Sampat Pal Devi leads a procession of the Gulabi Gang in India. Photo by Sanjit Das.
The reason I ask is because this horrible rape/murder, which happened in Australia, is germane:
This weekend, authorities in Australia announced they’d recovered the body of 29-year-old Irish expat Jill Meagher after the woman disappeared while walking home from a bar blocks away from her suburban Melbourne apartment. As the case captivated and horrified the country, more details emerged. Turns out, the man who has been arrested for Meagher’s rape and murder wasn’t a stranger to women along the busy strip of road from which the woman disappeared. He’d been creeping women out for months, and in at least one incident, threatened to strangle one of Meagher’s neighbors. So why was nothing done? Because the police, once again, did not take threats of violence against women seriously.
Meagher seemed to vanish into thin air from a busy strip of road during the early morning hours of September 22nd, and authorities were stymied until Closed Circuit TV cameras from a clothing store caught footage of a hoodie-wearing blonde man pacing back and forth in front of the store and engaging Meagher in conversation. Buses, a tram, and several passersby would have seen the man, or Meagher, but none of them have spoken to police. The last footage of Meagher alive is the woman taking her cell phone out of her purse and making a call, ostensibly to disengage from the man in the hoodie.
During the ensuing search for her, authorities and the media weighed in on how what happened to Meagher could have been prevented. She shouldn’t have been walking home alone from a bar! (Because the number one cause of getting murdered is walking home from a bar without a chaperone at night!) The country needs more Closed Circuit TV’s! Why didn’t her coworkers who were still out drinking insist on accompanying her to her doorstep?!
But the reason Meagher was killed wasn’t that she was walking home alone or that there weren’t enough cameras recording her every move; it was pure police incompetence and an unwillingness to take other women’s reports of feeling threatened seriously.
Meagher murder suspect Adrian Bayley, it seems, has been prowling the area for months. According to one 23-year-old New Zealand woman, 9 months ago, Bayley confronted her along the same stretch of road from which Meagher disappeared, threatening her. The next time she saw Bayley, he whispered that he would strangle her. The woman reported the incident to police and asked where she could purchase pepper spray to defend herself, but nothing was done. According to some news sources, other women have been attacked in the area recently as well.
There’s more, but I think you can see how this relates now, right? Cops don’t take women’s reports of suspicious male behavior seriously. Not even when all signs are pointing in the direction of physical violence, and it’s only a matter of time before the perp gets down to it.
And when the terrible inevitable happens, and a female body turns up at the morgue, who gets blamed?
The woman. Of course.
After all, the police are largely a boys’ club. And boys will be boys, and boys can do no wrong. Until, of course, a boy DOES wrong, grievous wrong, and a lovely lady turns up dead. And then, even then, it is still her fault.
Everything that happens to women is their own fault. Didn’t you know that yet? Just look at all the victim-blaming that happened here: She shouldn’t have been out drinking. She shouldn’t have been there alone. She shouldn’t have walked.
She this, she that. What about HIM?
Does it never occur to anyone to tell guys not to stalk women, not to accost them anywhere, not to utter threats, not to rape, not to fucking kill?
No. Of course not. Boys will be boys. Boys can do no wrong. It was she who did wrong, she “provoked” him. How? Oh, just by being there. Women should be neither seen nor heard. And if they are, they deserve whatever they get. Even if that means death.
I remember, during one Take Back the Night march I was on in Kingston, when I was a student at Queen’s University, they arrested a mother and her 14-year-old daughter. For what? For chanting “No more patriarchy, no more shit!”
Apparently, blue language is only for the boys. As for the girls, they’re not supposed to say shit, even when they have a mouthful. Or a bellyful of patriarchy.
Never mind that the cops have surely heard worse. Never mind that we all chanted that. Every one of the hundreds of women on that march said the same things, yet they only arrested those two. What for? For using language no worse than cops themselves do every day and night of the week?
What a fucking crock.
