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April 13, 2021

Dr. Bagby, Dr. Turner, and Dr. Laura

It must be February. Along with the advertisements for flowers
and candy, we see a spate of articles on the horrors of domestic
violence.
I am about to be judgmental and mean, so anyone who wants to
avoid having their feelings hurt should stop reading now.
It must be February. Along with the advertisements for flowers and candy, we see a spate of articles on the horrors of domestic violence.

I am about to be judgmental and mean, so anyone who wants to avoid having their feelings hurt should stop reading now.

On the other hand, anyone who wishes to avoid suffering domestic violence or help other people to avoid it, read on.

The story as printed in Tuesday’s Dispatch is as follows: Dr. Andrew Bagby was murdered in 2001. The prime suspect, Dr. Shirley Turner, was a “twice divorced and considerably older mother of three” Bagby had “casually dated” in med school. She fled to Canada where she bore a son, Zachary, whose DNA matched Bagby’s. Extradition proceedings snagged on appeal. Out on bail, she drowned herself and the child. Bagby’s parents are spearheading a movement to change Canada’s extradition laws.

I think it was the words “casually dated” that made me scream and pound my head on the wall. Dating used to mean dinner and a movie. Dinners never cause pregnancy; movies rarely provoke murderous fits of jealous rage. But these days dating, even “casually dating,” is used as a euphemism for casual sex. The Tribune-Review was considerably more candid in their phraseology, using the words “former boyfriend” and “lovers” when reporting the pregnancy in February 2002.

An individual can avoid Andrew Bagby’s fate by following Dr. Laura’s advice.

Dr. Laura would have asked Bagby why he was dating a woman 12 years his senior: is this supposed to be the future mother of his 84 children? Dr. Laura would have said that being twice divorced was a red flag: perhaps Turner just chooses badly, but perhaps there is something amiss with her.

In any case, since Turner, at 40, was a divorced mother of three, she should be concentrating on raising her minor children without inflicting more drama from her lovelife on them.

Dr. Laura advises a year and a half minimum of getting to know someone – old-fashioned no-sex dating – before engagement and marriage. “Choose wisely,” she urges. In a year and a half, one can discern whether someone is a soulmate or a psychopath. Sex too soon impairs judgment.

Digression: it is interesting that in this case we have two medical doctors who apparently cannot figure out how to safely use a condom. Yet many people charged with the health and well-being of our youth, including many parents, blithely assume that if they hand 15-year-olds a ziploc full of condoms, all will be well. These are children who cannot be trusted to take out the garbage properly without parental oversight, and we imagine a bit of latex will prevent HIV, chlamydia, and pregnancy. I grant without quibble that a condom is better than no condom. But chastity is better than condoms, physically and emotionally.

Dr. Laura focuses on the individual, but what should we as a society do about domestic violence?

I advocate beginning with honesty. For too long we have blurred the lines and tolerated bad behavior by not calling it what it is. We stopped saying wife beating, husband, sex and hurt feelings, and substituted domestic violence, intimate partner, dating, and emotional abuse. These euphemisms blur the lines and camouflage the fact that physical violence is seven times more likely in an unmarried household than in a married household.

A child living with his mother and her boyfriend is 33 times more likely to suffer serious child abuse, and 70 times more likely to be killed, than a child living with his married, biological parents. I grant without quibble that abuse occurs in marriage. But marriage is safer than shacking up, physically and emotionally.

The stakes are too high, the victims too many to worry about not hurting anyone’s feelings, about tolerance, about being labeled judgmental. Andrew Bagby screwed around with a psychopath and was murdered. That’s a tragedy. But the bigger tragedy is that little Zachary was born to and killed by his psychopathic mother. Canada’s extradition laws are entirely beside the point.

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