Sadly, UVA Lacrosse Killing Was Predictable

I have always held the torch so high for my alma mater the University of Virginia (UVA) that I was pretty much blind to any criticism: perfect UVA in perfect little Charlottesville where perfect students study. Needless to say, when I read about the murder of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, I was stunned. How could such a brutal act happen in the idyllic “academical village” planned by Thomas Jefferson?

However, the more I thought and read about it, the more my sentiments began to match those of the many who asked, “Why should we be shocked?” The Justice Department reports that 85 percent of intimate partner violence is committed against women, most often those between the ages of 20 and 24. Moreover, UVA graduate Mary Beth Lineberry writes that in the past decade, more than 100 cases of dating abuse have been reported at the university, and that, “Love’s death exposes an unfortunate reality of college life that’s often obscured or silenced in communities.”

This is true not only on campuses but also in “the real world”: Talking about sexual violence, and specifically such violence perpetrated by intimate partners, is discouraged. The general attitude is to keep it to yourself, close your eyes and act like it never happened. The culture of silence around domestic violence is institutionalized because we allow it to be.

What I find appalling is that the University of Virginia, in the year 2010, in the aftermath of a student found face down in a pool of her own blood after having her head banged against the wall by her ex-boyfriend, is not taking the opportunity to shatter the silence. Many former and current UVA students are pointing out that the university not only isn’t taking necessary steps to protect women students, but also appears to be skirting the issue of domestic violence instead of confronting it.

This post by Amanda Hess in the Washington City Paper blasts the email sent out by UVA’s chief of police Mike Gibson, encouraging students in the aftermath of this tragedy to “never allow strangers to follow you into a locked building.” Hess rightly asks, “[If] police believe that Love was killed by a more likely suspect—a man she knew…why hasn’t UVA included any information here about domestic violence?”

Hess points out that despite the murder, students are not being given adequate information on how they can identify that they’re in an abusive relationship, the resources available to them at the university, or how to help friends in abusive relationships. She quotes a peer who says:

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.

The murder of Yeardley Love must not become just another statistic. It is a reminder and warning of what happens when we allow domestic violence to be swept under the rug. Academic institutions have the advantage of being able to turn a situation into an educational opportunity. Right now, UVA has a chance to educate its student body and its community about intimate partner violence. Creating awareness around an issue is often the best way to eliminate it.

Cross-posted from “Anushay’s Point”.

Photo of University of Virginia campus from http://www.flickr.com/photos/koocbor/ / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Comments

  1. Dear Anushay: I understand the concerns that you have outlined in your blog — but hope that you don’t think that is where the University communication stopped. There have been three communications from President Casteen to the University community, one from Pat Lampkin, vp for student affairs, and one from Craig Littlepage, athletic director. In addition, President Casteen spoke at a vigil on Wednesday evening. In all of his communications he has been extraordinarily strong in his message that such violence has no place in a community of trust and that we all must share the responsibility for speaking up if we suspect that a friend is in danger. Yeardley Love’s death should move us all to action.

    I have included a link to President Casteen’s remarks from the vigil. I believe that your faith in your alma mater will be restored. — with kind regards, Carol Wood, avp for Public Affairs, University of Virginia

    http://www.virginia.edu/president/spch/10/casteenvigil050510.html

  2. anonymous says:

    How fortunate that THIS time when a self-entitled, rich, popular, pretty, white lacrosse boy crossed the line, there’s a chance he might actually pay for his crime! Of course, his father – George Huguely IV – got him a lawyer right away who explained that bashing a woman’s skull in, leaving her to die face down in a pool of her own blood and having the presence of mind to take her computer and dispose of it can be explained away as “an accident.”

    Since the victim wasn’t raped but killed and also happens to be rich, white and, oh yes…a talented lacrosse player as well, the public is outraged.

    My, I’m SHOCKED that we have a culture that would reward these tykes from the time they can walk for being such crazed, misogynistic fiends on the field – “ATTACK! KILL! CONQUER!” – and then when they display the same behavior off the field, going nuts if they don’t get their way…

    GASP! Will anything change in the macho lacrosse culture as a result? I won’t hold my breath.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it to much to ask that a course on sexual assault and domestic violence be required of all students wishing to graduate at any institution including high schools where this pattern starts?

    Survey say: NO

    In fact it is unreasonable that it is not required. But hey, you can’t tell an educator anything. They all ready know it all.

  4. Kirsten says:

    Thank you, Anushay. As I’ve been reading the coverage of Yeardley’s murder, I’ve been really troubled by the absence of any mention that this young woman was a victim of intimate partner violence. As long as we don’t call it for what it is, we can continue to ignore it. Thank you for saying it out loud.

  5. Thank you, Kirsten for your comment! Means a lot to me. And Ms. Carol Wood, thank you for taking the time to reach out and comment as well. I really appreciate it.

  6. I learned about this blog post from a Ms. Magazine tweet – “get real about violence.” Was disappointed, because I didn’t feel this post, heartfelt though it is, represents “getting real about violence.”

    When I had tweeted that the piece came across as “white women crying about white women,” (among other things), Ms. Magazine pointed out that the author Anushay Hossain was not white. However, from my perspective, as a white resident of Southeast Michigan, which is routinely touted as one of the most segregated areas of the country, Hossain’s blog entry did “read white.”

