Responding to the Bianca Devins Homicide
Like many people in our Central New York community as well as throughout the country, I read the details of the death of Bianca Devins with horror and sorrow. From all reports, Bianca was a bright and kind young woman whose life was taken not by a stranger or by a tragic accident, but by a man she may have been dating, in a final act of rage, control and hatred.
Unlike many people, I spent this week with a victim of domestic violence because I represented her in a trial to obtain an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend. This young woman tried countless times to break up with her boyfriend, who was controlling, manipulative and degrading. I say “tried” because when she told him she did not want to be with him anymore, he went places he thought she would be, to try to get her to listen to him. He called and texted her many times a day, trying to win her back. He refused to listen, returning again and again, calling her from other numbers, and creating fake social media accounts to try to contact her.
During this trial, the young man repeatedly insisted that he was not a bad guy because he had never harmed any woman before. This young woman testified about how afraid she was, and about how she desperately wanted him to leave her alone. In response, this young man said that he had heard her break up with him, tell him repeatedly that she never wanted to see him again, but he still insisted that he was only fighting for his girlfriend, fighting for their love, because he loved her so much.
Some have suggested that Bianca wasn’t dating the man who killed her. That he had pursued a romantic relationship but that she had rejected him. But whether or not she had at some point chosen to be in a relationship with this man, he had pursued her and then ultimately killed her when she in some way rejected or displeased him.
The tough part is, these dynamics are echoed in pop culture. The girl who says no, but the boy who shows up at her house playing a song on a boombox below her window to win her back. Or the lyrics to “Blurred Lines” - “And that's why I'm gon' take a good girl…I know you want it.” The idea that dogged pursuit of a person who has rejected you is a sign of love, instead of a dangerous attempt to override someone else’s will. This is our culture’s dominant narrative of love.
The problem is not simply one man, or a webpage that glorifies violence against women or the prevalence of online relationships.
What can we do as a community to prevent a death like Bianca’s? We can stop reinforcing that narrative that when someone says no, we just have to fight that much harder to win them back. We will teach our children that love means listening. No means no. Love does not hurt. Love does not control. There is no room in love for fear. When a man hears his partner say no, stop, that hurts, I don’t want to be with you, he needs to be told by his friends, family and our culture that he should walk away. That the right and manly thing to do is to respect her wishes, not “fight” to win her back. That her opinion is worthy of respect. That yes, relationships and breakups sometimes cause sadness and grief, but the response to that sadness and grief is not violence.
- Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell