Welcome to michellegardnerquinn.com


| about michelle  |  news articles and blogs  |  events  | multimediamemories  |  links and resources  |  guestbook |

 2006 News Articles: October 22-December 31 (19 articles)

Read More News More news: Oct 8-14 2006 | Oct 15-21 | Oct 22-Dec 31 | Jan-Sep 2007 | Oct-Dec | Jan-May 2008 | Index

The Year in Review: 2006 - Part 4, Crime
Steve Delaney
Vermont Public Radio

MP3 File Listen to the partial segment (MP3 / 1.2 mb / 2:32)

COLCHESTER, VT (2006-12-28)

(Host) All this week in a series of special reports, VPR has been reviewing the highlights of 2006 the ups and downs, the good and bad.

When it comes to crime, Vermonters had some sad moments, and some national attention.

Today, VPR's Steve Delaney looks back at the crime and punishment of the last 12 months.

(Delaney) The year began with a furor over a sentence for child abuse imposed on defendant Mark Hulett by Judge Edward Cashman, that critics considered unacceptably short.

Few noted that the sixty days in the sentence was conditional, and the maximum was twelve years.

The case blew up into a national scandal when conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly had State Senator Wendy Wilton on TV to talk about impeaching Judge Cashman.

(Wilton) "Judge Cashman had other alternatives for making his point then using this case and that child victim to make the point about lack of treatment. I'm really kind of upset about that."

(Delaney) Not all Republicans rushed to judgment in the Cashman case. State Senator Vincent Illuzzi of Essex/Orleans, who's also a prosecutor, spoke out in a VPR commentary.

(Illuzzi) "National roller coaster coverage began on January 4, when it was reported that Judge Cashman had sentenced a child molester to a 60-day jail sentence because he no longer believed in punishment and was more concerned about rehabilitation. The truth was quite different."

What Judge Cashman did say was the following: "And I keep telling prosecutors and they won't hear me, that punishment is not enough."

The national news media had no idea of what Judge Cashman had actually said or done, and no idea of what options the Department of Corrections told him were available at the time of sentencing."

(Delaney) By the end of January, lawmakers had crafted a resolution dealing with sentencing and treatment issues, the Corrections Department had changed its sex offender treatment rules, and Judge Cashman increased the Hulett sentence to three-to-ten years, with treatment.

In September Judge Cashman said he would retire in a few months.

And at the end of the year he talked about that decision.

(Cashman) "That was a good sentence, and I've never gone through a sexual assault sentence without some negative blowback. It is such a strong emotional event. I understand the system, I understand the sentence, it's the best sentence for everyone involved. I'm happy with it. My job at that point was to stick with it, and to not let myself get into a situation where it appears that a sentencing judge in Vermont can be swayed by an angry public opinion. It defeated the whole purpose of the judiciary."

(Delaney) For years the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has been in court contesting child abuse cases against Vermont priests.

In April the Church settled one case involving former priest Edward Paquette, for $965,000.

Church lawyer David Cleary noted that there are sixteen remaining cases, eleven of them involving Paquette.

(Cleary) "If they were to be settled for similar amounts it would be catastrophic."

(Delaney) The Church has no insurance to cover such claims in civil court.

Just before Thanksgiving the Diocese said its budget deficit has grown from $100,000 to $1.3 million this year, mostly because of borrowing to pay the settlement in the first Paquette case. And the Church has begun moving its assets into trusts, to protect them from creditors.

In June Donald Fell was sentenced to death in Federal Court for the kidnapping and murder of Teresa King six years ago.
VPR's John Dillon was there.

(Dillon) In court, Fell spoke to King's family, his head bowed and his voice barely audible.

He apologized twice for the crime. And he said, "What I did was horrible. I know the wounds will never heal. If it comes down in the end that I do die, I accept that it's no less than what I deserve."

Five members of King's family spoke to Fell in court. They said they could not forgive him - that he had robbed them of their mother, their sister, their grandmother. They told him he deserved to die.

Barbara Tuttle, Teresa King's sister, says she does not believe Fell feels true remorse.

(Tuttle) "I think he made a half attempt to apologize to the family and say that he was sorry, but it doesn't mean anything to us."

(Delaney) Donald Fell is now awaiting execution at a Federal prison in Indiana.

A quiet August afternoon in Essex was shattered by a shooting spree that left two women dead and three people wounded, including the shooter.

Authorities say it began when Christopher Williams shot his former girlfriend's mother, Linda Lambesis, at her home
Prosecutor Margaret Vincent said he was looking for Essex elementary school teacher Andrea Lambesis.

(Vincent) "He went to the school and shots were fired. We are assuming that he went there because that's where his girlfriend had gone, because she had an in-service that day."

(Delaney) Andrea Lambesis wasn't at the school, but teachers Mary Shanks and Mary Snedecker were. Williams allegedly shot them both, killing Shanks.

Police say William's then went to a friend's house and shot him, then shot himself in the head, twice, without much effect.

He was evaluated at the State Hospital, and in October was found competent to stand trial for multiple murder.

Early on October 7th, a surveillance camera record a couple walking on Burlington's Main Street. That was the last image of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a UVM senior.

Police and students spent the next week searching for Quinn and wondering how a person as savvy as their friend could have gone missing.

(Lang) "She's been to Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa, in rural areas working with farmers on sustainable development, so yeah, she's been in definitely much more dangerous places, and Burlington is supposedly so safe and it's just so shocking that this can happen "

(Delaney) A week after Gardner-Quinn disappeared, Burlington Police Chief Tom Trombley called a news conference. Here's how VPR reported it that afternoon,

(Neal Charnoff) Good afternoon, it's All Things Considered, I'm Neal Charnoff.

(Trombley) "It is with a heavy heart and a great sense of sadness on the part of the citizens of Burlington and the Vermont law enforcement community that I address you this afternoon. Early this afternoon police received preliminary information about a woman's body being found off Dugway Road in Richmond. An immediate response by members of the Vermont state police, Burlington police and the FBI, confirmed the presence of a woman's body, and she has tentatively been identified by investigators, as Michelle Gardner-Quinn."

(Charnoff) VPR's John Dillon has been at Burlington's City Hall, where police have announced that this week-long search has come to a grim end. John Dillon, what did the police say?

(Dillon) The chief said that about one o'clock this afternoon there were some hikers in Richmond off Dugway Road, they found a body, off the road, it wasn't visible from the road. Police responded, the evidence appears that it was a homicide. They tentatively identified her as a twenty one year old missing University of Vermont student. She's been missing for about a week.

(Charnoff) John, we do understand they have a suspect in custody?

(Dillon) That's right. They have a thirty-six-year-old construction worker

(Trombley) "We are now prepared to identify Brian Rooney as a suspect in Michelle's disappearance."

(Delaney) Rooney said he had nothing to do with the case, but DNA evidence linked him to the killing, and in late October, he was arraigned on charges of sexual assault and murder.

In November Rooney's lawyers lost en effort to have the charges against him dismissed.

At year's end, Hulett was in prison, under treatment, while Williams and Rooney were in prison, awaiting trial.

For VPR News, I'm Steve Delaney.

© Copyright 2006, VPR

This is the online edition of VPR News. Text versions of VPR news stories may be updated and they may vary slightly from the broadcast version.

Interview: Rachele Huennekens, 'Michelle's Earth Foundation'
Neal Charnoff
Vermont Public Radio

MP3 File Listen to the full interview (MP3 / 748 kb / 1:49)

COLCHESTER, VT (2006-11-21)

(Host) Friends of Michelle Gardner-Quinn have established a foundation in her memory.

Gardner-Quinn is the University of Vermont senior who was abducted and murdered last month, while walking from downtown Burlington back to the campus.

Rachele Huennekens is a hometown friend of Gardner-Quinn from Arlington, Virginia. She says Michelle's Earth Foundation was created to expand on the 21-year-old's efforts to protect the environment.

She spoke with Neal Charnoff about the foundation.

© Copyright 2006, VPR

Friends, Family Plant Trees In Honor Of Gardner-Quinn
POSTED: 3:32 pm EST November 17, 2006
UPDATED: 4:11 pm EST November 17, 2006
NBC 4 Washington

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Family and friends gathered in Arlington on Friday morning to plant trees in memory of a college student killed earlier this year.

Michelle Gardner-Quinn's body was found not far from the University of Vermont campus in October. An autopsy showed she had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

Her friends and family have created Michelle's Earth Foundation -- a charitable environmental organization that will make sure her memory doesn't die.

On Friday, they shared memories and planted trees in her honor.

Brian Rooney has been charged in Gardner-Quinn's death. Police said a DNA match led to his arrest.

Friends Start Foundation for Gardner Quinn
November 17, 2006
Stacey Delikat - Channel 3 News

Washington, D.C. - They are Michelle Gardner Quinn's best friends.

"She wouldn't want to be remembered for how she died, but how she lived. But as her friends, it's our duty to carry on the work she started," explains Georgeanne Usova.

And so her childhood friends have gotten down to business. They've created Michelle's Earth Foundation, with hopes of getting young people excited about the environment.

"Michelle was really committed to the environment, not just in theory, she really did live by the idea small action equals big change and that people should take action," says Rachele Huennekens.

The foundation is taking donations, but most importantly, Michelle's friends want people to do something environmentally friendly in her honor.

"Starting today, we would like everyone to either plant a tree or do something that reminds them of the world we live in. If you knew Michelle, even if you didn't, we ask that you take a moment to reflect," says Usova.

150 people from all around the world have already pledged to plant something in her memory. And while Michelle's friends say they'll always be haunted by her death, through her foundation, they hope to spread life.

"Of course there's hard times and of course we won't always be happy and we'll probably cry all the time," concedes Huennekens. "But we're trying not to do that, because we know for a fact, Michelle told one of our friends, 'if anything ever happened to me, I don't want people to be upset.'"

Usova says, "Michelle was so much more than that and I don't want her to be remembered by her death, but by her life."

For more information on how to donate to Michelle's Foundation, you can email MichellesEarthFoundation@yahoo.com.

At UVM, Former NFL Star Addresses “Being a Man”
Seven Days

BURLINGTON — When former National Football League star Don McPherson asked a group of University of Vermont students if they remembered the story of James Byrd Jr., the black man in Jasper, Texas, who was dragged to death behind a truck in 1998, nearly everyone in the room nodded their heads. But as McPherson pointed out, four times a day — 1460 times per year — a woman is murdered by a man in the United States, and yet we don’t acknowledge that level of violence as a nationwide epidemic.

“Blacks are 12 percent of the population. One black man is dragged by a truck and we turned it into a national conversation,” he says. “Women are 52 percent of the population, and we don’t even talk about it.” Every two years, 2920 women die at the hands of men. “On September 11, 2001, that many people were murdered and we went to war.”

McPherson, who spoke Monday to about 80 students in Ira Allen Chapel as part of UVM’s “Men’s Awareness Week,” isn’t suggesting that Americans respond to this ongoing epidemic of violence with more violence. But he is saying that until men collectively recognize that they are the perpetrators and victims of more than 90 percent of the violent crimes, the bloodletting will continue. To address this problem, McPherson says, men must start talking to one other about what it really means to be a man.

McPherson, 41, knows all too well the cultural norms and stereotypes that reinforce our narrow definitions of masculinity: toughness, bravery, stoicism and sexual promiscuity. He comes from a profession that’s often lauded as the pinnacle of maleness. In the mid-1980s, McPherson played quarterback at Syracuse University, where he won more than 18 national player-of-the-year honors. From 1988 to 1994, McPherson played pro football for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Houston Oilers and two teams in the Canadian Football League.

Since then, however, the former Heisman Trophy runner-up has been working on a different kind of offensive playbook — taking a proactive approach to male violence. McPherson is founder and executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Long Island’s Adelphi University, where he creates programs for high school and college students to address issues of self-esteem, substance abuse and violence prevention.

McPherson sees many similarities between how America responds to substance abuse and how it responds to male-perpetrated violence. In both cases, he says, the answer has often been to resort to scare tactics — “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs” — or terse, simplistic slogans such as “Just say no” to drugs and “Just wait” to have sex.

“We tell you that sex is dirty, it’ll cause unwanted pregnancies and STDs and HIV,” McPherson says. “But at the same time, we tell you to ‘Save it for the one you love.’ Think about that for a second.”

Likewise, America’s response to male violence is often shrouded in simplistic explanations and euphemisms. When teenaged boys shoot up a high school cafeteria or gun each other down in drive-by shootings, we label it “school violence,” “teen violence” and “gang violence.” Calling such an incident “a Columbine-like event” sanitizes it even further.

“We don’t call it what it is,” McPherson says: “male hate.”

Compounding the problem is a culture that celebrates youthful sexuality but is squeamish about discussing sexual violence. McPherson notes that when he first began traveling around the country and talking to young people about sexual harassment, sexual assault and date rape, he didn’t know that the woman he was dating at the time had once been drugged and gang-raped herself. “And the reason I didn’t know this,” he says, “is because these are issues we’re raised not to talk about.”

At the heart of the problem, McPherson explains, is that men confine themselves, and each other, in a “very narrow box” that defines their masculinity. This acculturation process starts at a very early age. McPherson recalls how, while walking through an airport recently, he saw a mother make her 4-year-old son stop crying by telling him to “be a man.”

“The problem is, we don’t raise boys to be men,” he says. “We raise them to not be women or gay men.”

Such attitudes become so deeply ingrained in the male psyche that when men act out in violent and sometimes tragic ways, they are often perplexed by the response to their behavior. Recently, McPherson was invited to Duke University to speak to the school’s athletes, following the high-profile arrests in April of several lacrosse players on charges of rape and sodomy.

“Some of the guys said, ‘What did we do wrong?’ These are guys who come from some of the finest communities and finest high schools in the world,” McPherson says. “A lot of people there said, ‘This was just guys being guys.’ At what point do we begin to expect more from our men?”

Ultimately, McPherson contends that just as slavery wasn’t abolished until white people recognized it was wrong and began confronting other white people, male violence against women will not end until men stop labeling it “a women’s issue” and become part of the solution.

Following his talk, several male students thanked McPherson for coming to UVM, especially in the aftermath of the Michelle Gardner-Quinn murder, and asked him for advice on ways to continue this dialogue on campus.

Though McPherson’s message wasn’t entirely groundbreaking to some people in the room, the composition of the audience was noteworthy. One UVM sophomore noted afterward that she was glad to see how many men attended the event. Sometimes, she said, it’s just a matter of “finding the right messenger.”

Interview: Linda White, 'Meeting With a Killer: One Family's Journey'
Mitch Wertlieb
Vermont Public Radio

MP3 File Listen to the full commentary (MP3 / 3.1 mb / 6:34)

COLCHESTER, VT (2006-11-10)

The recent death of University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn sent shock waves throughout the state. People who knew the 21-year-old woman, and even many who didn't, expressed emotions ranging from sorrow to outrage when it became clear she was murdered.

But few can even begin to understand the true measure of grief felt by Gardner-Quinn's family, her parents and siblings.

One person who can, perhaps, is Linda White. She is the woman featured in the new documentary "Meeting With a Killer: One Family's Journey", and she'll tell her story as the film screens in Vermont as part of National Community Justice Week, which starts Sunday.

Linda White works in the Philosophy and Psychology Department at Sam Houston University in Texas. In 1986, her 26-year old daughter Cathy was abducted, raped, and murdered. She spoke with Mitch Wertlieb about the film.

Note: "Meeting the Killer: One Family's Journey" will screen November 16 at the Barre Opera House at 7pm. It is free and open to the public.

© Copyright 2006, VPR

Behind the Crime Scene
For investigators, the Michelle Gardner-Quinn case is about more than law and order
Seven Days
by An Anonymous Cop (11/08/06)

Violence is seemingly endemic to American society these days. Though statistics clearly show that each individual in America today has an incredibly slim chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in a given year, those same statistics show that your chance of being so victimized now is greater than at any point in the last century. For those not well versed in statistics, it is a paradox.

For me, and others like me, it is simple reality. We live professionally in the part of our society that deals daily with this interpersonal violence, an ugly, brutal reality of the human condition that is not often spoken of in polite circles. It is the 600-pound gorilla in the middle of society’s spacious living room. Most people know it exists, but they usually prefer to ignore it and pretend it is for others to acknowledge and deal with. It thus becomes an abstract threat. Sort of like the inevitable cooling of the sun or Ebola.

This is particularly true in bucolic Vermont. Though violent crime does occur here, we traditionally enjoy one of the lowest crime rates of any state in the union. The reasons are many and varied, but the fact remains. What violent crime we do have tends to occur outside of most folks’ normal routine, as the societal profiles of criminals often mirror that of victims. In other words, criminals often prey upon those in their own socio-economic strata, preferring to stay close to home in terms of both geography and class. This has the effect of, usually, keeping violent crime away from the middle and upper classes, especially here in Vermont. Violent crime is largely a problem of the under-class.

I am not judging or preaching. Just pointing out the way things are.

This past month has seen one of the rare exceptions to this general rule, with the kidnapping and senseless, brutal murder of a University of Vermont senior. At 21, she was young, pretty, loved and protected, yet by all accounts had lived a rich and varied life thus far. She was outgoing and friendly, experienced in living in dangerous communities, but not jaded by the experience. A woman from a good family, she did not fit the stereotype of the typical victim, much less that of a criminal. She was, in a very real sense, the classic girl next door.

She had spent the day and early evening with her parents, who were in town for UVM’s Parents’ Weekend. Her father took some snapshots of her to memorialize their visit that afternoon. It was a timeless scene, a happy one for everyone involved. They casually planned to meet the next day for lunch.

They never fulfilled that plan.

Walking downtown that Friday night, having left one group of friends to join another in celebrating one of them having turned 21, she walked a few short blocks in the middle of downtown Burlington. She went alone. It is an action undertaken by dozens of her peers every weekend here in town and probably one that she had done herself more than once.

In trying to connect with the friend that she was trying to meet, her cellular telephone battery ran out of power. Without much thought, she asked a man on the street if she could use his telephone. Her casual trust and this small act started a chain of events that would end tragically for them both.

The man she had asked was, unlike the vast majority of people in our community, not a good person. Indeed, he was the single-worst person she could have asked for help that night. Though I am not a religious person, I would call him evil. Through nothing more than blind bad luck, she had found a violent sexual predator, a man who preys on the vulnerable in the dark places like some kind of two-legged hyena. She was alone and demonstrated her vulnerability by asking him for help.

He helped her, offering his telephone and talking to her. Smooth. Friendly. Deceptive. He was heading back to his car and, as fate would have it, she was going the same way towards her dorm, having failed to find her friends. How seemingly fortuitous that she had found a nice guy to escort her part of the way home.

Only he was not such a nice guy. And she never made it home as a result.

Somewhere that night, she died, having endured what no person should ever have to endure. He then shoved her under some rocks and leaves in a wooded area near his home. She trusted him, for just a brief moment, and it cost her the single most precious possession she had. It is not her failing at having trusted, but his at having taken advantage of that trust in so heinous a fashion.

I wear many hats in this state. Amongst other things, I am a law enforcement officer, a citizen of this community, the parent of a daughter, a spouse, a UVM alum. I had many reasons to be interested in this case, all of which and more have run through my mind over the week. I wanted with every fiber of my being to find this girl alive and to catch her abductor, though, as time passed, I knew that the chance of the former was dropping. Happily, the latter was rapidly looming larger.

I spent a week working alongside almost every law enforcement officer I know in Chittenden County, and many I was meeting for the first time, looking for her and trying to capture her killer. We all worked tirelessly, chasing every lead, no matter how nebulous. Never did I see a single one of my peers complain or snap at one another. Never did anyone despair, even though we all knew that her odds of being found alive went lower and lower with each passing minute. Instead, each worked harder still, hoping to find her alive, knowing that we would avenge her if she were not. Each of us asking ourselves deep down inside, “Why could he not have tried this with me instead? Why could I not have been nearby when this happened?”

