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“. . . An Accident . . .”

May 21, 2010 — Categories:

This story caught my attention last week. This is how the defense attorney described his client’s murder of his former girlfriend.

This is how the defense attorney described his client's murder of his former girlfriend.

This story caught my attention last week. Sounding like the script for a made-for-TV movie, University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely broke into his ex-girlfriend’s bedroom, attacked her, slammed her head against the wall, took her computer containing his angry emails, and left her for dead. After his arrest, Huguely said he was "involved in an altercation" in which "he shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall." Hmmm . . .

Huguely’s defense attorney said, “We are confident that Ms. Love’s death was not intended but an accident with a tragic outcome.” Hmmm . . .

The moral issue here is one of agency, not intent; Huguely’s actions caused a woman’s death. Period. She was not alone in her room and tripped, falling against the wall, hitting her head and dying from the injury. That would be an accident.

Huguely probably did not break into her room with the intent to murder her. That is a point of law that will be important in charging and prosecuting him. But he did break into her room with the intent to control her, and he was willing to use physical violence to accomplish that. His confession should be, simply: “I killed her.” It’s time that abusers, if they choose to use violence, own it and the consequences of it.

This is dating violence to the extreme. Let’s make sure we see the whole of this unlikely picture. Two white upper-class seniors, both lacrosse players, are ready to graduate next month. They had dated for months, but she ended the relationship recently. He had issues and had been arrested in 2008 for drunkenness at which point he attacked the female police officer. All signs point to his pattern of abusive behavior. His girlfriend tried to get out; he wouldn’t allow it. She’s dead; he’ll go to prison.

This is the same story that is going on in our congregations, colleges and universities regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, or geography. Tragic, yes; accident, no. Teen dating violence is experienced by 25% of our youth. I call on campus programs and youth ministries to address these all-too-common experiences in the lives of our youth and hopefully prevent these tragic outcomes.

I think of Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead; fight like hell for the living.”

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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