The year women got beat up

Over the past 12 months you have been bombarded with stories of brutalized women. Chances are, you didn’t notice.
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 20, 2006

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You don’t have to play Grand Theft Auto to be blind to violence against women. The local TV-news and print media feature so many dead women, they barely register as much more than cartoons. The Herald alone put pictures of 20 individual female victims of violence on its covers this year. And one of every five of the paper’s covers mentioned a story of violence against women.

All year long, stories of victimized women and girls were routinely plucked from the swarm of local and national news items that face editors each day and given front-page, talk-radio, top-of-the-hour treatment. The next one grabbed our attention as soon as we lost interest in the last: Rachel Entwistle gave way to Imette St. Guillen, who was followed by Jill Carroll and then Dominique Samuels. If we weren’t guessing whether John Mark Karr killed JonBenet Ramsey, we were debating whether Philadelphia Phillies star Brett Myers should pitch the day after allegedly beating his wife outside a hotel in downtown Boston. Even long-dead victims were back in the headlines: Christa Worthington, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Aislin Silva.

Yet while most of us became caught up in the salacious details of each new story, we failed to see them as part of a greater trend. It’s odd, given how quick we are to discern patterns and similarities in even the most distantly related news events.

Even worse, say those who make it their business to track and tend to violence against women, these recent storylines were often disproportionately cast as TV drama, with the victim struck down by some psycho stranger in terrifying isolation, when more often than not, domestic violence was involved.

This distorted way of looking at violence against women — when we recognize it at all — was crystallized in the controversial ads run by Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey, which made Benjamin LaGuer, convicted of rape 22 years ago, a household name. Not long after, we even learned of a rape victim within our governor-elect’s close family.

Jane Doe Inc., which tracks homicides directly attributable to domestic violence in Massachusetts, has identified 31 such deaths this year — 50 percent more than the average of the previous three years. And at least 34 women have been murdered in the state under all circumstances, according to Phoenix research, the highest total in several years. Although violence in Boston and across Massachusetts has been a topic of constant public discussion, it has gone unnoticed that rapes in the city have climbed 15 percent this year, and a stunning 61 percent since September 1, compared with the same dates in 2005. In Allston-Brighton, rapes are up 136 percent. Meanwhile, as the Phoenix reported in October, the arrest rate for rapes in Massachusetts dropped by nearly half during the past three years.

Yet most of us missed this bigger picture as we eagerly consumed the details of each new victimization — what online sexual shenanigans Neil Entwistle was up to, or where in the Ella J. Baker House the ex-con staffer allegedly raped a teenage girl.

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SALACIOUS DETAILS: One after another the Herald paraded female victims across its front pages.
January 8: Natalie Sumner, 18, becomes Boston’s first homicide victim of 2006, shot to death in a Brighton apartment.

January 17: The Supreme Judicial Court rules the state can remove Haleigh Poutre, 11, who was allegedly beaten into a coma by her Westfield parents, from life support.

January 20: Rachel Entwistle, 27, and her baby, Lillian, are shot to death, allegedly by husband Neil Entwistle, in their Hopkinton home.

February 26: Imette St. Guillen, 24, of Dorchester, is killed in New York after a night out drinking.

March 13: A dancer hired for a Duke University lacrosse-team party alleges that she was raped by several of them.

March 21: A man shoots his estranged girlfriend and himself in front of a Mass Ave brownstone in Boston’s South End; he dies, she survives.

April 2: Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, returns to Boston after nearly three months of captivity in Iraq.

April 15: Velveena Baskin, 38, is beaten, kicked, punched, and strangled to death in East Boston, allegedly by husband  Whitney Baskin.

April 29: The badly burned body of Dominique Samuels, 19, is discovered in Franklin Park; police allege that she was strangled to death by an acquaintance in her Roxbury apartment.

May 20: Jeremias Bins allegedly bludgeons to death his wife, Carla Souza, and her 11-year-old son in their Framingham apartment.

May 25:  Bernadette DePina, 49, is killed in her New Bedford home; police suspect the murder was in retaliation against her son, who is accused of a recent gang murder.

June 5: East Brookfield police officer Robert Morrow Jr. commits suicide one day after being charged with attempting to kill his wife.

June 23: Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brett Myers allegedly drags his wife, Kim Myers, by the hair and slaps her across the face outside a Back Bay hotel.

July 18: Police charge former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson with twisting his wife’s arm behind her back and repeatedly pushing her head into a bookcase in their Weston home.

July 22: Analicia Perry, 20, visits a shrine to her murdered brother in the South End and is shot to death.

August 11: Dorchester’s Ella J. Baker House fires a staff worker accused of raping a teenage girl he was mentoring.

August 16: Police in Thailand arrest John Mark Karr for the 1996 murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado.

August 24: Christopher A. Williams, 25, formerly of Springfield, Massachusetts, kills his former girlfriend’s mother and a teacher at an Essex, Vermont, school.

September 5: Police find the chopped-up bodies of three women at the Black Bear Bed & Breakfast in Newry, Maine; they charge a short-order cook with the murders.

September 27: A gunman takes six girls hostage in a Colorado classroom, sexually assaults them, and kills one.

October 2: A man fatally shoots five girls and injures five more in a Pennsylvania school in Amish country.

October 13: The body of missing University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, is found in Richmond, allegedly slain by a 36-year-old man.

October 16: The trial begins for the 2002 Truro, Massachusetts, murder of Christa Worthington.

October 17: After a two-day manhunt, police arrest a man in Dorchester and charge him with fatally shooting New Hampshire police officer Michael Briggs, after Briggs responded to a domestic-violence call.

October 18: Kerry Healey begins airing a television ad in which a woman walks through a dark parking garage while a voiceover talks about convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer.

November 2: Sandra Reavis, 39, is stabbed and beaten to death in her Dorchester home, allegedly by her husband, Niles Reavis.

November 15: Publicists announce plans to release a book by O.J. Simpson explaining how he “hypothetically” murdered his wife, Nicole Brown, in 1994.

November 30: Police arrest 23-year-old Darren Thompson, of Shrewsbury, on weapons charges, alleging that he was planning to kill “teenybopper” girls.

December 1: After several fruitless searches, police find the buried body of Aislin Silva in Peabody; Silva was killed in 1996 at age 19 to prevent her from testifying against gang leaders.

ARTICLES BY DAVID S. BERNSTEIN
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