What of our Stolen Sisters? A Post Mortem

I know everybody’s tired of it and of him.  But questions linger and the post mortems are just as, or more important than, the explosion of media reporting that accompanies the events.  We all know how bad that was.  Except for this, and I’m not sure if it counts since it’s on the blogs and not in print – John Cruikshank prolly doesn’t even know it’s there.

The post mortems are threatening to be equally bad, even when of the more, er, “thoughtful” kind.  Take this from The Globe and Mail:            

In 1941, American psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley published a seminal book about psychopaths called The Mask of Sanity, in which he described an intelligent and cunning person skilled at manipulating others and indifferent to their pain. A man like this, Dr. Cleckley explained, finds no real meaning in love or horror or humour, as if “colour blind” to human feeling.

[...]

Dr. Cleckley used interviews, observation and medical records to learn about his patients, but today, brain imaging offers scientists a new way to peer behind the mask. A growing number of them now see psychopathy as a neurodevelopmental disorder, one in which a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as neglect or poor bonding with parents, lead to deficits in the brain. And if biology is to blame, can society hold the psychopath responsible?

The brain deficits that neuroscientists have documented affect the ability of psychopaths to feel emotions and learn from their mistakes – as if they have a learning disability that impairs their emotional development, says Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico. The differences have been seen in the brain images of children as young as 5.

There is much that I find interesting and important in these theories and findings.  Including that it might be quite beside the point to “blame” and punish psychopaths – though it’s still important to find humane ways to protect ourselves from them.  But what they almost always leave out, as in this case, are questions about gender and race.  Perhaps that comes later for scientists and most media types but I think the issues need to be addressed now.

Why are criminal “psychopaths” most often male?  Why are their victims most often female (and children)?  If we remain obsessed by the neurobiological, importantand intriguing as it is, we fail to properly address the fact that psychopathology results from a complex process involving not just the biological but also the social and environmental.

Cops miss this too, even when they acknowledge the interconnections.  For instance, The FBI produced a monograph on serial murder after a “multi-disciplinary” symposium on the topic held in San Antonio in 2005.  Here’s something the monograph says about causality and serial killing:

Serial murderers, like all human beings, are the product of their heredity, their upbringing, and the choices they make throughout development.

Though the monograph does discuss this in somewhat more complex terms like “environment” it never really gets beyond the issue of “upbringing” within the family.  It never gets to the “social” at all, beyond pointing out that serial murders are present across racial and socioeconomic divides.  When it addresses the myth that serial killers are (mostly) white males, it explains how that is not so in terms of race but never deals with the issue of gender.

I’m thinking there weren’t any feminists at the symposium.  A feminist might ask why male psychopathy more often leads to serial death than female psychopathy.  Might also ask why the victims are more often women, especially when murder is combined with sexual assault.  A feminist might think certain social divisions need to be investigated.  Like women’s inequality.  Like the objectification and sexification of women.  Like the violent images of women’s victimhood so beloved in the Western world that they comprise a multi-billion dollar industry – and not just in porn.  Like the vulnerability often imposed on women by race and poverty.  Like the masculinization of power.

But while we’re on race and poverty.  One thing that I do like about the FBI monograph is that it points out how rare serial murdering is. 

Serial murder is a relatively rare event, estimated to comprise less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year. However, there is a macabre interest in the topic that far exceeds its scope and has generated countless articles, books, and movies.

We’ve certainly experienced that in Canada this past week.  There isn’t a way to diminish the suffering of the Lloyd and Comeau families or the tragedy of the deaths of these sisters and daughters.  But their deaths and the prurient and sensational interest in Colonel Williams and others like him does diminish our aptitude for further examination of the lives and suffering of others.  For instance, apart from a few brief mentions, does anyone seem to care much for the women who survived attacks by Williams?  That is, apart from Antonia Zerbisias.  And why isn’t the media all over the stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  If Williams had chosen from among them, would anybody have noticed?  From Amnesty International Canada:

According to a Canadian government statistic, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.