I would arrive earlier than I was required each day. I worked late into each night, going home near 1 or 2, physically and emotionally drained. One night I left only when my boss ordered me to. then I snuck back a few hours later. I was quickly caught and sent home again, this time with few illusions about my fate should I come back within a few hours. Every one of us had a similar story.

Surveillance teams worked around the clock. Managers strategized until the wee hours. Uniformed officers canvassed neighborhoods and took tips from anyone who had something to say. Investigators interviewed, searched, typed and contemplated. Crime scene techs pored over scenes suspected of being involved with the crime. Every detail of every bit of information was examined and reexamined, then discussed with others, in a constant effort to find the piece we were missing, the one bit of info that would break the case wide open.

Hope for her survival was slowly replaced by cold resolve to find her, no matter how long we had to look, to bring her home to her family and to bring her abductor to justice. Determination hardened in everyone.

Many of us interviewed and followed the man we eventually arrested — the man who lent her a cellphone. The man who turned a young woman’s trust into a deadly weapon.

He did not just snuff out her life that night, but, in a very real way, he snuffed out his own. Only he gets to keep on breathing. And, like ripples in a still pond, his act radiates out beyond just the two of them, grievously impacting those around them in gradually widening circles. His children will suffer for his sin, fair or not. His parents, good people in their own right, now suffer. Her parents and family now suffer. Our community suffers. All because he made the choice to strike out and to kill.

And while she is dead and he is in jail awaiting trial, others are safer now for it. He has been sexually assaulting women in vulnerable positions for decades, unreported and undetected. There was no sign that he was going to stop. My professional experience and training tell me that, if anything, he was going to become more and more violent in his sexual rampages. Indeed, this case bears that out. Her death brought to light who he is and, in all likelihood, saved many others from enduring his ministrations in later years.

His actions deprived our society of her life, of all the things she would have gone on to do for herself and, by extension, the rest of us. Yet as a group, we will be safer now because of them. This is what I dwell on in order to keep my own perspective, to keep my own frustration and rage under control. I will not sink to his level and take his life, though I admit the idea does not repel me. I have attended the deaths of others who did not deserve it nearly as much as he does, at least not to my way of thinking. To me, he has forfeited his right to life. But I am not the final arbiter of such things.

I am a cop.

My respect for the law stays my hand, twitch though it may. I believe that it speaks well of us, as a profession and as a community, that we go to great lengths to extend the protection of the law to someone who has so terribly violated it. I may not like it sometimes, but it runs counter to who I am not to live with this system.

Because I am better than him.

I have never been one to deal well with the survivors and victims of such brutal crimes. I do not have the temperament for it. Others do, and I applaud them. It is necessary and important work that I choose not to do. I lack the drive and the sensitivity.

Instead, my peers and I hunt the evil. We choose to stand a post between society and chaos, to do what we can to stop these things from happening. And when they do happen, we put our effort into trying to catch those who transgress, in order that society can visit rightful judgment on their crimes.

And though in this case I failed to find him before she did, and I failed to save her once their paths crossed, I, and those like me, did catch him. By doing so, we can let our wounded community mete out the justice that we will. It will be on our terms, at our leisure, and it will be a justice in keeping with the law, imparted only after extensive review and discussion. For “not guilty” is not the same as “innocent.” It may sound like cold comfort, but it is the best we have. It will suffice.

It is also the best we can do for her now, as we mourn her senseless passing and try to heal the communal wound left by his brutal act. Random violence can find us even here, as he has clearly demonstrated. It is a sad, terrible lesson, and one that we would all do well to keep in mind.

Seven Days has verified the identity of this law enforcement officer but agreed to allow him anonymity, given the tragic inspiration for writing this essay and the nature of his job.

Burlington Promotes Public Safety
Burlington, Vermont - November 2, 2006
Channel 3 Burlington

In the aftermath of the rape and killing of college student Michelle Gardner-Quinn, Burlington is refocusing efforts to promote safety.

The Burlington Business Association hosted a meeting at the city police department Thursday morning. Chief Tom Tremblay announced several new initiatives against sexual predator crimes, one of which involves Burlington High School.

"The Burlington police-youth partnership in cooperation with the student council at the high school, is kicking off a safety program specifically directed at the students in our schools. It has a relationship component, it has an Internet component, it has a personal safety component," said Tremblay.

Later this month another program called Parallel Justice will be announced, focusing on crime victims.

Fight the Power
Martial-arts instructor Laurie Shover teaches women to hit back
Seven Days
by Sarah Tuff (11/01/06)

You don’t want to meet Laurie Shover in a dark alley, or in a parking lot, or on Burlington’s Main Street at 2:30 a.m. Not if you’re a mugger, rapist or murderer and see the blond woman as your next victim. One of only a handful of eighth-degree black belts in the country, Shover will take you down faster than you can holler “Bruce Lee.” She may break your nose, break your femur or just break your balls. Pepper spray? Please. With two of her petite fingers, Shover can gouge your eyeballs with her fierce, twin-headed dragon move.

On a recent Tuesday evening at Villari’s Self-Defense Studio in South Burlington, Shover demonstrates a series of her spins, kicks and punches to a group of about a half-dozen female students. “Makes you really want to go get another victim, doesn’t it?” she says, rhetorically, to the invisible attacker. “That’s how we’re going to lower the crime rate,” she goes on, now addressing the class. “Every time an attacker goes to grab a woman, and all of a sudden she snaps his knee — well, he’s going to stay at home for a while.”

In the days since the murder of University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn and the recent attempted abduction of a stroller-pushing mom in Winooski in broad daylight, plenty of women have felt like staying at home themselves. “Being a woman and being alone is a combination that makes me nervous everywhere,” says Adrienne Susinno, a 25-year-old student teacher who enrolled in Shover’s Tuesday night self-defense course earlier this fall. “Recent events are a wake-up call that no place is truly safe.”

Anyone who views Vermont as a bucolic, crime-free wonderland, says Shover, also needs to wake up. “They need to get their head out of their butt and realize that this is the year 2006,” she says. “It happens everywhere.” By sharing more than two decades of martial arts training and old-fashioned common sense, Shover is also on a new campaign to make sure that when attacks happen, it’s the assailant, not the victim, who’s caught off guard.

Shover knows a thing or two about seemingly bucolic places. Though she grew up in small-town Bristol, she says she was a street kid. “I was involved in all sorts of problems — the wrong kids, drugs, whatever,” she says. Then her brother dragged her to a martial arts class.

