Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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.Tweet