O∞cial regrets com­ment on slain U-Va. stu­dent

Ar­ling­ton school board mem­ber says his words were ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY PA­TRI­CIA SULLIVAN

An in­cum­bent Ar­ling­ton school board mem­ber who is run­ning for re­elec­tion has apol­o­gized for com­ments he made dur­ing a ra­dio in­ter­view about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, af­ter com­ing un­der fire for vic­tim-blam­ing.

James Lan­der, run­ning for his third term on the board, ex­pressed re­gret on so­cial me­dia for say­ing on a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion Wed­nes­day morn­ing that if Yeard­ley Love, a Univer­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent mur­dered in 2010 by her boyfriend, “wasn’t strong enough or ed­u­cated enough to re­move her­self from a vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ship then we have failed her as a so­ci­ety. Be­cause if you are the smartest per­son with books, but you can’t ap­ply the knowl­edge, then what good is it?”

Twelve hours later, Lan­der called his words “in­sen­si­tive and in­ap­pro­pri­ate and do not re­flect the re­al­i­ties faced by victims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. ... I know that Ms. Love was not the vic­tim of poor choices or per­sonal fail­ings; she was the vic­tim of a hor­ren­dous crime, and her mur­derer is solely to blame.”

Love was a 22-year-old se­nior at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia when she was found dead in her off-cam­pus apart­ment weeks be­fore grad­u­a­tion in 2010. Her some­time boyfriend, Ge­orge Huguely V, who like Love was an ac­com­plished lacrosse player at U-Va., was con­victed of sec­ond­de­gree mur­der in her death and sen­tenced to 23 years in prison.

Love was from Cock­eysville, Md.; Huguely was from Chevy Chase. The killing and sub­se­quent trial drew na­tional head­lines and wide­spread at­ten­tion to is­sues of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and ex­ces­sive drink­ing among col­lege stu­dents, es­pe­cially ath­letes.

In an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post on Thurs­day, Lan­der called his com­ments dur­ing the ra­dio ap­pear­ance “bone­headed and stupid.”

Lan­der said he was try­ing to point out that “it is of para­mount im­por­tance to pro­vide our stu­dents with all the tools they need for life out­side the class­room. . . . But I said some­thing stupid.”

He promised to work with lo­cal do­mes­tic vi­o­lence-preven­tion groups to be­come bet­ter ed­u­cated on the is­sue and “en­sure that the school sys­tem fo­cuses ap­pro­pri­ate at­ten­tion on pro­vid­ing all of our young men and women with the tools they need to de­velop healthy re­la­tion­ships and be vig­i­lant about their men­tal health.”

Lan­der’s re­marks about Love drew quick crit­i­cism from Caro­line Gary Ro­mano, chair­woman of the Ar­ling­ton Com­mis­sion on the Sta­tus of Women, who called for his apol­ogy and res­ig­na­tion.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, Ro­mano said that even though he apol­o­gized, she still be­lieved that Lan­der should re­sign.

“The bot­tom line for me was what he did was vic­tim-blam­ing,” she said in an in­ter­view. “It was as if to say there’s any­thing ever a vic­tim can do to stop a per­pe­tra­tor.”

Lan­der, a former school board chair­man, also lost the en­dorse­ment of Ar­ling­ton County Board mem­ber Katie Cris­tol (D) be­cause of his re­mark.

He is run­ning against fel­low Democrats Monique O’Grady and Maura McMahon in the party cau­cuses, which will take place on May 9, 11 and 13.

Cris­tol said she knows Lan­der to be “very open to dia­logue and growth” but said that “when it comes to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, mis­con­cep­tions and stigma can lit­er­ally be life-threat­en­ing, making it harder for sur­vivors to seek help.”

“This is­sue is too im­por­tant, and the stakes are too high, for me to equiv­o­cate when I say that th­ese com­ments are un­ac­cept­able,” Cris­tol said.

COUR­TESY OF JAMES LAN­DER

James Lan­der apol­o­gized for his re­marks, adding, “I said some­thing stupid.”

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