Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Okay, Girls, Time to Listen Up!

by Kathryn Casey

They're not knights in shining armor. Their fervor isn't building because they love and want to protect you. I don't care if you met them in a bar, in church or on a college campus. The first time he lifts a fist toward you, when he issues his first threat, or his behavior verges on stalking, get help. Don't explain it away. Don't think you can change him. Tell those in charge, expose him for what he is, do what you have to do to stay safe, and get him the hell out of your life.

In fact, it's a good thing to stand your ground from the start. Take your time. Don't get invested in a guy too early. Wait on falling head over heels and starting a sexual relationship with a guy, until you know what type of person his is, including how he handles conflict. Do your best to make sure he's one of the good guys before you become romantically entangled.

There are almost always signs that a jerk's not a keeper. There are indications that the situation is spiraling out of control. Listen to your instincts. Those little hairs standing up on the back of your neck when you think about what he's capable of, they're telling you something. The goosebumps on your arms might not be from attraction but fear. Watch for the signs, keep your eyes open, and if you see indications that the guy has violence, rage, sex and love mixed-up, get out!

George Huguely, the University of Virginia lacrosse player now charged with murdering his girlfriend, another student athlete, Yeardley Love, apparently gave off those warning signals. News reports tell of prior altercations, including one with a woman police officer during which he yelled racial and sexual slurs. That run-in with the law resulted in probation. Huguely is, his friends say, a mean drunk. Yeardley must have known that; they were dating. Why didn't she alert authorities when he sent her threatening text messages? Am I blaming the victim? No. The villain here isn't Love; it's Huguely. But we as women need to be proactive. We need to do what we can to protect ourselves.

Love had options she apparently didn't take. Perhaps she thought she'd hang in there until May 23, when she and the man she was trying to wrench out of her life would each graduate and move in separate directions. Perhaps she'd talked him out of his rampages before and thought she could control him. Perhaps Love believed that, despite his threats, Huguely would never truly hurt her.

I understand that hindsight is 20/20, but Yeardley needed to take action, to get safe. She needed to understand who George Huguely is and that he had no place in her life.
If Yeardly Love didn't think she had to report Huguely's actions for her own protection, she should have done it for the women who would come after her, the ones who'd cross his path in the future. At the very least, Love needed to think: Okay. I'll get through this. But maybe he'll do it again, moving on to other victims. I need to make sure this guy has a track record, so others will be forewarned who they're dealing with.

Instead of filing for a restraining order, notifying police, at least attempting to move out of the line of fire, Yeardley was at home when Huguely says he broke down her door and attacked.

Do some women die every year at the hands of a partner even after notifying authorities and taking action? Sure. We all know that's true. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she's attempting to separate from a violent partner. It's true that there's only so much we can do to ensure our own safety, but we do have options: make reports, file complaints, get a restraining order, in this case, notify the campus police and administrators, tell your parents. Perhaps it would have been arranged for Huguely to leave the campus early, do his finals from home. Or maybe Love could have left early, returning to her home in Maryland, giving her the advantage of physical distance. Do we know for sure that any of these options would have saved Yeardley's life? No. But they could have.

So, please, don't believe you can change these guys. Don't delude yourself into thinking you owe them anything. When violence or threats of violence enter a relationship, all bets are off. Your main goal, your top priority, is safety. Get him out of your life and move on. And do everything you can to let others know who this guy is, so that when the next woman files a report, the investigating officer sees that your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband has a history of violence. At least then there's the potential that the new girlfriend's fears will be taken seriously.


Anonymous said...

The police already HAD a record on him. If she had gotten a TRO she would have been dead sooner.

The front door of the Sorority house should have been locked, and she should have never left herself alone. Locked bedroom doors dont really do much.

Kathryn Casey said...

How do you know that? Every thing I've read says she never went to either the university or local police for help despite death threats. Sure the sorority door should have been locked, but do you really think that would have stopped him? Would having a friend there have helped? Her best option was to go to authorities.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above: Yeah, police had a record on him for the thing with the woman cop, not for being abusive. Not for threatening his girlfriend. What makes you think that girl would have been dead sooner? Do you know her? If so, did he threaten to kill her if she went to authorities? SUre, believe him. His word is obviously good. How'd that turn out for her, keeping quiet?

Anonymous said...

I didnt say with her. He had a record for the policewoman. A piece of paper isnt going to stop someone like him. A locked Sorority house probably would have helped. Let's face it. TRO's make phsycho's worse. They piss them off. You had better know who you are dealing with if you get a TRO on them and dont get the hell out of Dodge.

Kathryn Casey said...

Anon 10:45 and 3:28, I'm having a difficult time understanding what you're recommending women do? Certainly you're not suggesting they allow themselves to be bullied into doing nothing? Yeardley did nothing, and she's now dead.

Maybe Yeardley needed to get out of Dodge, as you're suggesting. Does that go against alerting authorities? When she showed up in her new location, if Huguely followed her, isn't she better off having a paper trail in Virginia? Something to show police?

As I mentioned in the piece, if she had gone to school officials, police, and her parents, something might have been worked out to allow her to take finals at home, in Maryland. That would have put, as I said, physical distance between her and Huguely. This is a case where she had evidence: Huguely's text messages, which reports say included threats on her life.

What I'm trying to say here is: SPEAK UP. GET HELP. DON'T STAY SILENT!

D said...

Great post. Every teen age girl should read it. In fact, if I had a daughter I would print it out, laminate it and make her read it every few months.

I too wish Yeardley had filed complaints. At least then it would be on record that he had threatened her making it harder for him to now claim her death was an 'accident'.

And that was a very good point about filing a complaint if not for herself but for the protection of others who may date him.

While I understand that filing a report can antagonize the abuser, you have to start somewhere. It is just as dangerous to remain silent.
At least by filing a report it is on record.

I think too many women think it could never happen to them and that is why they don't go to the authorities.

As for the door being locked, well that may have slowed him down or delayed him but at some point he would have found her.

My fear is his parents will hire high priced attorneys who will off somehow get him out of this and one day he will hurt someone else.

Anonymous said...

I agree with D. You have to watch out for yourself, and sitting back and waiting for someone to carry out threads they'd already made, isn't smart. I had a daughter-in-law who gave my son hell, and he filed against her. She was ticked off at first, but got over it, and it did make her stay away. Works both ways, when the victim is a guy, too!

D2 said...

This is a blog every single woman should read and take to heart.

Great job Kathryn Casey.

Anonymous said...

Most of the men who are abusive have 2 faces. 1 with the girlfriend and 1 with everyone else,their buddies. In my relationship some people did not believe me he was abusive, because he was "such a cool guy". They manipulate and know how to persuade the people they talk to. In the past is why law enforcement let them go. There are many variables on why someone does not notify law enforcement and higher authorities. Love probably was embarrassed and thought she could handle it herself. I thought this too, but it took time to realize I could not.

Jude said...

Great post, as always, KC.

I will certainly show this to my grandaughter who thinks no one has a mean bone in their body. Even the boy who sat with her in his truck with a gun threatening to kill himself if she broke up with him. Thank God her dad came home and talked with the boy. More than I would have done had I been there!