The mother of Wayland murder victim Lauren Dunne Astley today called on legislators to mandate comprehensive dating violence education in Massachusetts schools, saying that if her daughter had only received the “pearl of wisdom” never to go alone to visit an ex-boyfriend, she might still be alive.
“If only she had learned and internalized that singularly important lesson,” said Mary Dunne, who spoke with her former husband and Astley’s father, Malcolm Astley, to the Joint Committee on Education in the State House today. Behind them, their daughter beamed in a blown up version of her senior portrait. “That small pearl of wisdom should be ingrained in our children as deeply as buckling their seat belts and recycling their bottles and cans.”
Lauren Astley was 18 when she was was beaten, strangled and slashed to death by her high-school sweetheart Nathaniel Fujita in his Wayland garage after a tumultuous breakup their senior year. Fujita was convicted in March of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Since their daughter’s death, Astley and Dunne have started the Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund, which supports programs to promote healthy teen relationships, as well as the arts and community service. They were joined this morning by a panel of mental health and education specialists who also called for legislative action.
“Relationships are the beginning and the end of what people are about,” said Malcolm Astley after the hearing. “Kids need a lot of training in what is one of the most paniful parts of being a human, and that is having a relationship come to an end.”
During his testimony, Astley urged the committee to implement “the best elements” of three House bills, all of which call for health education to include teaching about healthy teen relationships, dating violence and conflict resolution. He called the level of violence against women today “extreme.”
Three women are killed in America every day by intimate partner violence, he told the committee.
“We, over the centuries... in order to address, solve and prevent many terrible problems, have taken remarkable and effective steps, both grand and practical, from the abolition of slavery to the initiation of women’s right to vote,” he said. “We can take another step together now.”