A femicide that could have been prevented

Oszd meg!

University Professor Beáta M. (30) went on a hike on Saturday with her boyfriend, Ferenc B. (43). As her family lost all contact with her over the weekend, they reported her disappearance to the police on Monday. An investigation started, and her body was found on Wednesday, at a remote filling station in Bihor County, Romania.  The police say Beáta M. was murdered; the suspect is Ferenc B., who is wanted by the police and who may in the meantime have left Romania.

You might recall the name of Ferenc B. from older news: both Romanian and Hungarian media reported the case when on July 29th, 2020, he brutally beat up his that-time girlfriend in the middle of the street, and it was also recorded by security cameras. The victim made a report to the police, who issued a restraining order. Ferenc B. was dismissed from his former workplace, the University of Cluj Napoca, where he used to teach. In March 2021, he was tried in court and received a fifteen-month suspended prison sentence and 90 days of community service. The prosecution argued: “We ask for a suspended prison sentence, as we do not wish to physically and psychologically destroy the perpetrator, but punishment of an appropriate weight is important for the sake of those who might love him and whom he might love in the future.”

In June 2021 Villő Hanga Jakab wrote an excellent article, which examined the case with its antecedents and in context. She discusses the attitude of society and the immediate environment to intimate partner violence, but also sheds light on the red flags in the perpetrator’s previous relationships and abuses told by the victims. The survivor of the 2020 attack said the following about why she decided to report the case and undergo a court procedure. “My main motivation was moral responsibility. I felt responsible not only for myself but also for any future girlfriends, and I felt I had to do whatever I could to save them from this.”

This week, a woman died. She was murdered. The suspected perpetrator is Ferenc B. What else can we say? What we have been saying all along: it is vital that society should not tolerate intimate partner violence and represent this clearly among its values. Changing societal norms is primary because what behaviors society tolerates and positively reinforces or rejects, and what it expects from laws and authorities is all reflected in legal provisions, the way procedures are undertaken by the authorities, and the sentences perpetrators receive.

It is equally important that the immediate environment should not tolerate abuse, either. Violence ending in grievous bodily harm or murder never arises suddenly, it is part and result of a process. We should pay attention to the signs and not trivialize events – not say “that’s still OK.”

Victims should be supported, not blamed. We should create an accepting, understanding environment where they can overcome their shame, dare to speak up and ask for help. We should believe them, listen to them and stand out for them. Let us be a part of change, so nobody should die in the future because their environment and the general public looks away or even blames them until intimate partner violence culminates in a tragedy.

(source: https://www.facebook.com/NTRTEA, translated by: Rita Béres-Deák)

cover photo: European Data Journalism Network