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THE STORIES

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Julia Sdrigotti is a 17 year old high school student from NYC

Time Magazine, you have exercised reckless judgment by putting Rihanna on your list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Why aren’t you putting up amazing women who are standing up to violence and corruption in Egypt and Libya, like Tawakul Karman? Instead, you are condoning a woman who is sending a wrong and dangerous message. Ever since she was beaten and humiliated by Chris Brown, Rihanna has failed to step up as the role model she is to millions of young girls who buy her albums. These young girls look up to her and want to be like her.

Her songs explicitly state a yearning to be victimized or play down violence, which is quite simply unacceptable. Domestic violence is no game and Rihanna will eventually be badly burned if she keeps playing with fire. I don’t want to support Rihanna and make her richer. I have no respect for a masochist woman who carries a torch for the man who beat her down. Her latest song, Birthday Cake, a collaboration with Chris Brown in which they praise possessiveness, is stupid and vulgar. A month ago, a 27-year old woman, Danielle Thomas, was beaten to death by her boyfriend. Like Chris Brown with Rihanna, Danielle’s killer had threatened to take her life. What makes Rihanna think Brown did not mean what he said? Danielle was beaten to death. Rihanna was beaten and is back for more. Danielle thought she could help her boyfriend overcome his violent tendencies, and she paid with her life for this mistaken judgment.

-by Julia Sdrigotti

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Mason Dowling is a 19-year-old fine arts student from Santa Fe, NM, currently living in New York

For an abused kid, the graduation from Columbia University was a tremendous success. So too was the acceptance to University of Florida Law School and thejob at Goldman-Sachs. Yet on June 25, 2012, Jason Bohn, 33, murdered his girlfriend, Danielle Thomas, 27, in their Queens home, using text messages to her friends to give himself time to escape.

Neighbors remembered hearing Thomas scream many times as Bohn beat her including the night she died. “He’s going to kill me!” they heard. They did nothing. A social phenomenon known as the bystander effect posits that the greater the number of people who witness an emergency, the less likely it is that one will report it, since each bystander assumes a smaller percentage of responsibility.

The police, too, knew about the abuse: Thomas filed a complaint just weeks before her death. At the time, she was on crutches, her face terribly bruised. While at the police station, Bohn had the effrontery to threaten her, saying that he would “make her life impossible” and hunt her down “like a dog in the streets.”

The couple met in Florida when he was in law school and began a long distance relationship when he moved back to New York. Though Bohn had already beaten her several times, she got a job as a senior financial analyst at Weight Watchers in New York and moved in. The two fought, and Thomas’s friends in Florida tried to convince her to move back home. “Where would I go?” she reportedly said. “I have nowhere to go.”

She lasted three months.

As someone who has never lived with domestic violence, I have to force myself not to blame the neighbors, the cops, Hohn and even the victim. Throughout Hohn’s childhood, he said, his father was “addicted to drugs,” beating both the boy and his mother. When the mother left their family, the boy felt that she was “addicted to success” and did not value him. He channeled the fear of being deserted into his relationship with Thomas, becoming fiercely jealous. Bohn had several domestic violence convictions even before meeting Thomas, and in my opinion he knew, from his past episodes of violence, what he was capable of.

Thomas, on the other hand, was raised in a loving family; her upbringing was one of sharing, kindness, and respect. She was unable to comprehend the fact that someone she loved could be a danger to her life and sanity. Her grandmother called her “just beautiful inside and out.” Thomas seemed to think that she could help Bohn to overcome his past and move into a new phase of his life.

I believe that one of the most important ways we can react to such tragedies is, as a community, to look for weaknesses and flaws not in individuals, who we are powerless to change, but in our society. To me, this is not just another story of a childhood of violence and abuse manifesting itself in adult life, but a situation in which the elements of our society we trust to protect us: police, legal system, teachers, community, family-have signally failed.

Bohn’s journey from a violent childhood to a top investment firm was celebrated by the Jewish Child Care Association, a group that gave Bohn access to opportunity. They pointed out the “tremendous odds” he had overcome to succeed. To me, this seems an admirable sentiment but a dangerous one. It is one thing to celebrate success but another to assume that financial success precludes violence. Bohn himself reported that he had been “physically violent” against schoolmates but was “a very good student despite my behavior”. His teachers remarked on how “amazing” they found the juxtaposition of Bohn’s behavior and academic performance. Bohn said that inspirational figures helped him see that getting his “behavior and emotional issues under control” would help him to eventually “make it.” He saw changing himself not as a social responsibility, but as one that would help him navigate the system.

Well, now he’s navigating a different system. Bohn left notes at the crime scene saying, “It was an accident,” claiming that he was drunk when the murder occurred. He surrendered in Florida and was charged with murder. The cause of death of the woman he claimed to love was determined to be strangulation and blunt force trauma. In other words, she was beaten to death.

What is our responsibility as bystanders?

-by Mason Dowling

 

Further Information on Rihanna, Danielle Thomas, and domestic abuse:
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