite private grade school and high school for boys in the wealthy Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md., was drafting local girls.

One team was called “The Southside Slampigs,” and one boy dubbed his team with crude street slang for drug-addicted prostitutes.

The young woman who was the “top pick” was described by one of the boys in a team profile he put up online as “sweet, outgoing, friendly, willing to get down and dirty and [expletive] party. Coming in at 90 pounds, 5’2 and a bra size 34d.” She would be a special asset to the team, he noted, because her mother “is quite the cougar herself.”

Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an “opening day party,” complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

“They evidently got points for first, second and third base,” said one outraged father of a drafted girl. “They were going to have parties and tally up the points, and money was going to be exchanged at the end of the season.” He said that the boys would also have earned points for “schmoozing with the parents.”

His daughter, he said, “was very upset about it. She thought these guys were her friends. This is the way we teach boys to treat women, young ladies? You have enough to worry about as a 14- or 15-year-old girl without having to worry about guys who are doing it as sport.”

Another parent was equally appalled: “I think the girls felt like they were getting targeted, that this was some big game. Talk about using people. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”
This would have been the perfect time for an intervention. If the school had taken this predatory behavior toward women seriously enough and the boys had seen a meaningful consequence for their actions, this could have been a turning point. Men can be shown how their behavior negatively impacts the women in their life, and they can be persuaded to change. However, some of the parents don't think the boys were sufficiently punished. By not punishing young men when these mindsets and behaviors are discovered, we are telling them that punishment is not warranted and that what they did wasn't all that bad.

Maybe, to some, this wasn't all that bad. But this is just the early stage of a man seeing women only as sexual objects to be obtained, not as partners with feelings of their own. If a young man continues down this road of not seeing women as full people, something much worse could happen.

A gunman who shot and killed his wife and three other women at a South Florida restaurant before committing suicide was the half-brother of former baseball star Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Police said the shooter bypassed at least two men when he fired at the women inside. Three women were hospitalized in critical condition, Hialeah police Detective Eddie Rodriguez said.

"He went straight for the women," Rodriguez said.
Four women are now dead, and three others are injured in what is only the most recent in our nation's history of gender-motivated mass murders.
This time it was Gerardo Regalado, half-brother of former baseball star Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, and the crime took place in South Florida. Last year it was George Sodini in Collier County, PA, who opened fire in an all-female aerobics class in an act of misguided revenge for a sexually frustrated existence. Before that, it was Cho Seung-Hui, the mentally unstable stalker of women at Virginia Tech, who ended up being responsible for the worst school shooting in U.S. history. In 2006, it was the school shootings in Amish country and in Colorado’s Platte Canyon. And in 1998, it was the murder of four elementary school girls and their female teacher in Jonesboro, AR.

I am sick to death that I have to keep writing some version of this same article or blog post on loop. But I have to, because in all of these cases, gender-based violence lies at the heart of these crimes — and leaving this motivating factor uninvestigated not only deprives the public of the full, accurate picture of the events at hand, but leave us without the analysis and context needed to understand the violence, recognize warning signs, and take steps to prevent similar massacres in the future.
Those steps are exactly what parents of the girls targeted by the Landon boys were advocating. They wanted the predatory mindset punished early. They took it seriously because they saw the negative impact on their daughters. The family and friends of the women murdered and injured in Florida will be taking the punishment of predatory behavior seriously, because they have also seen the negative impact. We take it seriously, because we see its impact every day. Won't you take it seriously, too?

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