Healey, Kraft launch antiviolence initiative

Parents of slain teenager voice their approval

ATTORNEY GENERAL MAURA HEALEY and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Tuesday announced a violence prevention initiative aimed at high school students across the state.

With $500,000 from the Patriots charitable foundation and $150,000 from Healey’s office, the initiative will select 90 schools from across the state and run two adults from each school through a three-day violence prevention program run by a mentor program at Northeastern University. The initiative will also select 30 schools for more intensive training on violence prevention. The goal is to train adult and student leaders at each school, who in turn will develop violence prevention programs targeted at the broader school population with a focus on building health male-female relationships.

From left, Robert Kraft, Josh Kraft, Maura Healey, and Malcolm Astley

From left, Robert Kraft, Josh Kraft, Maura Healey, and Malcolm Astley

Kraft said he began learning more about domestic violence last year after a video surfaced showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée in the face inside an elevator. “This is a problem that’s endemic to our society,” he said at a press conference at Healey’s office on Beacon Hill. Kraft referred to Healey as the “quarterback” of the partnership.

Speaking at the press conference were Healey; Kraft; Kraft’s son Josh, who heads the Patriots charitable foundation; Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern; Debra Robbin, executive director of Jane Doe Inc.; and Malcolm Astley and Mary Dunne, the parents of Laura Dunne Astley, a Wayland teenager who was killed in 2011 by her ex-boyfriend. Astley and Dunne, who launched a foundation named after their daughter, made the following remarks at the press conference.

MALCOLM ASTLEY

Our thanks to Attorney General Healey and the Patriots for making this vital initiative possible.  Our daughter Laura’s murder was tragic and horrible. It was on July 3, 2011, that she was beaten and strangled and slashed to death by her former boyfriend.

But what she stands for is far more tragic, horrible, and unjust. The grim arithmetic is that, in our country, in our lifetimes, at the current murder rate of three to four girls a day, approximately 100,000 girls and women in our country will lose their lives in similar ways to how Laura lost hers – the same number as the American soldiers who died in World War I.

At least 43 more girls and women have lost their lives in Massachusetts at the hands of their partners, males by far, since Laura’s death. The murders will continue to take place in all geographic locations, among all ethnic groups, among all sexual orientations, and among all socioeconomic levels unless we act as we are starting to do today. Countless more women and girls will face damaging experience of various kinds of abuse, including emotional, sexual, physical, verbal, cyber, and financial. One in five women will face sexual assault in college.

That does not mean that girls and women are not violent,, and we need to address that problem as well. But it is the boys and men who by far take the harm to a much harsher and far-too-often lethal level. In the still larger picture, we must also take on the much larger challenge of boys and men’s violence against other boys and men. We need to invite boys and men to join in bringing this violence to a halt, a violence leftover from past historical eras and practices, and now in the way of our progress as a people and as a culture. We as a culture have brought so many forms of injustice to a halt in our country, including, first, monarchy and leadership exclusively by the male gender; slavery; the lack of women’s right to vote; the weaknesses that surface in civil rights and women’s rights in the workplace; the ignoring of those with special needs; and, most recently, child abuse, though we have further to go.

The point is we’ve made so much progress toward caring and justice as a nation and a culture and we can take this next and important step now by asking boys and men to step forward to prevent boys’ and men’s violence against girls and women and against other boys and men. And to insist that social-emotional skills in effective relationships and violence prevention be taught in our schools right alongside of anti-bullying work and rigorous academic skills.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

I point out that we, in Massachusetts, about 20 years ago finally recognized a problem that had been with us for nearly 100 years and insisted on seatbelts, preventing many injuries, much pain, and the loss of thousands of lives. And we saved money. Thanks for your commitment today in providing some social-emotional seatbelts to help our youth gain knowledge and skills to create effective relationships; to cope with breakups, one of the most traumatic, normal experiences all humans go through; to prevent violence, pain, and loss; and to build caring justice; and to save money.

MARY DUNNE

Attorney General Healey, Mr. Kraft, and the foundations, today we put a public face and public priority to the issue of violence and the need to stop it. In communities of all kinds, families, sports teams, schools, and individual relationships, a culture of violence has become an epidemic. Three women a day are killed by their husbands. Lauren, at age 18, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, a Wayland High School football star. She was my only child and one who made a difference in her short life. She played tennis and French horn. She sang beautifully and she had a very special way of gathering people to her. It is breathtakingly hard to imagine what she might have become, something I do every day. While we’ve made steady progress through Lauren’s foundation on small fronts, your standing here today gives a serious boost to a cause and a daughter that we are thoroughly committed to.