“I didn’t want to stay, because back then, in the ’70s, it was very hardcore,” Shover says. “It was about three hours long, and you’d get screamed at.”

Eventually, she got hooked on shaolin-kempo karate, a style of fighting that integrates punching, kicking, felling and grappling. (Its inventor, Fred Villari, is the namesake of the South Burlington studio, along with hundreds of other schools around the country.)

“It’s the most self-defense-oriented system, because you use your hands,” explains Shover. “Most karate systems are kick-kick-kick, or break a board, but we’re very quick with our hands, and perfectionists in all areas.”

Since the mid-1970s, Shover has added so many notches to her black belt that she’s surpassed the “master” stage to become one of the world’s few female hachidans. “I’m Professor Shover now,” she says proudly.

Professor, master or just plain Laurie to her students, Shover has been teaching martial arts for years at her South Burlington studio, in addition to offering rape-prevention classes to businesses and working with kids through Burlington’s Baird Center for Children and Families. This fall, Shover began instructing the less formal self-defense class on Tuesdays at 5:30.

Fletcher Allen vascular technician Amber Klimas, who has to park in an off-site lot for her work, was among the first to sign up. “It’s dark in the parking garage, and there’s all kinds of people in that area,” says Klimas, 29. “It’s even scarier when you have kids — I have a year-and-a-half-old, and getting her in the car takes time. I felt like a sitting duck.”

Practicing the first set of moves in Shover’s class, Klimas looks less like a sitting duck and more like a character out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Shover wastes no time with niceties and goes right into punching and kicking.

“Straight to the nose!” she shouts. “Go — ugh! Go — ugh! Go — ugh!”

The studio is filled with reminders of the Asian roots of this practice. Small Buddha statues rest peacefully on a shelf, while cut-outs of leopards, snakes and birds decorate the eggplant-colored walls. But the techniques that Shover shares are grounded in the realities of day-to-day Western life: shopping, unlocking a car or just walking down the street. And she takes no pity on the imaginary assailants. Demon- strating the twin-headed dragon, she encourages students to use the same fearless approach.

“The body is protected downward, so go up, especially on a male — you have to bend your fingers to get in the eyes,” says Shover. “A lot of people say, ‘Eww!’ But if a guy’s trying to sexually assault you? I don’t think so!”

Along with a litany of favorite moves — “Poke, poke, knee, grab his neck” — Shover seems to have a favorite word. “It’s so easy,” she tells the women. “It’s so incredibly easy.”

Later, Shover explains why she must remind women that self-defense doesn’t have to be difficult. “A lot of women just don’t have the confidence, and they’ll put everything else first; some are in denial,” she says. “But training just once a month will increase your awareness by 50 percent — and the way you walk or carry yourself might be what makes the difference.”

Maria Valiente, a 30-year-old crossword-puzzle editor who attends the Tuesday night class, says that after only a few weeks, she already has a favorite move — the “hammer,” which involves a fist to the forehead — and a new sense of herself and her capabilities. “Before the class, there was no way I would ever have fought back, but I think I’ve learned enough to throw off an attacker long enough to get away,” she says. “If I was approached by someone with a gun, it might be a different story.”

Shover has plenty of quick-fix solutions, such as dropping one’s weight when one is grabbed from behind. But she does not offer tips, at least not to beginners, on how to defend oneself when one has a gun to one’s head. She even sounds unsure of how she might handle such a situation. “I’m only human, and I could get killed or shot,” says Shover, who lives in what she calls a “hideaway” in Monkton with her two kids, aged 6 and 12. “But I tell you, one thing I won’t do is get raped, and if I do, they’re going down with me. I would die trying and I would die fighting before I would die in vain.”

Choosing whether to fight an attacker should be like choosing whether to fight a disease, says Shover. “People will fight cancer with all they can; they’ll do anything to save their life,” she points out. “When you’re alive and healthy, no one thinks of it that way.”

Some of Shover’s students are former victims of crime. Others have gone on to defend themselves successfully against assailants. As a fringe benefit, several of the Tuesday-night women report feeling relaxed, invigorated and toned after their sessions, as if after an intense workout. (Every once in a while, Shover reminds them of their abs and their glutes, not unlike a fitness guru.)

This fall and winter, Shover aims to widen the circle of women who know about the twin-headed dragon, the hammer and the spin kicks. She’s offered to teach at UVM and other area colleges and is working with administrators on free programs. By early 2007, northern Vermont could have a substantial population of women with whom no one wants to mess. “I’m not a miracle worker,” Shover says. “But a chance is better than no chance.”

Michelle Gardner-Quinn
A personal look into the life of Gardner Quinn
Hazel Ryerson Senior Staff Writer, Vermont Cynic
Issue date: 10/30/06 Section: News

Michelle Gardner-Quinn saw the world though an exceptional lens, where the mundane became beautiful, problems became challenges and no boundaries or limits existed. Her contagion? An honest exuberance for life that infected the friends she made all over the world.

Michelle was intensely introspective, holding herself to the highest personal standards, yet outgoing and pragmatic about global and community issues. "I was struck that she felt such a deep and personal connection to nature, and yet she was equally concerned with the well-being of people, of human communities," said Cicilia Danks, Michelle's professor of Environmental Studies while at the University of Vermont.

Intensely independent from a young age, Michelle attended HB Woodlawn, an alternative magnet school for grades 6-12. HB Woodlawn encourages students to design their own educational experience, a philosophy Michelle lived by her entire life. She enrolled at Goucher College, in Baltimore after graduating high school, but her adventurous spirit kept her far from campus. Michelle traveled abroad to Costa Rica, Brazil and South Africa, studying, among other things, the peculiarities of giant swamp otters.

Michelle transferred to UVM in part because of the freedom it allowed her in individually designing a combined Environmental Studies and Latin American Studies major.

Her best friend of eight years, UVM senior Tommy Lang, and a life long love of Vermont and snowboarding also contributed to Michelle's decision to transfer to UVM."She was awesome at snowboarding" Lang said. Michelle often visited Lang in Vermont, and always impressed him with her talent and nerve on the mountain. "I remember pushing her to do more things, I taught her how to board slide and do rails," Lang said.

"She was great, a goofball on the hill, we would be having snowball fights while going down the trails," Lang said. As soon as Michelle came to Vermont this fall, she hit the outdoors. She elected to do a six-day Trek program with nine other UVM students the week before the semester started. While hiking the Green Mountains and sliding down Mt. Mansfield, Michelle made many devoted friends.

Upon finishing Trek and starting classes, Michelle and her friends from Trek became a loose group, picking up more friends along the way. Adam Briere, a friend from Trek, described Michelle as a dynamic part of the group, "We all had different backgrounds; Michelle brought a lot of ridiculous wisdom to our group."

