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"Educating our communities and elected officials about the needs of survivors in our local cities and towns requires year round focus. JDI is our pathway to informing and influencing the state and national agenda to end sexual and domestic violence." ~ Karen Cavanaugh, JDI board member and Executive Director of Womanshelter/Companeras, pictured here with a JDI delegation meeting with Congressman Niki Tsongas

Fujita Verdict Provides Backdrop at White Ribbon Day Event

By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 7, 2013….Hours after a 20-year-old Wayland man was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of his former high school girlfriend, domestic violence prevention advocates stressed the urgency in ending violence against women during a State House event.

More than 100 people gathered in Gardner Auditorium to mark the 6th annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day, a statewide campaign to end violence against women. For White Ribbon Day, men and boys take a pledge to be part of the solution to end violence against women.

A jury Thursday morning found 20-year-old Nathaniel Fujita guilty of first-degree murder with premeditation and extreme atrocity in the death of his ex-girlfriend Lauren Astley. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole by a Middlesex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat.

On July 3, 2011, prosecutors said Fujita killed Astley by luring her to the garage of his family home, and strangling her with a bungee cord before slashing her throat. The two dated while attending Wayland High School. Fujita's attorney used an insanity defense, arguing he lacked criminal responsibility because he suffered a brief psychotic episode triggered by major depression.

The murder exemplifies incidences of domestic violence that are often overlooked - abusive behavior among young people, advocates for domestic violence prevention said.

"It is a very sad case of domestic violence murder," Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., said before the White Ribbon event.

There were signs of jealousy and control that mark domestic violence that were not seen or minimized, Troop said.

"We can't just look at this (murder) and think horror and shock and then move on. The truth is that efforts such as the White Ribbon Day are what give us hope that we will be able to prevent these tragedies in the future," Troop said.

Domestic violence among young people is often minimized as immature behavior, Troop said.

Many people "fool" themselves into thinking young people are not capable of domestic violence, or that it does not impact that age group, but the domestic violence rates among people ages 13 to 25 is alarming, according to Troop.

One in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. One in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and one quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, according to loveisrespect.org - a national organization aimed at getting young people to end domestic violence.

"It is confusing to distinguish between abusive behavior and simply immature relationships. But there is a distinction," she said.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, the co-chair of White Ribbon Day, said people need to recognize violence against women is not a women's issue only. "It is a men's issue too," he said. Domestic violence is a learned behavior, Conley said.

Conley said he was at a father's group recently where the dads asked him what they could do to protect their daughters. After giving them tips to protect young women, he said he urged them to "raise good sons."

"Far and away most men will tell you they have never hit a woman and they never would," Conley said. "But that is not enough when young boys and men are bombarded with imagery of violence against women."

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Angelo McClain said there is a ripple effect every time someone gets involved to end violence against women.

"Every time one of us says enough is enough we have added to that ripple effect that is going to end domestic violence against women," he said.


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