Indigenous women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities – but have done little to prevent it.

The pattern looks like this:

  • Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.
  • Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
  • Many police forces have failed to institute necessary measures – such as training, protocols and accountability mechanisms – to ensure that officers understand and respect the Indigenous communities they serve. Without such measures, police too often fail to do all they can to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and girls whose lives are in danger.

What about our stolen sisters?  A new report has added 62 more names to a growing list of missing or slain aboriginal women and girls across Canada.

The report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada pegs the total as at least 582.  The data is drawn from the last three decades, with 153 of the cases occurring between 2000 and 2008.  Most of the women in the database were killed, while 115 are still missing.

I challenge the mainstream media to make a big event of these numbers and the lost lives of these women.

Stephen Harper certainly won’t.

Coverage of the “Colonel” Case Puts Us In a Coma

Read this and substitute the words “Paul Bernardo” for “Russell Williams”:

The [Paul]  Bernardo case, like every similar investigation, had its share of human error. But this is not a story of human error or lack of dedication or investigative skill. It is a story of systemic failure.Virtually every interjurisdictional serial killer case including Sutcliffe (the Yorkshire Ripper) and Black (the cross-border child killer) in England, Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer in the United States and Clifford Olsen in Canada, demonstrate the same problems and raise the same questions. And always the answer turns out to be the same – systemic failure. Always the problems turn out to be the same, the mistakes the same, and the systemic failures the same. 

That was Mr. Justice Archie Campbell in 1996 in his Report on the investigation into the crimes committed by Paul Bernardo. If we need a detailed examination of the similarities between the case of Colonel Russell Williams (and no, I won’t stop calling him “Colonel”) and those of Bernardo, it wasn’t the one that Christie Blatchford provided on Wednesday (Go there if you really want to read about how these two serial rapist/murderers are the same and how they’re different – and which one is best – but this just is not what matters).
Why do we need to think about the Bernardo and Williams crimes together?  Not  because of the details of the crimes themselves but because of the law enforcement (and media) response.  The ineffective (and misleading) response.

Perhaps the most important thing that Campbell pointed out in his report was this: 

What is needed is a system of case management for major and interjurisdictional serial predator investigations, a system that corrects the defects demonstrated by this and so many similar cases. A case management system is needed that is based on cooperation, rather than rivalry, among law enforcement agencies. A case management system is needed that depends on specialized training, early recognition of linked offences, co-ordination of interdisciplinary and forensic resources, and some simple mechanisms to ensure unified management, accountability and co-ordination when serial predators cross police borders.

As Antonia Zerbisias pointed out in a column at The Star as long ago as February, various detachments of the Ontario Provincial Police along with Belleville police did no such communicating and coordinated case response.  Why not? 

At the time that Paul Bernardo was operating, there was no ViCLAS automated crime linkage system in place.  As Campbell pointed out in his report, such a system would likely have alerted police to the fact that rapes being committed in Scarborough, Ontario were related to rapes in St. Catharines.  There was no system that would recognize the wider public interest in catching a serial rapist, interest that went beyond that of one particular community. 

It’s my understanding that there are such systems in place now.  But the police have to use them.  Did anyone in Tweed or Belleville or Brighton enter information into the system that should have linked the sexual assaults of Laurie Massicotte and “Jane Doe” with the rape and murder of Corporal Marie-France Comeau?  What about the series of break and enters in these communities that involved the theft of “lingerie” and other personal items of the women who lived there?  Given that police take such crimes to be so unimportant and trivial, that has to be unlikely.

I want to know.  Given the slow speed at which the police and our justice system incorporate the knowledge that could lead to saving the lives and bodily and personal integrity of women, we can’t get the answers to these questions soon enough.  Four days of courtroom time this week did not give these answers, or even ask the questions.  Much as it troubles and tires me to say this, we need a public inquiry conducted by someone with the integrity of an Archie Campbell.  Are we going to get one?  Or have we been so mesmerized by visions of the Colonel wearing stolen underwear  that we have lapsed into our own private comas?  As Campbell said, so many years ago:

 
There must be a public recognition that these problems are not just problems for the police and law enforcement communities. They are problems for the community as a whole. A commitment to correct them is necessary in order to guard against another case like this.

