There are no set guidelines for just how we should react emotionally when a man kills his wife. And that’s appropriate, because some acts are just so heinous that they defy any canned response. When a man does something so vicious and so evil as murdering his partner, we who survive are left to pick up the pieces and make sense of the horror as best we can.
What follows below is my response to these terrible events. I do not intend to suggest that others follow my route, or that they are doing something wrong if they respond differently. This is merely an explanation of where I am coming from.
And something that I felt needed saying.
This week there was a domestic violence homicide in my community. A man had been abusing a woman for years. She finally threw him out and began to rebuild her life. But she never got the chance. The guy returned a few nights later and killed her.
The kids were in the house to witness the attack.
After killing her he then killed himself.
I did not personally know this woman – or the man who killed her. But I have many friends who knew her, and they are devastated.
And I have heard many people say that they are praying for both of their souls. But, harsh as it may sound, I’m not praying for his soul. Not one bit. In my opinion, he simply doesn’t deserve it. If hell exists, that’s exactly where I hope he will spend eternity.
I’m mad as hell at him for having killed her. And although I didn’t even know him, I still find myself hating him for having done so.
Killers I have known. But there have been other men – men I have known well – who have also killed their wives or girlfriends. And even though I knew them – and one I had even considered to be a friend of mine – I hate them all now.
The way I see things is simply this: when a man destroys a woman, to me he dies as well.
In fact, I think it would have been far better if he had died before managing to kill her.
I once worked in a program where we encountered a lot of men who had committed very dangerous acts of domestic violence. One day one of these guys re-approached his ex-wife, begging her to take him back. She refused. He immediately went off and killed himself.
And the response that my coworkers and I had to this event? Thank God he didn’t take her with him!
In a perfect world, we would have felt compassion for his suffering, and a sense of loss at his death. But our world is far from perfect, and in this imperfect world men like him kill women all the time. And they need to be stopped – whatever it takes. And for this guy, if that was what it took in order for her and their young child to be safe, so be it.
But wasn’t he suffering? Yes, yes he doubtless was. But as a dear friend remarked to me the other day, a man killing a woman is about a lot more than just his pain. Being in pain might lead to suicide, but when a man kills a woman there is so much more going on there just mere suffering. There is the hyper-entitlement that tells the man that he gets to exert ultimate control over the woman by taking her life. There is the sense of sexism that tells him that men get to discipline and punish women for real or imagined misdeeds. And there is the male supremacist ideology that tells him that he is lord and master of all he surveys – that she is his chattel to dispose of as he wishes. And none of that is about his suffering. It is all just misogynist crap.
I used to staff a mental health crisis line. We would get occasional calls from disturbed, angry men who would say: “I’m going kill myself. But I’m going to kill her first.” And that second part is the misogyny speaking, pure and simple.
Seeing monstrous behaviour for what it is. Late last year a young man in western Canada hunted down and shot his ex girlfriend and three of her friends (see my post about that horrid event here: http://billsprofeministblog.blogspot.ca/2011/12/hey-guys-need-yet-another-reason-to.htmllink). At that time a friend of his was quoted in the newspapers as saying that he was “not a monster.”
And to that, I say bullshit. If someone who chases you down, runs you off the road in the middle of the night, and then jumps out of his car and comes to kill you and your friends before ultimately shooting himself does not somehow reach the threshold of “monster,” then how about you explain to me just what level of heinousness a person needs to attain in order to be a “monster”? ’Cause in my book that guy was a real monster. He killed three young people and critically wounded a fourth before taking his own life.
And saying that isn't monstrous is to deny the hideousness of what he did.
Pulling down the crosses. In 1999 two young male students went into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado with guns blazing and killed 12 students and 1 teacher -- and wounded 21 others -- before killing themselves. Local people soon put up 15 crosses as a memorial to the dead. This number of “victims” included the perpetrators. Their two crosses, after being repeatedly vandalized, were removed by the father of a boy these killers had assassinated. And I have to say I totally support the removal. In my mind, people who murder simply do not deserve the same compassion, the same respect, the same level of honor as the people they murdered.
Like the Columbine killers, men who kill women deserve no memorials. No more than the September 11th hijackers deserve memorials. No more than war criminals deserve memorials. No more than child murderers deserve memorials.
Yet when it comes to men who kill women, we tend to make exceptions. We try to understand. We try to be compassionate. We say they were not that bad.
And I am sick of it.
But mostly I am sick of a world where men still think that we have the right to kill women who disobey us.
I will never forget what happened here the other night.
And I will never forgive him or any other man who kills a woman.