The move was plain, pure intimidation. They picked on those two because mothers are vulnerable through their daughters, and daughters are vulnerable through their youth and inexperience. The cops busted the girl to send a message to her mom: We could drag her off to an interrogation room and do to her whatever we want. And you, you would be forced to sit in the next room, hearing her screams through a cardboard-thin wall. Would you like that, bitch? No? Then don’t protest our law and order. Don’t tell us cops that we owe you safe streets so your precious little girls can walk alone at night, unmolested. Just do as we say, and no one will get hurt.
And through that vulnerable mother and daughter, the message was supposed to reverberate throughout the crowd: This could happen to any of you, so shut the fuck up and go home and don’t tell us what our job is. Our job is not to protect you, our job is to protect law and order. And law and order are pure patriarchy. How dare you call that shit?
It’s the same thing in Kingston as it is in all of Canada, and in Canada it’s the same as in Cairo. Gangs of men surrounded female protesters and beat and sexually molested them; the police and army did the same, under the pretext of “virginity testing”. What they were all really doing was sending a message: Don’t protest, or bad things will happen to you.
And you will be the one who takes all the blame.
It’s never the guy who rapes you; it’s never the cops who menace you. It’s all your fault, bitch, because you were out in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Didn’t you know enough to stay home and be a good girl?
(We won’t go into how good home-girls also get raped and killed; after all, it’s never their fathers’, brothers’, uncles’, cousins’, or husbands’ fault, either. Anyway, that’s just “domestic” violence, and it doesn’t count.)
And then there are the female Mounties, who were impeded from the job of “getting their man”, in the collaring-a-crook sense, because the male-dominated force is no better place for a woman than any dark alley behind any seedy bar. Just ask those who worked on the missing-women cases in BC how many female bodies were scattered along the Highway of Tears, or piled up at Robert Fucking Pickton‘s hog farm. And all because the male cops didn’t take their disappearances seriously, and the female cops, who DID care, were impeded from doing more by the hostile work environment those same old boys imposed on them.
The cops won’t protect women as long as the boys-will-be-boys mentality prevails. It’s a stupid mentality; no boy is born aggressive, rapey or murderous. The idea that it’s “natural” for boys to fight and attack is bullshit; boys LEARN that behavior. It’s often dinned into their dear little heads by dear old Dad: Whatsamatter, son, you a sissy? You some kind of girl, or somethin’? You gotta fight ’cause it’s a man’s world, and only real men get ahead.
And the way you get ahead is by bulldozing anyone and anything that gets in your way. Or by using and abusing them.
I remember the Balcony Rapist case in Toronto, when the cops wouldn’t protect or warn the women downtown that there was a sex predator on the loose. Instead, they just let that guy do whatever he would to whomever, until they got an opportunity to catch him. They used the women as bait, and even threatened to arrest one of them for “mischief” when she and a group of others put up posters warning of a rapist on their block. They were lazy as shit until they got the chance to play hero. And they would have gotten away with it too, if not for Jane Doe — the same woman who put up the posters and was threatened with arrest. She was raped. She ended up suing them for their intransigence.
Meanwhile, the Russell Williams case went nowhere until a female chief — herself physically abused by a husband who was also a cop — got on the case. She was the one who connected the dots: the clusters of women who reported break-ins in their homes, theft of underwear from their dresser drawers, and even, in one case, the removal of some sex toys from their hiding place, only to be laid out in plain sight. The message, in all cases, was: I know where you live. I know you’re alone. I have your most intimate possessions. I know your sexual secrets. I can take you just as easily as I took your panties. I can control you, hurt you, kill you. And there is nothing you can do about it, because I’m on the same side as the men in charge. In fact, I’m one of them. Better not do anything to provoke me, bitch, because I’m fucking dangerous.
Does it take an abused woman to help an abused woman? Do we need to have all-female police forces to deal with this problem? Because when the police are not part of the solution, they ARE the problem.
Maybe we need what they have in India: a Gulabi Gang of women armed with bamboo canes and righteous anger, striking some terror into the hearts of those who deserve it.
And if some of those to get whacked with the stick turn out to be old-boy cops, well, so be it.