That ridiculous wisdom and her hilarious and funky sense of humor added to Michelle's magnetism. She was lighthearted, but always concerned with serious issues. Danks remembers her as "a happy, outgoing environmentalist, ready to engage tough problems and not get bogged down in the doom and gloom."

Julia Martin, another friend from Trek, loved Michelle's clear mind, among other traits. "I understood the way she thought," Martin said. "Michelle was passionate about living life to the fullest." Martin and Michelle spent time exploring Burlington on bikes and going to north beach to jump off the cliffs.

"She was one of those people, who had a lot of ideas, but there is only so much time in the day," Martin recalled of Michelle's ambitious scheduling. "That was a joke about Michelle, to be casually late to everything," Martin said, laughing at the memory. "When she graduated, she would have done a lot."

Lang remembers Michelle as an exceptional photographer with an ability to find beauty and interest in everyday objects. "She had a really good eye at looking at ordinary things from a different angle," Lang said.

"That is what Michelle was about," Briere added, "Bringing ordinary things to light for you." Briere smiled and said, "Like how terrible food is, Michelle was a vegan and she was always guilt-tripping me into thinking about changing."

Keri Johnson, a student professor of the class, Yogic Environmental Philosophy, that Michelle greatly enjoyed, described her as "an environmentalist and a practicing yogi, she saw beauty in the smallest things."

Michelle inspired Johnson to write a poem, helping her to place Michelle now that she is gone, "Her shining soul permeates our flesh, the wind, the trees, the soil and all creatures of life…She is here right now, surrounding us, she is in our practice, in the moments, in the smiles, in the tears."

Michelle grew up in Arlington Va., across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. with her parents Diane Gardner Quinn and John-Charles Quinn. She was part of a tight knit group of friends who spent every summer at the community swimming pool, Donaldson Run.

"I have known her longer than I can even remember," said Melissa McCracken, a life long friend of Michelle's, who remembered calling Michelle "Mimi" when they swam in the baby pool together. The girls moved up to the bigger pool, then joined the swim team and eventually became lifeguards together at Donaldson Run. Michelle has two older half siblings, Yasmine and Paul Rassam.

"She was carefree, didn't care what others thought. She was not interested in owning designer things, she went her own way. She was so passionate about art, and music," said McCraken. In addition to her passion for travel, friends and the environment, Michelle played the cello, sang in her church choir, and was excellent soccer player and swimmer.

"Michelle is the kind of woman who would want her actions and what she did to stand out more then what she was," Keri said.

Organization Formed In Honor Of Michelle Gardner-Quinn
WPTZ Plattsburgh

Murdered UVM student Michelle Gardner-Quinn's family and friends are keeping her memory alive, by forming what will be known as "Michelle's Earth Foundation."

They said it'll be a nonprofit organization that will sponsor volunteer projects that benefit the environment, which was one of Michelle's passions.

To kick it off, on Friday, hundreds of people across the country will plant a tree in her memory.

Her sister, Yasmine Rassam, said that they are trying to ensure she doesn't become just another nameless victim of a horrible homicide.

The group plans to have a Web site up and running in the coming months.

Memorial Service
Arlington County Fire Department Engine 3 Company
Source: http://www.acfd3.com/2006.htm

October 28 - This afternoon members of C shift attended the memorial service for Michelle Gardner -Quinn who grew up and attended school in Station 3's first due. Michelle, a student at the University of Vermont in Burlington drew national headlines after her disappearance earlier this month. Sadly, Michelle's body was found a week after she vanished. The service was officiated by the Reverend Bill Hoffman from the Church of the Covenant. The H-B Woodlawn Chamber Singers performed several pieces while friends and family shared memories of Michelle. The service was attended by an overflow crowd of at least 500 people. The members of Station 3 extend our deepest sympathies to the Gardner-Quinn family.

Memorial For Slain UVM Student
Arlington, Virginia - October 27, 2006
Channel 3 Burlington

A memorial service for Michelle Gardner-Quinn will be held Saturday in her hometown in Virginia.

Also Michelle's family has set up an environmental scholarship in her name. That was her course of study at UVM.

For more on the memorial service and the scholarship, check the InfoCenter on our homepage.

Gardner-Quinn case might change legal system, Sorrell says
Published: Thursday, October 26, 2006
By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press Staff Writer

Attorney General William Sorrell on Wednesday predicted the death of University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn will lead to changes in the way Vermont responds to claims of domestic and sexual abuse.

"I'm sure there will be system changes as a result of this case," Sorrell said. "Obviously, there were failures here, failures to identify and hold accountable the assailant and to protect the community from him."

Sorrell made the comment after a Burlington news conference where Police Chief Tom Tremblay announced that Brian Lee Rooney of Richmond will be arraigned today on an aggravated murder charge in connection with the death of Gardner-Quinn.

Gardner-Quinn's body was found near Huntington Gorge in Richmond on Oct. 13, six days after she disappeared after spending an evening with friends in downtown Burlington.

According to court records, Rooney had a history of making death threats to women who broke up with him and of performing sex acts upon women after subduing them with ether or a chemical agent.

Rooney's alleged conduct, first detailed in relief-from-abuse affidavits from two women who had been in relationships with Rooney, had gone unnoticed by police until they began probing his background after naming him a suspect in Gardner-Quinn's death.

Last week, Rooney was charged with two sexual assaults and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor in connection with the women's claims. Burlington Deputy Police Chief Walt Decker said Wednesday "several more women" have come forward and made similar allegations about Rooney's conduct with them.

Sorrell said he was unsure how to change the system for responding to domestic and sexual assaults but hopes to develop ideas in the coming weeks.

"We've already had internal discussions about it," he said. "I want to convene gatherings of people within and without the system, including battered-women-shelter workers, the courts and the law enforcement community."

The law does not mandate that Family Court judges or clerical workers report domestic abuse and sexual assault claims to police when they are handling requests from women seeking court orders protecting them from abuse by spouses or relationship partners.

Battered-women's shelters and organizations like the Women's Rape Crisis Center in Burlington also are not required to inform police of such claims, unless the allegations involve a "vulnerable person," such as a child or an elderly or disabled person.

"Our job is to present options," said Cathleen Wilson, director of the Women's Rape Crisis Center. "That includes reporting it to law enforcement."

Sorrell said forcing Family Court or these groups to report such information to police would have a chilling effect on the victims, who might not want the abuser to face criminal penalties for family, financial or other personal reasons.

"It's almost like a warning," Anera Foco, director of the Women Helping Battered Women shelter in Burlington, said of the decision to seek a relief-from-abuse order.

Police do become involved in a case if the victim takes her abuse allegations directly to them. Alleged abusers also are charged criminally if they do not abide by the relief-from-abuse order.

Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, said he hopes to introduce legislation next year to encourage police to be more active in investigating allegations like the ones two former partners of Rooney detailed in their relief-from-abuse affidavits. Illuzzi is also the prosecutor in Essex County, where one of Rooney's sexual assaults allegedly occurred.

"Maybe we could have a policy where police officers could go through the relief-from-abuse petitions and see if there are claims that rise to the level of sexual assault or some serious felony charge like that," Illuzzi said.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at shemingway@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com.

Crime Causes Students to Change Their Behavior
Local Matters by Cathy Resmer, Seven Days

BURLINGTON — Being located in or near the city of Burlington is an asset for colleges like the University of Vermont, but the recent murder of UVM senior Michelle Gardner-Quinn has caused many students to re-evaluate their impressions of this quiet college town and to change their behavior, especially late at night.

According to Ashley Fitzpatrick, a senior at St. Michael’s College, that reaction is not limited to students at UVM. She says St. Mike’s students are definitely more cautious about what they’re doing at night and with whom. “We are a lot more aware of who and what is around us,” she says. “Before I used to walk around alone. I don’t walk anywhere by myself now — it makes me nervous.”

UVM sophomore Katie Nickitas agrees. “I think that when you go off campus — or even on campus — and are out at night as a female, you need to take precautions,” she says. “I do, and would feel extremely nervous walking alone almost anywhere at night.”

Nancy Solberg, a freshman who lives on UVM’s Redstone campus, says she always takes the bus downtown and back, but usually walks from the Living and Learning complex to Redstone. After police found Gardner-Quinn’s body last week, Solberg felt uncomfortable walking alone that far, even during the day. She called a friend on her cell phone for an escort.

She adds that students in her dorm used to leave the building through emergency exit doors, but don’t anymore. Campus security is watching the doors more closely, she says, and now if they’re used for anything other than an emergency, students are fined.

In a press release last Wednesday, the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said women are right to be scared. “The unfortunate reality is that women’s safety is potentially at risk in every aspect of their lives — in their homes, at school, at work, or on the street,” the release reads. “There is a war against women occurring in our society, and until we address the oppressions underlying this injustice, women will not truly be safe regardless of who or where they are.”

Male students say they understand their female classmates’ fear, but few of them seem to share it. “Do I feel less safe? Not really,” says UVM junior Andrew Detullio. But he says he does feel more aware of his surroundings. “You just notice things more,” says Detullio. “If you walk past someone you kind of are a little more skeptical of them.” He adds that he’s not at all reluctant to walk a female friend home if she feels uneasy.

UVM senior Scott Kuhlen says more of his female friends are asking him for an escort. “I was hanging out with one of my friends recently, and she said, ‘You are walking me home tonight,’” he recalls. “I’ve definitely heard women be more assertive about being walked home.”

Kuhlen’s also more aware of how he behaves around women he sees walking home alone. A few nights after Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance, Kuhlen found himself strolling behind a woman late at night. He didn’t know her, and she didn’t say anything to him, but he thought his presence might have made her uncomfortable, so he backed off a bit.

“I kind of just stopped and looked at my cell phone or something,” he says, “just to give some distance there.” He’s done that a few times since, he adds. “I’ve talked to friends who’ve had the same experience.”

Kuhlen’s housemate, Champlain College junior Mike Shannon, says he’s also become more sensitive to requests from female friends who want him to walk or drive them home. “You just don’t know who’s out there,” he says. “I feel like, once it’s dark now, people are scared.”

Members of the UVM community are organizing to combat that fear. On Thursday, October 26, there will be a speak-out on violence against women at noon on the steps of Waterman, sponsored by Men Advocating Change. And on Monday, October 30, the UVM Women’s Center is organizing a Community Brainstorm for Action in Billings’ North Lounge, from 6 to 8 p.m. Says the UVM website: “This gathering will provide a forum to share ideas about how to end violence against women.”

UVM student Molly Shaker contributed to this story.

Self defense class draws big crowd
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Lauren Ober
Burlington Free Press Staff Writer

You might think self-defense is all about eye-gouging, ear-boxing and groin-grabbing. But if you use your brain and trust your gut, chances are you'll never have to employ those tactics.

So says Brent Mott, a former Burlington police officer and current probation officer who ran a free personal protection class Tuesday night at the Burlington YMCA. He began the two-hour session by asking the assembled women how many were taking the class because of the recent killing of University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn. Nearly every woman raised her hand.

"My second question is why did it take a tragedy like that to get you here?" Mott asked. "Don't wait for a tragedy to protect yourself."

A year and a half after the rape and murder of Laura Winterbottom in Burlington, the YMCA offered a similar class for women. Only eight women attended. This session attracted 50, including many college students.

Most of the women, who ranged from high school students to grandmothers, had never taken a self-defense class before and said they were spurred by recent events to arm themselves with the knowledge of how to handle threatening situations.

Solange Harvey of Burlington saw an ad for the class and encouraged her two daughters, Erin Harvey, 19, and Ashley Harvey, 22, to come with her. It didn't take much persuading, Harvey said.

"We wanted to be better equipped. They were excited, actually," she said.

Nicky Patterson of St. Albans came to the class to feel more secure while running alone. The 31-year-old, who lives alone and frequently runs in the mornings, said the class made sense.

"I already kind of knew the avoidance stuff, but I wanted to learn something beyond just common sense," Patterson said.

After practicing a series of defense tactics, including punching with an open palm and kneeing someone in the groin, Patterson said she learned new techniques. Patterson, who is calm and shy, said she would probably balk at throwing a punch.

"I've never even pretended to hit someone, so it wouldn't come naturally to me," she said.

Getting women to respond instinctually to physical threats is a goal of Mott's. Along with his wife, Phebe Mott, Burlington police officer Peter Bottino and Clark Stever, a corrections services specialist for the Vermont Department of Corrections, Mott took the class through brain and body responses to threatening situations.

Mott stressed awareness above all else. He urged the women to be aware of their environment and their own intuition, as well as pre-attack cues.

"Out of proper awareness comes avoidance. You never know how many situations you avoid through awareness," Mott said.

Mott emphasized that while Burlington is generally a safe city, women shouldn't become complacent.

"You gotta be willing to get down and dirty," he said. "You gotta be willing to thrust your fingers into their eyeballs and you gotta be willing to grab their groin and squeeze for all you're worth."

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or lober@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com

Information Release – Wednesday October 25, 2006 4:00 p.m.
Investigation Update

Good afternoon. I want to begin this afternoon by once again expressing our condolences and sending our prayers to Michelle Gardner Quinn’s family and friends. I know Michelle is in the forefront of our thoughts, for many in our community.

