Since our first printing
of Haille's story, at least three other young females in our area
have been the victim of domestic violence murder or attempted
* On November 12, 2005,
19-year-old Ukiah woman, Brittany Nicole Syfert, was shot and
killed at her birthday party by her boyfriend - because she was
talking with another man. 27-year-old Caleb Flitcroft is charged
with Brittany's murder.
* On January 11, 2006,
an 18-year-old Gualala woman was shot through the chest by the
man with whom she'd been living - on the day after she moved out
on him. 46-year-old Jack 'Bo' Frank has since plead 'no contest'
to the attempted murder.
* On February 12, 2006,
an 18-year-old Windsor woman was slashed across her throat by
her boyfriend when she told him she was leaving him. 18-year-old
Benjamin Greenlee has been ordered to stand trial on charges of
Whether these deadly
attacks are part of a trend, or simply a random cluster, is impossible
to say. Domestic violence against teen females has only recently
become a focus of study. But trend or cluster, it hardly matters.
This spree of murderous violence against younger females in our
community is enough, by itself, to command our attention. If nothing
else, it underscores hard lessons in Haille's story; that male
violence against young females remains hidden, unexamined, unremedied,
fueled by sexism, and pretty much left for the young women to
resolve on their own. And, it's deadly.
These events also highlight
the few national statistics we do have verifying the concentration
of male violence on young females; statistics that haven't fully
penetrated public consciousness, let alone begun to shape public
policy. According to recent US Dept. of Justice statistics, the
age range in the US with the highest rate of domestic violence
victimization is 16-24 years of age. Likewise, the age range with
the highest rate of forcible rape victimization is also 16-24
years of age. Together, these statistics call for refocusing our
understanding and strategies for ending this violence.
One obvious observation
is that the center of gravity of male violence against women is
aimed at young females right at the time they're taking their
first independent steps into the world. In fact, as with the women
here, including in Haille's story, these deadly attacks are often
a direct response to young women exercising that independence
in their relationships with men.
These young women are
not being attacked because they're acting vulnerable, weak, or
unwilling to assert themselves. Quite the opposite. They're being
slain, strangled to death, slashed, and shot because they're daring
to exercise fundamental rights in their relationships with men.
It's the kind of violence
that delivers a brutally repressive message to a whole new generation
of confident, young females who grew up believing and acting as
if 'Grrrl Power' is for real. Unlike generations of women past,
they don't question their rights nor camouflage their intents
to get up and walk out on a man who's abusive, nor to just move
on simply because they want to. And within a relationship, they
come and go, and talk with whomever they please - equal to the
rights exercised by the men they're with.
But as these young
women assume their freedoms, they run head on into a world of
too many men who haven't changed a bit. It's the kind of violence,
that unless we end it, threatens to stop these confident young
women and their advances in their tracks. And we stand to lose
them, and the important contributions they're poised to make.
In the mid-March,
2006, preliminary hearing, Marsha (not her real name) takes
the witness stand without hesitation; undaunted by the leaden
courtroom air of an attempted murder case. Her composure
is all the more impressive given it was only weeks ago she
was left bleeding out from head and neck wounds in the median
strip between Hwy 101 and River Rd. in the middle of the
night. And more impressive still, because Marsha's only
As the prosecutor
takes her into the details of the attack, Marsha doesn't
flinch. She's straightforward, expressive, and intelligent
to the task. She doesn't crumple in sobs, nor lower her
head, nor constrict her voice in deference or shame. Nor
does she shy from the gravity of the attack and its effect
who had been her boyfriend, sits only yards away in Marsha's
line of sight. The last time she saw him he was leaving
her to die in the darkness. Their eyes catch again and again.
Marsha never turns away. Her gaze locks him with all the
unwavering weight of the court that surrounds her.
At the end of
the hearing, the judge holds the defendant to answer at
trial on the charge of attempted murder. Marsha smiles.
But not to any one in particular. She seems simply pleased
with herself and the job she has done. You can't help but
wonder. When did it happen that young women finally caught
the idea that this courthouse is theirs, and that their
truth is the gavel they wield?
There are so many social
forces that support this violence against girls, and so many people
with power who are complicit and look the other way. There is
so much that needs to change. Yet open a discussion on remedies
and the responses rarely go beyond a single, hard driving, train
"We have to teach
these girls to get away from these guys." But that's what
they were doing when they were attacked. "These girls need
to recognize the warning signs." How can we expect young
women to identify the murderous men when teachers, authorities,
clergy, and the whole adult social fabric have failed to do so?
"These young women need to be more careful about their comings
and goings." But restricting girls' 'comings and goings'
has never made a dent in this violence. And isn't that the function
of the violence? Restricting girls' freedom?
"These girls need
to reach out for help when they get in trouble." And take
the good chance of getting blamed or disbelieved, and ending up
in worse danger? "These girls need to speak up." When
even the media buries them in silence? "These girls need
to understand how they can set a guy off." But don't we mean
it when we say it's not her fault?
And on it goes; the
drum beat of warnings, admonitions, instructions, preachings,
and 'watch-your-steps' to girls, until you want to scream out
what should be the obvious - It's the males' behavior that has
to change, not the girls'. It's our schools, neighborhoods, police,
prosecutors, media, clergy, and older adults who have the primary
responsibilities to make this world safe for girls.
time the subject comes up try to turn it around to talking about
the ways that male behavior has to change, and the ways society
must get control of violent male behavior, and protect the girls.
Try having the discussion without honing in on what girls have
to do. And feel the intensity of the resistance that flashes up
and blocks any chance of real solutions toward a world that is
truly safe for girls. And then try, try again!