Predicting Dating Violence

That's a mugshot, above.

He's thought to have accidentally killed the girl he loved, Yeardley Love. Bloggers jumped on the story last week. Now print journalism is catching up, picking up where we left off.

The girl on the cover of today's People could have been a model. But Yeardley Love chose sports. Her athletic boyfriend, lacrosse star George Huguely V, beat her head against a wall in a drunken rage, killed her on May 3, ten days ago. Both were students at the University of Virginia, neither will return.

Page 63, lower left,
Now many are asking, how could this have happened? Could school officials have done more to prevent dating violence?
Some of us are of one mind, and the answer is a resounding YES. (See Relationship-Wise, and previous posts. Or maybe you're tired of the story.)

We only care because they're so attractive, athletes like George Huguely and Yeardley Love. And the potential of kids like this, having it all-- looks, talent, money. To blow it, to lose everything-- it makes everyone wonder. If they can't make it, who can?

The schools are getting the blame for ignoring the warning signs, which won't make the Loves, Yeardley's family, feel a whole lot better.

University President John Casteen is shouting about it, suggesting we all have a share of the process:
"Don't hear a scream, don't watch abuse, don't hear stories of abuse from your friends and keep quiet."
Or you're an accomplice, if not in the strictest sense of the word.

How many people are guilty of this? Millions, for sure. Most of us don't get involved when it comes to intimate partner violence. Most of us don't know about it. Even the cops will say: It's rough sex. People like it.

What we have so far on George Huguely V, the young man accused of murder, is that
he was fine --a happy, friendly little boy-- until age eight.
That's when his parents divorced. His father, George Huguely IV, was born to money, lived a plush lifestyle, but was in arrears in 1997 to his estranged wife Marta to the sum of $11,478.

Born to money, you sort of think, that kind of sum, he could have found it anywhere. His son was probably ten when the power and control played out. Who knows what little George saw, what he heard, what he thought.

According to People, a peer of the elder Huguely said that George the younger grew up watching his father "thumb his nose at authority."

That role model thing; it really matters.

Whereas his father thumbed his nose at the judge for child support, the younger, as a collegian, thumbed his nose at police, displayed disorderly conduct while intoxicated in 2008. Most of us don't swear at police, use racial epithets. George Huguely V, star athlete, did.

He didn't learn from his community service or alcohol abuse program, either. In 2009 he took matters into his own hands, flaunted the laws about battery, beat up a sleeping teammate. The teammate had allegedly kissed his girlfriend.

Yes, Yeardley Love.

What's interesting from our perspective is that the psycho-dynamics of childhood, the interplay between parent relationships and how children perceive their parents, themselves, their identity, the past, isn't always the focus of therapy anymore. The first order of business is to think about what's going in in the here and now, make sure no one is suicidal. Treat it all, make the symptoms abate with either meds or a very intellectual, cognitive-behavioral therapy. We don't get mired in history.

Well, some of us still do. The lesson here is that it is best to do both, mire yourself in history, and stay in the here and now, too. Make sure no one wants to bash in anyone's head. It's not as hard as it sounds, flipping the channels in therapy. Give us forty-five minutes, we'll give you your soul.

And here you have it, smoldering backlash against CBT. History does make a difference. It molds our personalities, sculpts our responses to things like. . . abandonment.

Not that people shouldn't divorce for fear of that separation, the effect it will have on the children. And not that we can truly shield our children from our emotions, our anger. These things are often unavoidable, the expression of anger, they are inevitable in life, feelings. You can't make all relationships work. Most of us can't. And kids aren't stupid.

But please. When there are kids, and they are in the middle in divorce? Take care of their emotional needs. Address their issues. Never normalize your rage or your partner's, not to yourself, not to your kids. It has to go, the rage, or it's revisited. It can be.

We hear that male members of the University of Virginia Lacrosse team carried Ms. Love's casket down the aisle of the cathedral during the memorial service. George Huguely V wasn't there, as much as he surely loved her, the girl his passion stole from him. He's in jail, awaiting a June 10 court date for first degree murder.



Isle Dance said…
Thanks so much for sharing this, TherapyDoc. So true. So sad. And far too common.
Jack said…

He's thought to have accidentally killed the girl he loved,

I have a hard time accepting that this was an accident. It wasn't like he pushed her and she "accidentally" fell down the stairs.

I have been drunk before. I have been angry and drunk and I always understood that I wasn't quite right.

Now maybe it is unfair for me to try and place myself in a situation that I wasn't in, but...

I just don't feel badly for him. And the other examples of his anger show no reason to feel otherwise.

A powder keg waiting to explode...
Tzipporah said…
Having spent a few years at that university as a grad student from elsewhere, teaching these kids, there is a definite gender-power dynamic among the undergrad athletes at play here. Something very old-South, not quite as explosive as the racial divisions there, but still a factor in why his potential violence went unnoticed or dismissed.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you, that it's important to know the person's history and you have to address the here and now. It is so sad, seems so unnecessary, the death of the young woman and the mess that is that young man's life.

On the topic of trying to speak up when there's abuse, I've been in that position and did speak up. Unfortunately it didn't seem to do any good, just made the person angry and defending behavior that really shouldn't be defended. I wonder if that's a common reaction from someone in an abusive situation.
Syd said…
I suspect that his parents and probably those around him had a lot of denial about what was really going on with him. Many just shrug and say...Boys will be boys. But that deep seething anger can be very pathological. I once hired a fellow who seemed okay, did a good job, went to a prestigious school, had MD's for parents and was intelligent. What I didn't know was that he had been institutionalized. I found that out after he killed a man and shot a deputy sheriff. I think that those around him and knew were in denial and yet, I didn't know he had mental issues. It is sometimes difficult to discern such pathology.
Anonymous said…
He didn't love her. And it wasn't an accident.

