Sunday, January 16, 2011


Man and woman back together after genitals set on fire

Published in the Gainesville Sun

A week ago, a man was in tremendous pain when his girlfriend allegedly set his genitals on fire after pouring gasoline on him.

Days after what seemed like a terrible ordeal, the 42-year-old man has been released from the hospital after undergoing surgery and says the episode was all a misunderstanding.

"It was an accident," Andrew Williams said in a telephone interview with the Ocala Star-Banner on Saturday afternoon. He added that his girlfriend "didn't know it was going to happen."

Since his release, Williams' sister, Alice Pierson, and her mother, Helen Colding, told the paper they've not seen or heard from their loved one since Wednesday.

In fact, both mother and daughter said after his surgery, they had plans to pick him up from Shands at the University of Florida on Thursday. But Pierson said when she called the hospital, an official told her they had nobody by that name in their system.

After going back and forth with the official, Pierson said she hung up. Unable to locate her brother, Pierson said she heard her brother's girlfriend, 29-year-old Victoria Bynes, who was arrested by deputies for aggravated battery for allegedly setting her boyfriend's genitals on fire, had picked him up from the hospital and that he was staying with her.

"We heard he was staying with her. I know my brother is a grown man and can make his own decision, but at least call us," Pierson said.

Reached by phone, Colding said she has not seen or heard from her son.

Williams told the Star-Banner that Bynes "came and got me," and he assured the paper that "no charges will be filed," something his sister feared would happen.

"We've been together for a long time," Williams said of his relationship with Bynes.

Williams said his family had visited him in the hospital and claimed nobody told him "nothing" about the fire.

Asked if he and Bynes had been arguing before the incident took place, Williams said "no." Asked if she had gasoline in a bottle, Williams terminated the interview, saying he had to go.

"It's very sad," said Pierson. "It hurts me because it hurts my mother. Yes, he's grown, and he can do whatever he wants, but it hurts my mother and when that happens, it hurts me." Pierson said their mother is sickly and that she worries about her children.

Bynes could not be reached for comment.

Colding said her son and Bynes do not have any children and that Bynes has treated her "good" during Bynes' relationship with Williams. She said she was at home when Bynes came there and asked to speak to her son.

After being told he was not there, she said Bynes told her that Williams had "some explaining to do." She said Bynes left, saying she was going to "do her niece's hair."

Colding said Bynes has called and apologized.

"She said she was sorry," said Colding, adding that she has forgiven Bynes.

Even though she has forgiven Bynes, she said, "I can't be around her now. She hurt my whole family."

If given this story, I would question whether it belonged in the paper. It's certainly an interesting story, but there's not much news value in it. I think the initial report was good enough, but a follow-up about the couple is not necessary. Specifically, I would question the appropriateness of adding family drama to a news story. If I had written this story, I would have tried to investigate a possible domestic violence angle. Many victims of domestic abuse return to their abusers despite knowing the possible consequences. Is this one of those cases? To find more answers, I might talk to the investigating officer and an abuse counselor.

1.Who are the people affected?

The man, Andrew Williams, whose genitals were set on fire and, to an extent, his family.

2. How are people affected or how might they be affected?

I think the story tries to turn the incident into an issue of community concern by just including interviews with the family. To more completely do this, the reporter could investigate if this was the first incident between the couple and, if so, discuss the prevalence of victims returning to abusive partners.

3. Why are you writing this?

To inform the community on an interesting and unexpected development in an earlier-published incident.

4. Who are the bureaucrats?

The bureaucrats are doctors at Shands at the University of Florida and possibly the officers who investigated the original incident.

5. What are the key questions?

-Why did the victim return to his girlfriend?

-Were any charges filed against her?

-If so, is it legal for him to return to her?

-Are there any avenues the family can take to protect the son if they feel it is necessary?

6. What research must you do?

The reporter could look at the incident report or talk to the police and girlfriend about what happened.

7. Where can you go?

For this story, the reporter can request the incident report from the Public Information Officer at the police. He or she can also interview the PIO over the phone or in person.

8. What are you missing?

If I were to investigate the domestic violence aspect, I would contact and interview an abuse counselor. Williams' refusal to answer his family's questions makes he wonder if there's a part of this story that is being missed. The fact that the victim is male makes some people less likely to think about abuse, but it is something that should be looked at.

9. How can you be creative?

The reporter could look at other domestic violence incidents statistics for the county and find out if it is common for victims to return to their abusers. This could be part of a follow-up story or an enterprise story.

10. What is your vision?

This story could be used to investigate the occurrence of male victim/female abuser cases. This is something that is not looked it very often, and a story would be an interesting way to educate the public about such incidents. More information from the police and an expert on domestic violence could help achieve this.

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