I’ve been thinking about the recent sentencing of Tony Farmer, and his ex-girlfriend’s reaction. Mr. Farmer was a basketball hero at his high school, with serious recruitment potential and a shot at the dream life so many young people in sports stoke as motivation for practicing, excelling in school along with their sport and taking on all manner of challenges to reach their goals. When Mr. Farmer was sentenced, Andrea Lane, his ex-girlfriend and the victim of the crimes for which he was sentenced, broke down in court. She is quoted as telling a newspaper in Cleveland that she thinks Mr. Farmer was a good person, and that she hoped he still was. Rather than write about violence against women, privilege in sports or anything else like that, I write herein an open letter to Andrea Lane. However, the letter is also to any person who is the victim of assault by an intimate partner especially. Often, if the perpetrator (male or female) is an otherwise upstanding citizen, the victim is blamed for “taking down” the perpetrator, in a cruel twist of fate that delegitimizes victims and helps perpetuate partner violence. This kind of thought could be applied to the controversy over Joe Paterno, (or anyone else connected to the horrific, long-term abuse that took place at Penn State) and anyplace or time when victims are blamed for disparaging someone who is otherwise highly lauded and respected in other realms of life.
Here is my open letter to Andrea Lane, the victim of assault, kidnapping and robbery perpetrated by Tony Farmer, a young man with sports potential.
When a man assaults you, kidnaps you, drags you by the hair, steals from you and then threatens to cause you more harm if you testify against him for the crimes he’s committed, he is no longer a good person as you told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A good person does not hit or otherwise harm his girlfriend. He does not steal from her and he does not threaten her. Sure, your former boyfriend may have a lot of people on his side. As we have seen in our society, from the likes of O.J. Simpson to Michael Vick, men who have money and social standing from careers in sports are often forgiven for heinous acts and even crimes. (And, no, I am NOT going there about Mr. Simpson’s guilt or innocence with the murder charges. The truth is that Mr. Simpson was not a “good person” merely due to his assault of the former Mrs. Simpson, which is on tape and undeniable.)
Yes, “good people” can do bad things, and feel remorse and even attempt retribution or other repair to the lives they have damaged with their actions. And, as much as the world loves a “come back kid” story, I always think of the kids who do not behave in such a way, and ask why they are never lauded. The best people don’t “mess up” in such major (or violent) ways.
Ms. Lane, you did not end the potential success or basketball career of Tony Farmer. He did that himself when he assaulted, kidnapped, stole from and intimidated you. He was shocked at his sentencing because he was shocked to be sentenced at all. He figured that with everyone else rooting for him, he’d be free to return to his golden life while you dealt with being his unfortunate ex-girlfriend. Who would sentence a young man with such potential? I mean, basketball is more important than some silly girl, right? Wrong, and the judge in this case determined that justice be served rather than hoops.
In fact, you might consider that Tony’s actions were even more inexcusable given his opportunities in life. If he was truly concerned with his basketball potential, his focus might have been there versus arguing with you. Even in an argument, he might have considered all he might lose if he behaved in a way that was not only cruel, but also illegal. If Mr. Farmer was such a good person, he may not have collapsed in court, either, but rather held his resolve, realizing that he alone was responsible for his actions, and therefore responsible for answering to those actions. Rather, he saw his name in the lights disappear. He saw the name on the back of the jersey disappear, like too much bleach added to the wash. He did not see your cowering, fearful self, or himself as the cause of your terror.
While Mr. Farmer may not have serial killer potential, there are women who interacted with the infamous Ted Bundy, and found him to be a wonderful man. Anne Rule (the author of The Stranger Beside Me) worked with Mr. Bundy at a suicide hotline. In him, at the time, she saw a volunteer who helped people—one side of a man who brutally murdered women. Elizabeth Kendall (author of The Phantom Prince) was Mr. Bundy’s girlfriend. He acted as a father to her child from a previous relationship. While both of these women offered information to police that finally helped them catch Mr. Bundy, for the longest time, neither wanted to believe that their “prince” or that the nice guy who volunteered with them, was the mysterious, elusive killer he turned out to be. I don’t think that Tony Farmer is a potential serial killer. However, without just punishment for the crimes he committed, he might have turned out to be at least a serial abuser of women. Just because someone does good things, does not necessarily make him a good person if he also does awful things.
I wrote a while back about my own connection to domestic violence. I do not condemn Tony Farmer as a life-long abuser. There is potential that he might just be a “good person” again, one who does not perpetuate violence in his future relationships. Hopefully, his jail time will include correctional aspects so that he realizes the error of violence as a reaction to conflict.
Andrea, Tony may have been a great basketball player. He might have had a future of which so many young people dream. It was not you who toppled the tall basketball player. He alone is responsible for cutting short his own potential. Remember that.
Kate Robinson, M.A. adult learning and development, is a Master’s in Social Work candidate at Bridgewater State University. She lives south of Boston with her family.
Kate enjoys writing, reading, collage and felting. She also works in medical education and as a counselor at a women’s health clinic.