 

 Is anybody listening?  These cases make for a whole lot of noise and no action.  That’s femicide for ya.
 
h/t to Anna Willats for reminding me of the Campbell Report
 
UPDATE:  For the sake of all that’s sacred, read this blog post by Antonia Zerbisias, the only member of the journalistic tribe that knows how to report this case. If that sounds biased, you’re damned right!
 
UPDATE II:  From Laurie Massicotte, one of the women who survived an assault by Russell Williams, via Antonia:
I feel liked chopped liver & I can’t even comprehend how the little one is feeling. Now if I could get a message out to the masses it would be-if you survive a violent act of sex don’t report it, just run for cover & find your own protection minus the police & the system they represent.

I’m afraid I have to second that emotion.  After the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Seaboyer, which I heard argued at the Court, I told a few of my feminist friends that I thought the only way women who had been sexually assaulted were ever going to get justice would be to organize a boycott of the system.  Set up feminist centres for women survivors and never take another cent of government money.  Focus on empowering survivors and healing and on activism.  I thought that judges and lawyers and cops and politicians other powerful people might well start getting interested if their mothers and wives and sisters and daughters had no place to go if they are assaulted.  Because that’s the reality right now.  I’ve been through an experience similar to that of Laurie Massicotte.  Women have to make their own choices.  But I could never advise a woman to choose our justice system.

 

Col. Williams Can’t Be Explained?

So. How’s this for a military culture that’s respectul to women? How can we even say that in the same sentence? I thought this would be a huge story. It wasn’t. We like Russ Williams better because we think we can’t explain him. The MSM wouldn’t even publish the more egregious cartoon because they found it too offensive. Ha! What about this week

The military has launched a purge of its classroom materials after several offensive cartoons, including some featuring women in degrading sexual situations, were used in courses for soldiers headed to Afghanistan.The drawings were part of presentations provided to instructors at the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston, Ont.

One cartoon, intended as an example of reading body language, shows a woman at a bar piled with empty glasses engaged in a sexual act with a man on a barstool. The caption reads: “How to tell when you don’t have to buy her any more drinks. . . . ”

How to tell when you don’t have to buy her more drinks?  Prelude to rape.

The officer in charge of “Conduct After Capture” training acknowledged the cartoons are offensive.

But Lt.-Col. Lloyd Gillam said he believes the illustrations appeared only in draft versions of the training materials and never made it into the classroom, where there are male and female students.

Ah, so they were only in the draft versions.  So they are indicative only of what the military represents but won’t acknowledge they represent.  Lest someone take issue.  Appearances you know, appearances.  And they weren’t used in co-ed company.  Why is that important?  Ah, so women can be deluded into thinking they are respected while the porno joking goes on among the jocks in their offices and locker rooms.  Well, that’s alright then.

Colonel Williams can’t be explained?  Oh yes he can.  And we’d better explain him and the men like him and the systemic sexism that aids in his development and recreation.  Because we’re spawning guys like him by the barrel every day.  Of course, not just in the military.

WTH is Up With Mallick?

If there’s one thing I really don’t want right now from a feminist, it’s a paean to the great, “MALE”,  police work of a balding OPP officer.  Was she feeling guilty for feeling negatively toward “men”?  Because I don’t feel guilty.  I don’t feel negatively toward men you see.  I feel negatively toward sexism and the cult of masculinity.  This saves me from having to tell fine and decent men that they are fine and decent when I’d rather be thinking about my dead sisters, how they got that way and how we’re ever going to stop it.  Sorry Heather.  I. Do. Not. Get. It.

“It is true that the Belleville and Ottawa police should have alerted women earlier that there was something evil on the loose, something Jessica Lloyd herself referred to as the “Tweed creeper.” Women were left helpless by their lack of knowledge. But the work of the police once they found a tire track and footprints in the snow outside Lloyd’s home was stellar.” 

