Monday, October 01, 2012

Another sad tale

This is Alexandra Kogut.  Her mother apparently became concerned this weekend when Alex didn't answer her phone and asked campus police at the State University of New York's Brockport Campus to check on her daughter.  Sadly, she was discovered dead in her dorm room, the victim of apparent blunt force trauma.

Prosecutors believe that she was murdered by her boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore, who was visiting for the weekend.  Clayton was a talented hockey player and a student at a different college.  He has been charged with second degree murder. 

An active Twitter user, Alex had posted several messages in the lead up to the weekend that she was excited her boyfriend was coming to visit.  But obviously something went horribly wrong.  According to this ABC news report, Alex sent out one ominous final tweet at about 12:13 am the night she died: "Should've known."

Exactly what happened between Alex and Clayton is unknown.  But what is known is that Alex is dead and can no longer tell her side of the story.  And what is known is that Alex's mother was so concerned about her daughter's welfare when she didn't pick up the phone in the middle of the night that she called the campus police immediatley, suggesting that she feared Alex was in danger.

Another young life taken entirely too soon.  Another family of the beautiful victim left to pick up the pieces and ask themselves what they could have done differently.  Another family of the perpetrator also picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and asking themselves how their son could be responsible for such a heinous act.

I wish I had an easy policy solution to this kind of issue.  But I don't.  It baffles me that the situation continues to repeat itself time and time again all around the world.  People murdered--not in random acts of violence, but by individuals they loved.

We must protect ourselves.  We must make sure to be vigilant about ensuring personal safety and security.  Situations can change in an instant.  Every day I hear stories about young women staying with men who abuse them because they are afraid to leave.  Or because they think they have it under control.  Or because they don't know where to turn or what to do.  Or because they don't think they deserve better. It breaks my heart. 

It's better to be alone than to be with somoene who is endangering your life.

I feel confident that if Kelly-Anne were still here today, this is the message that she would want shared with the world.  I can't tell you enough how strange it is to me--even today--that Kelly-Anne was murdered by her boyfriend.  Of all the people in the world I thought could ever happen to--she is the least likely.  She was strong, athletic, confident.  She had a wonderful family and many friends.  She had a university education and a good job.  She was beautiful, kind, caring, and loyal.

The opposite--in every way--of the typical sterotype of a victim of domestic violence. 

Yet she allowed herself to get trapped in a situation that got out of hand.  She didn't tell the people closest to her how bad things were.  We all saw warning signs, but none of us knew what a volatile past Marty had or how violent he already was with Kelly-Anne.  We saw changes in Kelly-Anne that didn't seem normal--for example, right before leaving for Italy, she called my mother from the airport, sobbing into the phone that she was scared.  My mother was baffled--Kelly-Anne had never been scared of much!  Eventually Kell calmed down enough to board the plane, but she wasn't specific about why she was so scared. What are you supposed to do with that information?  You know something is horribly wrong but you don't know what. 

The fact is that there isn't much you can do when someone you love choses to put themselves in harm's way with a volatile or dangerous boyfriend or husband.  You can't kidnap them.

But you can make sure that they understand you are there for them no matter what.  That you're waiting--with open arms and love and support--to help them get away before its too late.  That you'll provide whatever is needed to help them start fresh and protect themselves before it is too late.  That there's a tough road ahead, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  That they aren't helping the person who is abusing them but staying put.  That they deserve better. 

I hope Kelly-Anne's story is an example to women in their twenties and thirties who are afraid to get out of a bad situation.  I can assure you, Kelly-Anne did not think she would end up dead.  Sure she knew Marty was violent and capable of hurting her--as he had done many times before.  But I'd bet a lot of money she thought she had time to deal with the situation before it got truly out of hand.  I know she believed Marty had a hard life and that some of his behavior was understandable, which may in fact be true.

But that's the problem.  Kelly-Anne couldn't help Marty.  He had problems that went far beyond her and their relationship.  Deep-seeded issues with voiolence and volatility that were a threat to those around him.  Kelly-Anne couldn't give him the kind of counselling he needed.  So she stayed.  She tried to be mature and end her relationship like an adult.  And she ended up being the one who lost her life.

What a terrible, terrible shame. 

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