This afternoon Burlington Police Investigators have brought charges against Brian Rooney, 36, of Richmond, VT for Aggravated Homicide in the death of Michelle Gardner Quinn. A judge has reviewed these charges and found probable cause. Mr. Rooney will be arraigned tomorrow in Chittenden District Court at 10:30 AM.

Late this morning we received results of DNA analysis in this case from the Vermont Forensic Laboratory. Those results indicate that DNA samples found during Michelle’s medical examination match the DNA from Brian Rooney to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. The scientific probability of the samples randomly existing in the Caucasian population are approximately 1 in 240 quadrillion.

That information, taken in context with the results of exhaustive investigation by over 70 investigators conducted over the last 18 days have led police to believe he is solely responsible for Michelle’s disappearance and charge him with her murder.

Also, we are now prepared to release preliminary information from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner which indicates that the cause of Michelle’s death was strangulation and blunt force trauma.

At this time we have copies of the Affidavit of Probable Cause available for members of the media.

Over the past two and a half weeks Michelle’s family and friends have related numerous stories of her activism and interest in changing the world. By all accounts she was a truly remarkable young woman. It seems fitting that, as a community, we embrace Michelle’s interest in making a difference. We must renew our commitment to ensuring that our community is well educated about the hazards of personal violence that are a concern for every community in our nation.

Being aware that crime can occur, anywhere, to anyone, is the first step in crime prevention. However, we cannot let these terrible crimes paralyze us in fear. We must demand our freedom from violence and crime. We must also renew our commitment to ending violence against women, violence perpetrated by men – in the form of domestic and sexual violence. As a community we must move beyond "victim blaming" and direct more efforts at those who are responsible for the violence. As a society we must do more to educate boys and men to stop acts of violence against women.

We should talk with our friends, our families, our children – certainly our daughters, but most importantly our sons – about the fact that violence against women must end, and that violence against women will not be tolerated in our community.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the many citizens, students, businesses, the University of Vermont, and all who assisted us and encouraged us throughout the investigation; the local and national media who covered this case and helped keep our community informed. We would especially like to acknowledge and thank our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners that worked side by side with us throughout this difficult case. I hope that all of us in Vermont realize how fortunate we are to have such professional and cooperative Law Enforcement agencies.

At the conclusion of the conclusion of the briefing we will have investigators available for interviews. We are now prepared to take questions.

Violence against women
Cheryl Hanna
Vermont Public Radio

MP3 File Listen to the full interview (MP3 / 1.3 mb / 2:47)

BURLINGTON, VT (2006-10-25)

(HOST) The murder of Michelle Gardner-Quinn has deeply shaken our small state. Commentator Cheryl Hanna reflects upon what her murder might mean for other young women.

(HANNA) Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Girl Scout Council of Vermont Gold and Silver Awards Celebration. I was so impressed by the young women who had earned scouting's highest honor. They believed that they could do anything they wanted.

Teaching our daughters that their life choices shouldn't be limited because they're girls is one of the most important things we've done for young women of this generation.

It's why our daughters are astronauts and scientists and race car drivers. Why they can play soccer and write poetry. Why they can serve our country and care for our families. Young women today sense endless possibilities about who they are and how they can make a difference in the world.

It's what I call the spirit of girl power, and the young women I met at that awards ceremony certainly had it.

So, too, I think, did Laura Winterbottom and Michelle Gardner-Quinn.

Although I never met either of them, from everything that I've learned, these young women had qualities we'd like all of our daughters to share. They had confidence, courage, and convictions and were out there living strong and independent lives.

The events of the last few weeks have been difficult for many reasons - chief among them the loss of another vibrant young woman far too soon.

But it's also a painful reminder that, for some, young women are still objects of sexual gratification to be used and abused and disposed of.

It's also a reminder that no matter how much girl power a young woman has, it may not protect her from what happened to Laura and Michelle, and the thousands of others who've met similar fates.

Yet we can't afford to give up on our belief in girl power. Of course we want everyone to exercise caution, but we have to be careful not to blame women for failing to keep themselves safe.

It damages a young woman's psyche to live her life as a potential victim.

It makes her less trusting of the world and more hesitant to take risks.

It also makes it harder for her to dream and inhibits what she does.

Fear can make you powerless, which is how many young women in Vermont must be feeling these days.

We all bear the responsibility for ensuring that those who killed Laura and Michelle don't kill the spirit of the rest of our daughters.

To that end, we need to enforce the tougher laws we've passed and to talk to our sons about appropriate behavior. We definitely need to take early signs of violent behavior more seriously.

And we need more community-wide conversations about what we can do, because doing nothing is not an option.

Cheryl Hanna is a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

© Copyright 2006, VPR

Sexual Assault Victims Afraid to Come Forward
Burlington, Vermont - October 24, 2006
Alex Martin - Channel 3 News

The death of Michelle Gardner-Quinn has many women focusing on safety and how to keep themselves out of dangerous situations.

"I think it is a good thing, I think it is a positive reaction, and unfortunately times are changing... the landscape of Burlington is changing... we're seeing it every day with our hotline calls," said Kristine Bickford of the Vermont Women's Rape Crisis Center.

The Women's Rape Crisis Center in Burlington fields thousands of calls a year from women who have been sexually assaulted.

"Last year in Chittenden County alone we had over 3000 hotline calls and we helped over 600 survivors of sexual assault," continued Bickford.

But the number of these incidents that get reported to Chittenden county's sex crimes unit is dramatically lower.

"We've seen those numbers increase from about 250 reports in total during its first year of operation in 1992/3, to about 430 reports a year now," said Deputy Chief Michael Schirling of the Burlington Police Department.

Both say that the discrepancy between the numbers that the Rape Crisis Center and the Police are seeing is in reporting. Only a small fraction of victims of rape or sexual assault tell police.

Continued Schirling: "Suffice it to say that the word dramatically underreported is probably not understating the problem."

During the investigation into the Gardner Quinn case, several victims have come forward to allege sexual assault charges against suspect Brian Rooney.

"His past record is very typical of what we see, and there are a lot of men out on the street that are still out there because nothing is happening in the court system and because women are afraid to report," said Bickford.

Many victims choose not to report incidents like these because of shame, fear, and the prospects of having to face their assailant in court.

It's a difficult process... it's an adversarial system where you are being cross examined potentially by someone who's basically trying to take your story apart," said Schirling.

It's a difficult choice, but experts say one that may help more than just the victims themselves.

Read More News More news: Oct 8-14 2006 | Oct 15-21 | Oct 22-Dec 31 | Jan-Sep 2007 | Oct-Dec | Jan-May 2008 | Index

URL: http://www.michellegardnerquinn.com/news_archive_2006_3.htm