The abuse of one person affects many people. And very often, we are left not knowing what to do or how to help those who are being abused or those in abusive situations. Sometimes when all that can be done has been done, stepping away from the situation is the best course of action is the best you can do. I’m talking about after police have been notified and the situation is not improving.
Such was the case of a friend’s daughter eight years ago this week. Twenty six year old Lauren was living in New Orleans, hoping to soak up the ambience for her career as a writer. She and her room-mate worked as waitresses at a restaurant near their apartment. Lauren’s room-mate was having trouble with her ex-boyfriend, a very large angry man who would stand outside the restaurant and glare at the two young women while they worked. Occasionally there were verbal threats issued when they stepped outside for break or to go home.
After many calls to 911 which were not taken seriously by police, Lauren had decided that when she returned to New Orleans after spending Christmas and New Year’s with her family, she was going to find a new apartment and move out and leave this situation.
And so she did. She found another apartment and left work on the evening of January 12, 2013 planning to go home and finish packing for her move the next day. Her room-mate stayed behind at work and did not come home until several hours later.
Later on that evening, or in the early hours of the 13th, Lauren was caught off guard and surprised by her room-mate’s ex-boyfriend, who had broken into the apartment. Now like I said, he was a big man. Big and threatening and looking for trouble. Lauren, a tiny little thing. A couple of hours later, her room-mate came home to find that Lauren had been viciously beaten and killed….just hours before she was about to move out. She was killed by a person who she was not even involved with. Someone who broke in with the intent to kill someone and happened to find her there alone.
The ex boyfriend was caught and arrested and put in jail where he remains. But a murder conviction took time. It was said that he had limited mental capacity. He said that he had feared for his life. He finally was said to be competent to stand trial but took a plea deal and plead guilty to manslaughter. But that was of little comfort to Lauren’s friends and family. There is a little pocket park dedicated in her name in New Orleans. But again, what comfort is that to a grieving mother?
The police had been called just hours before the murder when the perpetrator threatened to kill his ex outside of the restaurant where she and Lauren worked. But nothing was done. He had prior drug convictions, a number of reports for help called in to the police. And time and time again, he was just taken away from the situation and released.
I know this is upsetting and for that I apologize, but things like this happen way too often. This young woman did not have to die. I knew her when she was a child. I knew her mom and her dad. They are good people. Good kind-hearted people.
I was recently watching the story of Rodney Alcala, aka the “Dating Game Killer”. He got away with murdering many women….and a 12 year old child….because he was attractive and intelligent and lured women with his offers to photograph them. When he was finally caught, hundreds of photos of women were found in a storage locker that belonged to him, along with trophies such as pieces of jewelry that belonged to his victims.
They kept letting him go. Kept giving him short sentences and letting him go for good behavior. As soon as he was let go, he would kill again. Granted, he was not in jail for murder, but even when the pieces were put together and had a witness from a victim who survived…they were able to claim he was wrongly convicted and retry him.
What’s wrong with this world where adults and children are treated as disposable objects to be used for lusts and desires instead of seeing them as people, and where the rights of criminals outweigh those of their victims?
So where am I going with this? Well, first, a failure of the justice system and the police when it comes to domestic issues and protection, and making it difficult to prosecute and to prove abuse where there are no black eyes or broken bones evident.
In the first case, even though the man who murdered Lauren had openly threatened to kill his girlfriend only hours before he killed Lauren, and it was not the first time police had to be called, because there was no physical evidence of abuse, he was able to walk free. In the second case, the case went back and forth and seemed as if the murderer could go free. It wasn’t until they introduced DNA matching with the victims and the items in the storage locker that they actually “had” Alcala where he could not proclaim his innocence.
We are talking about “regular guys” here. One who was involved in “just a domestic” call and the other who had a high I.Q. who knew his way around the law and who knew how to turn on the charm to manipulate people. It is estimated that Alcala killed over 100 women. What happens then when trying to report and prosecute a member of the respected clergy? It’s not easy. And change is slow in coming.
We think we can spot the “bad guys”. We think we are safe in our homes and that we know who we can trust when we speak to a stranger. Normally the average person isn’t fluent in psychology and adept at analyzing the motives behind a nice smile.
In a perfect world, the bad guys would wear costumes like they did on “Batman”. Even the bad guy’s henchmen wore matching outfits so you could tell they were the bad guys.
In real life, there is no way of knowing who the bad guys are. They may wear costumes….like policemen and doctors….and priests. Or they may be the cute person on the dating site. It’s scary to think you can’t trust anyone. And yet….it’s better that you don’t. Even if you know someone, if something feels off, listen to your radar. You may feel more sensitive and think you are getting false readings on people at times because you have been abused in the past. That is okay. You’re not perfect. Accept that and continue to listen to your own feelings.
Not that I like talking about negative things because this world is depressing enough as it is….but if something seems off….document it. Tell a friend. It may not feel like we can change the world, but that is not our job anyway. Our job is to change our own world…our own circle…our own story…..if we are able.
These days, I’m proud of myself if I know what day it is and I am able to get some exercise and meditate and remain calm.
Hope you are all able to do that as well. Stay safe and healthy. Take the weekly poll if you’d like. Have a good week.