Friday, April 27, 2007

I Never Really Thought of it This Way

It's a very good point. Written about the Virginia Tech killer, Screaming into the Void writes (emphasis mine):

The Virginia Tech shooter had a history of stalking women. Not just following them with starry eyes as the kindly (towards men) patriarchal imagination paints those poor misunderstood stalkers:Notice a pattern with these guys? Hello? Anyone? These serial killers and mass murderers who “suddenly snap” almost invariably have a problem with women. They almost always have a long history of stalking women, accusations of date rape or “domestic” violence (which are finally listed as “unfounded” and dismissed), and glorification of violence notable even for our violence-enamored society, often with a focus on violence done in sexual ways toward women.

But because women don’t matter, because women aren’t seen as people, these warning signs are not taken seriously. The campus police did not move to secure the campus early in the day when he shot the first two people because they blew it off as probably a “domestic” incident of murder/suicide - police shorthand for “He only killed a woman he’d had sex with before, so she’d probably asked for it anyway and of course he isn’t going to hurt any REAL people, just the bitch who pushed him over the edge.” Because they don’t take violence against women seriously, even murder of women, 30 more people were killed. They did track down her boyfriend to question him, but they didn’t lock down the campus in case they were wrong - they assumed a man who shoots his girlfriend isn’t a danger to any real people.

There’s a double mistake in this thinking. First of all, violence against one woman - even if the offender has a past or current relationship with her - should mean the offender is immediately taken to jail. Who cares if she wants to press charges? If someone starts beating up strangers on the street and the police are alerted, the offender goes straight to jail and the charges are sorted out later. Why? Because - and here’s a radical idea - even if she fucked him before, SHE’S STILL A HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN’T DESERVE TO GET BEATEN, RAPED, OR KILLED FOR IT. Secondly, while some men are happy to have just their own personal punching bag/gun target in the form of a woman on whom they perpetrate “intimate violence”, often a man uses women (or other low status humans, like the homeless or prostitutes) as practice before moving on to killing “real people” (like men, or unrelated university students with a career in front of them, or people with jobs, or chaste women who are married to/property of some other man). Even if you don’t take violence against an individual woman seriously, from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective it is FUCKING STUPID to blow off someone who shoots, rapes, or beats his girlfriend as not being a danger to society. Yet law enforcement does this all the time.

I had been surprised to hear about all the stalking he had done and the judge-ordered mental health treatment, and then that the media and students all kept saying "well that didn't mean he was going to do anything dangerous". WHY NOT? When does it? I thought it seemed unusual that all that was so downplayed. Screaming into the Void makes good points about mass murderers usually having a problem with women. And then her second point how if it had been a stranger he went out and beat up/killed, he would still go to jail without having to "check with the partner" to see if she wants to press charges.


Anonymous said...

The women he stalked all refused to press charges. Had they followed through then perhaps this story would have ended differently.

Terra said...

Ugh...the victim blame game. The, "well, she asked for it, she pushed him to the edge, I'd hit the bitch too if she acted like that."

Why can't people understand that NO ONE deserves to be abused, beaten, raped, or mistreated, regardless of their sex, gender, race, age, orientation or religion?

I agree with you - stalking should have been a red flag, that yes, he might do something dangerous. There's no such thing as "harmless stalking" as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

Blame game? Here we have society being blamed for not caring about women when the true bad guy was the one who shot 32 innocents.

The effort isn't to blame the victim, but law enforcement and the community can really only do so much with the tools at their disposal. The police can't do anything, judges can't do anything, administrations can't do anything if people don't tell them that something needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty much apparent that the shooter had problems with people, not just women and that those problems were in part the result of mental illness.
Psychiatrists have a very difficult task in determining which of their patients are truly capable of violence and which are not. Privacy laws make it very difficult for law enforcement or any entity to obtain psychiatric medical records.
I don't think this is the proper case to use as an example of rage towards women by men who have anger control issues. This case is about mental illness and how best to balance patient privacy and the general public's right to safety.

Let's not forget that both men and women were among the 32 victims at Tech, it was a violence that did not descriminate.

Generation Next said...

Anonymous(s): Please identify yourself somehow(pen name is fine) otherwise I can't tell if you are all the same writer or not.

I (and the author of the article) never said that the shooter only shot or targeted women. Her point was that mass killers often have a history of violence or hatred towards women, and the fact that authorities (be it police or the school, or the judge) didn't follow up on 2 distinct cases of this with him ( 1)his stalking and 2)police considering the dorm shooting only a "domestic case).

Last anon: This is NOT a case about Rage against Women, as you suggest, nor did I frame it as such. Nor is it really about mental illness. The issue wasn't about privacy or not being able to access his mental health records (as far as we know, he didn't really have records--he never did his court ordered treatment) and therefore we couldn't know he was dangerous--certainly we may never be able to 100% predict if someone will do this. But the fact that several cases of warning flags for him were not followed up on are worrisome.

The point of the author's article was that this was related to the grand scale of the patriarchy's influence and, for me, I also think a parallel to domestic violence. If police deem it "just a domestic dispute" and treat it as if it is not as serious as a random killing, that's harmful in all sorts of institutional ways bigger than this one incident.

Matty said...

I was the first two commenters.

If nothing was officially filed, then there really wasn't anything to follow up on. He stalked girls on a few seperate occassions but when they didn't file charges all they could do is warn him. I doubt warnings go on his record. When there was the first shooting, they did move quick to treat it as a domestic dispute, taking the girl's boyfriend into custody and questioning him. There was no reason to believe it to be otherwise right away, and locking down the campus or rounding up every single creepy guy in Blacksburg wouldn't have changed a thing.

What happened is tragic, what happens to women is tragic, but what happened in Blacksburg is not the result of ignoring the crisis of evils that women are suffering. It's the result of a very sick individual doing something so horrific that no one could expect it and still can't comprehend it.

Matty said...

First two anonymous, I mean. Sorry to have not taken a name before.