Amanda Knox: A Small Victory?

The media recently reported that Amanda Knox was awarded $55,000 (USD) in damages for violation of her privacy related to private diary entries that were used in a book by Italian journalist Fiorenza Sarzanini.

“Amanda e gli Altri” (Amanda and the Others) was published in 2008 and quotes from her personal journal and notebooks, including details about her sexual activity and private health records.

No matter the news source is in this difficult case, there are consistently two very firm camps of supporters.  The comments from the Knox camp continue to insist that this young woman did not show up for study abroad in Italy with no prior criminal record and suddenly become a murderer.  The Kercher camp is insistent that Amanda Knox played a role in the death of Meredith Kercher and wonders why people are showing any sympathy for “Foxy Knoxy,” as Ms. Knox is frequently referred to in the tabloid press.  One comment from Ms. Kercher’s supporters suggested that this “award” should be donated to the family of Ms. Kercher.

If you watched the TLC show on the subject of the Knox/Kercher case last night, the Knox family spoke of the pain that the Kercher family must be living with and Ms. Kercher’s photo and date of her murder were posted several times, including during the closing credits.  However, the TLC show clearly emphasized the case from the perspective of the Knox family and supporters.

As I have stated before, I do not know Ms. Knox and did not know Ms. Kercher. I write about this case because as a study abroad administrator and blogger, I have responsibility to share information and raise questions.  Study abroad professionals wear many hats which not only include providing sound academic advising for courses abroad, but we typically serve as one of the first points of contact should there be an emergency. I often think about how I would have handled that first phone call to my university had I been Ms. Knox’s study abroad adviser.  Would I have offered sage advice and been a supportive ear?  Would I have gone into ultra protective American litigious mode?  Would I have called the US consulate for a legal referral?  Would that have helped her if she is innocent?

I also think a lot about Ms. Kercher.  What if she were one of “my students?”  (Those of us in the field know what I mean here: when you send a student abroad, you suddenly feel that they are “yours” – they represent your love for the field, your hopes for youth, perhaps even your own family.)  I cannot imagine losing one of “my students.”  And certainly, I cannot imagine the pain that her family experiences every day.

Theo Cohen: Syracuse University study abroad student (Pan Am 103)

I will share a deeply personal story with my readers:  While in college, I learned about the death of a high school classmate. Theodora Cohen (known to her friends as Theo) was a brilliant student from Syracuse University. She was one of the unfortunate young people who was murdered on PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.   While I was not a close friend of Theo, I do remember seeing her in many plays in our high school; she was a talented, poised, confident and beautiful artist. She died at 20 years old and I remember turning on the TV and seeing the look on her parents’ faces as they ran through JFK airport, hoping that the news of the crash was not true.  Even though I was a young woman in college, I remember being overwhelmed by what her family must have been feeling.  I had nightmares for years about Theo’s death.  I was a study abroad student in London as an undergraduate and perhaps her death is one reason that I became a study abroad adviser.

I am reminded by these memories and experiences that in Italy, there are two lives that are lost here, whether Ms. Knox is “guilty” or not.  And tonight, I am reminded of another beautiful and vibrant young woman who lost her life, needlessly.  Rest in peace Meredith and Theo – and all of those who perished on Pam Am 103 and in Lockerbie, Scotland. And whether you are guilty or innocent, Amanda, may you find some peace to get you through this experience also.