The recent case of the murder of Caroline Crouch, barely 20 with a newborn by her side at the hands of her husband, 13 years her senior, at a well-to-do leafy suburb outside of Athens has made the international headlines. After several days of investigating the so-called “break in and murder by a Georgian gang” as the husband claimed, the chief of police gathered enough evidence to incriminate the husband: he turned off the security system hours before the murder, his hands were tied in the front of his body, his cell phone was left within reach as he claimed which is why he was able to dial ‘100” with the tip of his nose, the infant of 11 months was left on top of his mother’s lifeless body, and the floor was mopped of all tracks with bleach. The pet of the family was found dangling from the balustrade of the interior staircase. The latch of the back window, normally shut tight, by which the killer thieves escaped, was miraculously left open on the day they decided to break in. The husband confessed after an 8 hour interrogation.
The details of this case have kept the Greek public talking for days in the bus, in the coffee shops, on the phone. The snippets of the story unfold like a grisly tale of terror told to scare young ones around a fire. It will be one of those news stories that make TV movies docu-dramas. The public is gripped because it is a story that sounds like a fairy tale gone horror. A young beautiful girl living on the famed island of Skopelos, finds her knight in shining armor. How in love the couple was. How they married and lived in a large expansive villa in the suburbs happily ever after, and don’t forget the birth of a beautiful baby to make their life complete. On the surface it has all the ingredients of a happily-ever-fairy tale. But underneath the happy verneer, the seething snippets of the truth rear their ugly head.
First, he was older and more dominant, 13 years her senior. While she was an only child with an intact family, her parents left her for periods of time alone on Skopelos. She was a young and easy prey for a domineering man. She was living alone in Skopelos. He had been very controlling, separating her from friends and family. In fact their wedding was an elopement; no family members were present, just they two. He kept her from continuing her studies in university. She was barred from pursuing tia kwon do. He treated her like his property not his equal. She was not allowed to exist as a separate entity. He was to be her controller. Babis seems to be a sociopathic narcissist.
This modern Greek tragedy brings me to pause. Here is yet again another young woman dead in the prime of her life. How do these things happen? What could have been done to prevent this? Didn’t anyone see the tell-tale signs? This individual had the classic signs of an abuser: -control and manipulation, isolation from friends and family, threats of violence, love bombing.
While Caroline’s case is extreme as it ended in homicide, it led me on a crumb trail for answers to the dark questions in the deep wood: why do men abuse women? Do other species violate and kill intimate partners and mates?
The statistics are chilling: 1 in ever 3 women will suffer some form of abuse from her romantic partner, either physical or psychological in her lifetime in the US. For some countries like India, 70% of women are expected to suffer domestic violence. In Nigeria, 50% of women will be battered. Western Europe has the least incidence of domestic violence.
These statistics belie the complacency that involves intimate partner abuse. For as much education and easy access to information in the digital age, partner abuse has remained steady. The stresses of COVID have exacerbated domestic violence. A WHO report states:
Over a quarter of women aged15-49 years who have been in a relationship have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner at least once in their lifetime (since age 15). The prevalence estimates of lifetime intimate partner violence range from 20% in the Western Pacific, 22% in high-income countries and Europe and 25% in the WHO Regions of the Americas to 33% in the WHO African region, 31% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 33% in the WHO South-East Asia region. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women
Perhaps it is right that we should tell our daughters the fairy tales that warn them of this situation; Blue Beard is one. A young girl naively marries a husky man and told not to open a hidden chamber while he is away on a business trip. As long as she stays obedient to his commands, she is safe. But once she explores the dark violent chamber of his psyche, symbolized by the magic key stained with blood, where he keeps the dead dangling bodies of his former brides, she learns of the truth of the arrangement. Blue Beard tells women that there will be charming, rich, sought-after men with lots of bravado and ego who will entrap her in marriage as a way to control her and finally to destroy her. Be careful! These are the types to watch out for. Why was there no one in Caroline’s life to tell her this fairy tale? Why was this young girl allowed to become prey for a psychopathic killer disguised as a loving husband? Where was the older mother/guide/mentor to look after her choices? Why did she not listen to her internal qualms, her intuition? Clues that Caroline Crouch had started to become disenchanted with Babi were made manifest with the publishing of her diary. Could it be that her slowly unfolding sense of independence was something he could not permit and thus, like Blue Beard, punished her for her disobedience by requiring her life?
In order for less dead bodies of young women to wind up sensationalizing the international press, we need to educate vulnerable young women about the traits of abusers. We need to increase the self-esteem of women all over the world so they do not accept the social structures that humiliate them into thinking they deserve abuse. We need to give girls an education and means by which they can become self-sufficient to carve their own paths in the world. When the statistics are so stark, one in every 3 women will be abused in her lifetime, why do we go on feeding young girls the myth of the prince who will make her happy ever after? We should be reading her tales of Blue Beard. Here’s a link: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/perrault03.html