Sunday, 28 November 2021

2 women have been criminally charged over their partners’ suicides

Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office; John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

BOSTON: For the second time in recent years, authorities in Massachusetts have pressed involuntary manslaughter charges against a woman over the suicide of her partner.

On Monday, Suffolk County prosecutors announced that a grand jury indicted 21-year-old Inyoung You in connection with the suicide of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula, a Boston College student. They accused You of sending Urtula more than 47,000 text messages, verbally abusing him and urging him to kill himself.

They also said You physically abused Ursula, used manipulation to control him, and was even present at the parking garage where Urtula died. You is currently in her native South Korea and has not yet faced the charges in court.

The case against You immediately drew comparisons to those against Michelle Carter, a 22-year-old woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2014 suicide of her friend, Conrad Roy.

Suffolk County District Attorney’s OfficeLike You, Carter was also accused of sending Roy a deluge of abusive text messages urging him to kill himself, and did not seek help even as she listened to him die over the phone. She is currently serving 15 months in jail.

Yet in the wake of the two high-profile manslaughter cases against women, experts told Insider they could not recall a similar instance of a man being charged with manslaughter in connection with his partner’s suicide.

That fact struck the experts as noteworthy, given that women are statistically more likely than men to experience domestic or sexual violence, and about equally as likely as men to experience psychological aggression from an intimate partner.

Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, told Insider it’s rare to charge someone with manslaughter over another person’s suicide, so the fact that both recent cases involved female defendants may at this point be nothing more than a coincidence – but it could also point to a larger, more worrying trend of gender bias in the criminal justice system.

“It could be an element of gender bias, especially I think in the Carter case,” Medwed said. “[There’s] this idea of a woman somehow being manipulative and preying upon the vulnerabilities of some clueless boy.”

Medwed said the vast majority of domestic violence cases are brought against men, and therefore “one would assume when it comes to threats and harassment,” men are also the most likely perpetrators.

“We shouldn’t ignore the gender dynamic. We shouldn’t discount gender as a factor,” he said.

But part of the apparent discrepancy could be the complex nature of suicide, and the documented differences between the ways men and women make suicide attempts, Jonathan Singer of the American Association of Suicidology told Insider.

Women in domestic violence situations are at an increased risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are roughly three times more likely to attempt suicide than men. Yet men are four times more likely to complete a suicide, because they tend to use more lethal methods than women.

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