Victim Valuation: The Murdered-Rich-Girl Syndrome


College lacrosse player Yeardley Love’s death — allegedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend — is undeniably tragic. But is it receiving disproportionate coverage because a girl from her background wasn’t “supposed” to get murdered?

For those unfamiliar with the case, University of Virginia lacrosse player Love was found dead in her room on May 3, and her ex-boyfriend George Huguely has been charged with her murder. Now Jedd Katrancha of Mediaite points out that just five days after Love’s funeral, another young woman was killed by her ex-boyfriend. But this woman, 27-year-old nurse’s aide Chrystal Snipes, didn’t merit a People cover story, or much mainstream coverage at all. Why not?

Katrancha himself offers a clue: “It is true that Snipes was a victim in a city that has a murder rate over six times the national average, while Love was a student at a top-tier college in the significantly safer Charlottesville, tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Teri Thompson and Mitch Abramson of the NY Daily News provide another analysis, calling Love’s alleged murder “a case that may recall the Duke sexual abuse incident because of the seriousness of the charges and the perceived affluence of the people and the sport involved.” Is Murdered Rich Girl Syndrome the new Missing White Girl Syndrome, a symptom of the media’s disproportionate interest in the problems of privileged people?

What’s especially sad about Snipes’s case is that — as is so often the case with stalking — Snipes had feared Enroughty’s rage for a long time and had alerted the police, even filing a complaint that he had raped her. But a protective order against him was removed, he continued to have visitation rights with their child even while threatening Snipes, and in the end, the forces that should have protected her allowed her to die. Katrancha writes, “If we needed Love to remind us that abuse can happen to anyone, can be committed by anyone, and can happen anywhere, then we desperately need Snipes to remind us that the systems that are supposed to protect us from that abuse don’t always work.” Unfortunately, the former narrative, that of abuse happening to someone who’s not supposed to be abused, is the one we usually hear.

Do media outlets care more about Murdered Rich Girls because privileged people just count more in American society? Or because violence against poor women has simply become expected, thus making for a less exciting and salacious story? Maybe a little of both. But whatever the case, both Love and Snipes deserved protection they didn’t get. And all of us deserve a justice system and a press that care about the safety of all women, no matter what neighborhood they come from.

Domestic Violence: Behind The People Cover [Mediaite]
George Huguely, Accused In Yeardley Love’s Death, Was A Man Of Privilege, Rage [Washington Post]

Related: Yeardley Love, Univ. Of Virginia Lacrosse Player, Found Dead; George Huguely Charged With Murder [NY Daily News]
Inside The UVA Lacrosse Killing [People]

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