    In describing the scene of the crime as “…perfect UVA in perfect little Charlottesville where perfect students study,” and finding herself “stunned” that “such a brutal act [could] happen in the idyllic “academical village” planned by Thomas Jefferson?,” several things come to mind:

    The “Founding Fathers of Our Country,” as traditionally understood, were slaveholders – including Thomas Jefferson. So much of American history has flowed from that fact – Civil War, a “reconstruction period” actually functioning as a deconstruction of black emancipation; Jim Crow; The Great Migration to the North (including Detroit); Northern racism, Civil Rights movement – and all the violence this implies.

    So really, understanding this history, why wouldn’t we expect “brutal acts” at Jefferson’s “academical village,” rather than be stunned? Particularly, if we as feminists think it through, we might realize that the American Founding Fathers and Mothers include those held as slaves at Jefferson’s Monticello – a country isn’t founded on ideas alone, but back-breaking labor also.

    So to start out with, from my perspective, the description of UVA given in this blog post (even if meant ironically) has a bit too much of the Teabagger in it, and not enough of the feminist.

    Next, the statistic that:

    “Moreover, UVA graduate Mary Beth Lineberry writes that in the past decade, more than 100 cases of dating abuse have been reported at the university,”

    That ends up being 10 cases per year. On Mother’s Day 2010 in Detroit, Avondre Donel was murdered, shot once in the chest:

    “The 15-year-old honor student and church choir member was not allowed to wander more than five houses away from home in his crime-ridden west side neighborhood, where last week there were two reported home invasions, two assaults and an armed robbery within a mile radius, according to Detroit Police crime mapping statistics.”

    From The Detroit News: http://tinyurl.com/2ws7uzr

    So that would be 6 cases (including Avondre Donel’s) in about a WEEK in a 1-mile radius in Detroit.

    I’m frustrated that after how many decades of “stopping violence against women” outrage, rhetoric, activism, that we just haven’t been able to find a way to connect the dots – the commonality between Avondre Donel’s murder and Yeardley Love’s murder – why?

    I guess I’d like to see the notions of “domestic violence” and “intimate partner violence” expanded, to include violence against men – I mean, gang members often refer to their gang as their “family” – and they murder each other to protect their “family” or their “family’s turf” or economic interests – aren’t gang members “intimate partners,” in some sense?

    And if Avondre Donel was on the porch of his friend’s house before dinner, isn’t that a “domestic” scene, didn’t his murder take place within a “domestic” environment?

    Don’t mean to be so critical of this particular blog post. Just trying to reconcile a few things in my own mind, as a “geographic” feminist (i.e., I live in a particular place with a particular troubled history, and gender is only one part of it), rather than “anatomic” feminist (i.e., I have female anatomy, and therefore center my attention on issues involving those with the same anatomy).

  7. ANY time a woman is attacked, assaulted, raped, or experiences gender violence, she should NOT report this to the campus police–at least not first–even though it might seem like the most efficient response to the attack. If the area has a rape “hotline” for getting help after an assault that might afford the woman an “ally” who can help her through the process of getting medical treatment and dealing with the aftermath.

    After receiving the necessary medical help the victim should GET OFF CAMPUS AND REPORT IT TO THE LOCAL SHERIFF’S DEPT, OR THE POLICE OF THE MUNICIPALITY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED. Why? Because there is evidence that at some colleges, their campus police have compromised what victims needed in order to protect their colleges’ reputations. Many colleges do not even keep records of the rate of sexual attacks on their female students. If the victim deals with the municipal police or sheriff’s department for assistance, it’s somewhat less likely to get “whitewashed” or minimized than if the college administrators were in charge of the response to sexual violence on their campuses.

  8. Ailim Hazel says:

    I work in education so I am familiar with the bureaucratic tricks administraters use in both high schools and colleges to keep their crimes rates low. In high schools they throw out write-ups, fail to call crises, etc in order to eliminate any paper trail that might have the state stepping in and declaring the school a “violent school” which could eventually get that school taken over by the state and shut down. I worked in such a school. The administrator did all of the above and buried any conflicts with violent students because the previous year we had too many violent write-ups and were in danger of being declared just that.

    Colleges only have to report crimes that involve the local or state police. If the campus security cops handle it then it can be easily buried and so never makes the official crime lists and doesn’t get included in that section of the brochures listing crime rates for prospective students to consider. I don’t know this university personally, I’m from NY but if they are like all other universities in the country, they bury their paper trail too.

    I’m not shocked this is getting buried. The first university I went to for my first degree did this. Private catholic university. A fellow women’s studies student did a real survey of women on campus and individual anonymous interviews of women who had been raped during that year. What was reported was officially 0 rapes in the campus crimes statistics. She had 6 interviews with victims. The crime rate was definitely not 0 as reported. It’s because these attacks were handled through security and the counseling center they did not become official.

    I guarantee that if the outside media had not gotten a hold of this murder it would have been buried as quickly as possible. At most it would have been only a number in the pamphlet. Whenever perusing those campus crime rates, I recommend multiplying by ten at least.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anushay Hossain. Anushay Hossain said: @msmagazine Was Yeardley Love's murder predictable? http://sn.im/w4ssq #Yeardley Love #UVA [...]

  2. [...] her ex-boyfriend, George Huguely, also 22, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. But some people are asking: should we really be acting so [...]

  3. [...] details on this case), a UVA Lacrosse player was murdered, presumably by her ex-boyfriend, which Ms. Magazine argues was forseeable and for which Feministing pointed out the role privilege played in obscuring the [...]

  4. [...] no shortage of explanations for the tragic death of Yeardley Love, University of Virgina lacrosse player at the hands of George Huguely, a player on the men’s [...]

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