In January, tragedy struck the Los Angeles suburb of Manhattan Beach.
Investigators believe that 24-year-old Michael Nolin killed his girlfriend, 22-year-old Danielle Hagbery, because Hagbery was breaking up with him. Apparently, Nolin then committed suicide.
This murder-suicide story is tragic all the way around. We hear about situations like this all the time. But while the details of this case might still be fuzzy, one thing is for sure: The report published in The Daily Breeze perpetuates the worst of victim-blaming and misguidedly frames the issues.
The story headline reads:
Police believe romantic break-up fueled Manhattan Beach killings.
But romance and break-ups donâ€™t cause murder. Violence and aggression do. Letâ€™s revise and edit, shall we?
An accurate story headline would read:
Police believe violent aggression fueled Manhattan Beach killings.
But the problem doesnâ€™t end with the headline. The article quotes Los Angeles Sheriff’s Departmentâ€™s Lt. Dan Rosenberg who provides so-called tips to women on preventing their own assault.
I would insert a snarky â€œyawnâ€ if the issue wasnâ€™t so absolutely critical!
Daily Breeze reporters Larry Altman and Andrea Woodhouse quote Los Angeles Sheriff Departmentâ€™s Lt. Dan Rosenberg as saying:
â€œDanielle Hagbery’s death should serve as a warning to other young women that they need to look out for themselves â€” such as not going to the boyfriend’s home â€” when a relationship goes sour.
“This is one more tragic end of a dating relationship where these young women should be aware of it,” Rosenberg said. “Ladies need to be vigilant when things go sideways with boyfriends.”
I’m willing to accept that Lt. Rosenberg was well-intentioned but seriously misguided. And, if so, then Altman and Woodhouse are complicit in their equally misguided decision to include these “tips” in their article.
Badly informed comments such as Rosenberg’s perpetuate a serious problem: Blaming the victim for her own death. This profoundly shifts the attention from the real issue. Presuming itâ€™s true that boyfriend Michael Nolin killed Hagbery before turning a gun on himself, the warning must not be directed toward victims.
Ladies donâ€™t need to be vigilant. Murderers need to not kill.
If this was in fact an instance of â€œone more tragic end of a dating relationship,â€ then men need to be aware of their own potential for violence and prevent it from happening. The best way to end violence is for the violent person to stop. Prevention is the real solution.
On February 1, 2010 I sent a letter of concern to eight Daily Breeze editors and reporters, and to the Los Angeles Sheriffâ€™s Department. This letter called out the newspaper and the sheriff for what violence-prevention educator Jackson Katz calls linguistic shape shifting, where language obscures menâ€™s responsibility for violence.
The letter of concern includes signatures from authors, professors, public speakers, advocates, and community activists, experts across the country who work in preventing gender-based violence and sexual assault.
The letter concludes by offering support: â€œThere are plenty of community-based resources and educational materials on the subject of preventing male violence against women. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you would like to avail yourself to our services and resources.â€
To date, not one of the individuals or agencies receiving this letter have replied. The silence is deafening.