What. The. Fuck?  So the police did great once it was absolutely clear who the killer was?  After his SUV was identified by three fine citizens who bothered to watch out for their neighbours?  After the police harassed and detained Larry Jones?  After countless women had their homes invaded and personal items stolen and were ignored?  After two sexual assaults weren’t linked?  After a murder wasn’t linked to the sexual assaults?  After Jessica Lloyd was dead? 

If competent police work was done after all that, thank the fucking goddess!  Are we not to expect competent police work?  Do we have to extend tenderness to cops who do their jobs? 

It’s been really hard sitting in that courtroom.  I know that.  But doesn’t Mallick have an editor to censor bathetic drivel?  Or a feminist friend?

Heather on how the “good guys” nailed Williams

This post was originally published as a Note on my Facebook page.  Go there for the discussion.  Be my friend.  As long as you’re not a fucking stalker.  In which case, there will be blood.  Metaphorically speaking.

Why We Should Pay Attention to the Colonel You-Know Story

1. Because we need to see and understand how impossible it is for the mainstream media in general to report these kinds of cases fairly, accurately and KNOWLEDGEABLY.  For instance, I keep hearing that his fetish for underwear escalated into break-ins, photo sessions whilst modelling the undies and masturbation on camera, leaving the evidence of such behind.  Now that is not a women’s underwear fetish.  Such fetishes are perfectly harmless.  This is the escalation of PREDATORY behaviour!  The point is not the underwear.  The point is that it belonged to a girl or woman who wore it and kept it in her dresser drawer.  To break into the house, the bedroom, the dresser drawer of a girl or woman, try on her underwear and spend hours taking pictures of yourself wearing it while masturbating isn’t a fetish, it’s a VIOLATION of the personal space and the sexualized belongings of the girl or woman.  To masturbate all over her bedroom is a VIOLATION.  To tie her up and take pictures of her while masturbating and taking pictures is a VIOLATION.  To do the same and then kill her is a VIOLATION.  This is escalating predatory behaviour, not fetishism.

2.  Because we need to know that if the cops were educated about such behaviour and able to categorize it properly and make predictions on the basis of that information, THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO STOP PEOPLE LIKE COL. WHAT’S IT.  And ought to have caught him before he sexually assaulted four women or, at the very least, before he killed two of them. 

3. Because we need to know how easily predatory men get along in our misogynist culture and particularly in the most macho aspects of that culture which would certainly be THE MILITARY!  If I wanted to be a raping serial killer I would be in the military or I’d be a cop.    

I’ll probably be back to add more as the coverage causes a whole body rash. 

Read this at Broadsides

Watch this: Above Suspicion at the fifth estate

Antonia picked up on this and added more at Broadsides and this too.

This post was originally published as a Note on my Facebook page on October 20, 2010.  Go there if you want to see the comments and you are my “friend”.  If you’re not my friend, how come?

UPDATE:  An expanded version of this post appears at rabble The horrific Williams murders were about power not personal fetishes

Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon

UPDATED BELOW

Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who.  Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness.  What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.

Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism.  Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party.  Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.

Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?

Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues - The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada  - provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of  private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.

That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion.  I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.

From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda.  As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives.  He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.

These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious.  For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”

Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education.  As McDonald concludes:

 It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.

But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base.  Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over.  Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important.  Or none.  In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.

For instance.  When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”.  Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real.  Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls.  Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop.  How nice for him.

I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis.  She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about.  She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems.  Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit.  STFU girls.

I was never a Guergis supporter.  But did she ever have any supporters?  And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?

It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men.  Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation.  It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation.  Will Jack Layton whip?  Who the hell knows.  So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.

As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening?  Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity?  As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion?  I actually will stfu on that one.

Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end.  Or perhaps any prize at all.  I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.

The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men.  Take care liberal and left doodz.  Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.

 

UPDATE:

HarperCON whines

“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”

Pale is peeved.

And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:

“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.

Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.

“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.