This was abuse, and abuse is completely incompatible with love.

Abuse sees the other as a thing, a possession to be owned and controlled. Love sees the other as a person, to be valued and respected.
therapydoc said…
Right, speaking up about abuse can be fruitless. I called Special Victims (for real) about a case I had, an adult in trouble, and was told that until she called herself, there was nothing they could do.

But at least I called. Perhaps another officer might have done something differently.

Syd, that would scare me!

Anon, I hear you, but to some people, that's love, controlling, possessing. If they don't own it, how could they love it? They can relearn the concept, get over the idea that people aren't possessions. This is a big part of the educational effort I feel has to begin somewhere-- maybe we shouldn't wait for higher education.
Ella said…
Yes, to become the witness, hear it, say something, report it - people do not choose this, they choose to pretend that nothing happened, ignore it.

In my college days, we had one co-ed dorm, rest were one gender. The women connected and protected each other. The girl with the black eye, the girl with the big bite mark on her arm, they each heard from friends and other women "you don't have to put up with that, what he is doing is wrong".
There was a curfew - opposite gender must leave by 10 PM.
In any case, at any time, a man in the hall got noticed.

I don't think we will likely go back to one-gender from co-ed, but it's the only thing I can think of that helped to keep us safer.
Anonymous said…
It wasn't an accident and he didn't love her: he murdered her while abusing her. Please don't call that love.
therapydoc said…
You're right. That's not love.
Barbara said…
I wish you could be my son's therapist.
Anonymous said…
I realize that times have changed but when I was in therapy during the late 80's, early 90's the focus between my therapist and me definitely WAS the childhood crap. I suppose another reason for the "here and now" concept is the fact that some insurances won't cover "long term" therapy which is what I had. Towards the end of it, I would see him once a month...I called it "getting my batteries recharged." But it certainly paid off, going from self-loathing to liking the person who I saw in the mirror. For that I will be eternally grateful.
lynette said…
this whole story just makes me want to cry -- for a little boy who did not have to end up a killer, for a young woman who just happened to make the fatal mistake of having a relationship with him.

i am promoting dating violence as a parent education topic in our schools -- it is amazing to me how many parents had never even thought about it. i was talking about it with my daughter and her 10th grade friends, after one girl said she couldn't stand Rihanna and wished that Chris had "finished the job". pleased to say that the other girls jumped all over her for that comment.

i hope i never see my daughter's or son's faces in such a story as this.
lynette said…
sorry, promoting DISCUSSION of dating violence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wonderingsoul said…
So much in this case...
Again, this blog is the first I've heard of it as it hasn't been publicised here in the UK.

I do believe that divorce has a profound effect on kids.
More so than is recognised.
I often teach kids whose parents are going through divorce proceedings and I wonder how they cope. (Some don't)
Generally, amongst their peers, there is an attitude of divorce being a norm... and so even with friends who have been through a similar thing, there is little support.
This is not to say that I think divorce produces murderers though...
Not by a long way.
I'm just saying that it causes untold damage to a child.

Role models, as you say, are so important.
George's father sounds as though he created a bit of a monster.

Hard though, to pick on any one thing.
It has to be a combination of things in these cases...
After all, we've all had toughthings happen... just not in the same configuration with the same set of genetic codes and family values.
therapydoc said…
All great comments, here, and I'm flattered, Barbara, thanks.
Anonymous said…
I was in a relationship with a guy who was much like George Huguely V. "Randy" is a good looking, UCLA graduate who is now a lawyer. An only child with still-married parents who doted on him endlessly. Randy could do no wrong.

We had a son together in 2001. Soon after, when he realized magnitude of the responsibility, he quit his job and moved in with his parents for a year in an attempt to avoid paying child support.

We reconciled and within a month he beat me up and I ended up in the hospital. He and his parents blamed me for his actions.

Thankfully, with the help of some good psychotherapy, I got out of the relationship. I subsequently married a fantastic man has raised our son as his own. (And Randy has chosen not to have contact with our son. He's since married a Russian bride and had another son.)

Sometimes "abusers" blame their victims for their actions, and their parents enable them. And sadly, sometimes "victims" accept the blame.

Nice Blog keep sharing, TherapyDoc
Mark said…
Great post. I will be sharing this with parents who I know are going through a very loud divorce and the children are very exposed.
April_optimist said…
This is a very good and very important post.

Note: I'm suspending my own blog--and wrote a final post--but wanted to stop by and say how much I've valued your blog over the past few years.
blogbehave said…
And where have I been? This is the first I've heard of this tragedy. Thanks for posting your insights. Always insightful.

I recall having ignored some signs of violence in friends' dating relationships as a teen, and having confronted and offered support in other instances. In the latter, the victim would (as is typical) minimize and deny, making it difficult to know what to do or say, how to have a real impact. But knowing the name and phone number of a local domestic violence therapy center is very helpful (something I didn't have, those many years ago).
Let teenagers know it is never okay for someone to hit them or for them to hit someone else. Violence is never a part of a healthy dating relationship. Teens involved in such violent relationships are more likely to be involved in violent, abusive relationships when they become adults.