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Violence against women: How can society stop it?

November 04, 1999

The discovery of the body of Martinsburg, W. Va. resident Deborah Grove last Monday in an apple orchard brings to three the number of woman slain in the Eastern Panhandle since July. In each case, the bodies were dumped in fairly remote locations.

But justice officials say there's no link between the three cases, except perhaps that they all took place in a society that's becoming more violent - and among citizens who are becoming more complacent about it.

Citizens ought to care for humanitarian reasons; every life is unique and precious and not a piece of property to be discarded or destroyed on a whim or in a moment of anger.

But if the plight of the victims doesn't tug at your heartstrings, consider this: Every unsolved slaying means hundreds of hours of investigation, and if a suspect is identified and arrested, an expensive court proceeding. Then there's prison and the inevitable appeals for years and years to come. All this is paid for courtesy of the taxpayers. There's got to be a better way.

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The easiest deterrent would be to encourage women to remain on guard until they know exactly who they're dealing with. Accepting a ride home from a tavern or a club with someone you've just met may seem harmless, but we've heard too many stories over the years about how such "favors" ended with a sexual assault or worse. Women should also be encouraged to seek help from their local shelter at the first sign that a relationship is turning violent.

As for the men in these relationships, we've long advocated that any procedure for dealing with a man who's harassing, stalking or otherwise tormenting a woman should include a visit to a state prison for a talk with a stalker who didn't stop until it was too late. Perhaps a look at what's in their future if they don't curb their obsessive behavior might deter a few men from their violent ways. At the very least, it would rob them of the excuse that they didn't know how serious society is about stopping violence against women.

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