The news has recently been full of stories about women being abused and treated like property, culminating in the tragic death of Yeardley Love, a beautiful and talented 22 year old college student in Virginia. As someone who’s been in an abusive relationship (many years ago), these stories cause me a tremendous amount of anger and frustration. As much as I intend this to be a light-hearted blog, I feel forced to get serious for a moment.
There’s no way to understand what was in the heads of Ben Roethlisberger’s body guards as they blithely allowed a drunk 20-year-old girl to be led behind closed doors by Roethlisberger. Maybe they thought he was trying to help her get a career in sports broadcasting? And her girlfriends? As worried as they were, and for all their reported efforts to check on her, apparently no one had a cell phone that could have been used to call police. And the father and brother of another girl who was reportedly abused by Roethlisberger (if true) must be so proud that they convinced her not to file a complaint. It’s nice to know the men in our lives have our backs, right?
Yeardley Love’s relationship with the fellow college athlete who killed her was filled with warning signs. Some of them were giant neon blinking ones – yet it seems that no one saw this coming. The young couple fought and argued – sometimes violently. She described him as “aggressive”. He attacked another young man who he suspected of kissing Yeardley. Even his buddies describe him as an angry, violent drunk. The night she was killed, he was reportedly smashing bottles before he stalked off to “get her back”, according to some reports. How did no one see this coming?!?
But, of course, I’m looking at this from my vantage point of experience and years. My years have taught me that not only can bad things happen to good people, but that “good” people are capable of doing really terrible things. That a smiling face and smooth manner in public do not guaranty that kind of behavior behind closed doors. Once we hit 50, we’ve seen plenty of people we thought were “good” surprise us with their utter lack of goodness (or at the very least, lack of good common sense).
Forgive us Baby Boomers for our skepticism, but it’s founded in experience. After all, we grew up watching a president being impeached and run out of office for a third-rate burglary gone bad. The clean-cut, charming and so-talented Pete Rose was accused of not just gambling, but gambling on his own baseball games. A blonde, blue-eyed skating champion, Tanya Harding, was involved in a crazy attack on one of her competitors. Another president carried on sexual affairs with women in the White House. Squeaky-clean cyclists in the Tour de France were forever tainted by accusations of doping. Corporate giant Enron bilked retirees out of every penny they had. More recently, Bernie Madoff did his own brand of damage, largely to charities and pension funds. Catholic priests are making not-nice headlines, along with more evangelist preachers than I can list. Even sports’ golden boy, Tiger Woods, recently showed himself to be not just a cheater, but an absolute cad.
Yes, those of us who’ve reached a certain age know how badly things can go wrong. Little surprises us, really. But the people partying with Ben Roethlisberger, and the college friends of Yeardley Love apparently don’t know what we know. They don’t realize that when people, like Love’s accused killer George Huguely, give us those little momentary glimpses of their not-so-nice sides, they are offering us the opportunity to prevent a tragedy.
PLEASE – if you see a friend or relative in a relationship where one partner (usually the male, but not always) is a total control freak, is completely possessive, is wildly jealous, is quick to anger – take action. These behaviors aren’t cute, or temporary, or mistakes. They are warning flags. Does every jealous person turn into a killer? Of course not. But combine jealousy with possessiveness, absolute control, paranoia, rage, and alcohol or drugs – well, chances are, something bad is going to happen. Not always murder. But some form of physical or mental violence is likely. The victim, at the very least, will be made to feel stupid, weak, trapped, and responsible for every bad thing that happens (“if only you hadn’t looked at him”; “you made me do it”; “you asked for it”).
Help your friend/relative get out of that relationship as quickly and safely as possible. If there is any threat of violence, get them somewhere safe (keep yourself safe as well), make sure they are never alone, and don’t let them convince you that “he won’t really do anything” or that everyone is over-reacting. If you see a very drunk young friend allow herself to be led away by anyone, even a famous personality – call the cops. If you see a drunk young man smashing bottles in a rage, and then saying he’s going off to get his ex-girlfriend back – don’t laugh and hope for the best. Call the cops. Or, at the very least, go with him. Don’t shrug and tell your friends he’s a “good guy” or that he’ll “snap out of it.”
If you yourself are in a relationship with someone like this – GET OUT. I know he’s supremely and magically charming, funny and loving when things are good. I know you think you can “fix” him. I know he’s convinced you that his temper tantrums are your fault. That he’s sorry. That he’ll never do it again. If you are with a man who has harmed you in any way in a rage – run. Seriously – get out. It will not change. He will always be sorry, but he will continue to hurt you. If you really, truly think he can change (as a Christian, I have to say that nothing’s completely impossible), then let him do it while you are at a safe distance. And don’t take him back until you know he’s gone through some serious counseling for his issues.
We can stop young girls from making terrible mistakes in an effort to please. We can stop young men from causing harm because of their own insecurities. But we have to take action and get involved. If your only action is to forward this, or to print it and leave it anonymously for someone who might need to see it, then that’s at least a step in the right direction.