Saturday, October 29, 2005

Another Dead Woman

The Montreal Gazette yesterday carried a front-page story about Julie Croteau, whose body was found in the trunk of her Honda Civic in St.Hyacinthe, about an hour’s drive from Montreal. The article stated that her death was “very violent”.

According to the Collectif Masculin Contre le Sexisme, 777 women and children have been killed in Quebec since December 6th 1989 (the date of the “Montreal Massacre”). This is just the tip of the iceberg of male violence against women.


This story of another dead woman gives me an opportunity to bring up something i’ve had on my mind recently. Remember my October 8th entry, “Rape and Murder in the News”, in which i discussed (amongst other things) the fact that the police were now saying there was a serial rapist attacking women on the North Shore?

Wonder why i haven’t given any updates on this story?

Well, the story broke on October 7th and not a peep in the Gazette about this since October 8th. Charitably, one might assume that there is a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity and investigation and precautions, but despite the October 8th article “Tips on Serial Rapist Pour In” nothing has happened that i have heard about. Compare this to what happens when a case provokes outrage – either amongst police, journalists, or “the community” – you then get semi-daily news-stories, you get people “demanding action”, you get a whole lot of heat and noise… which may or may not be effective in dealing with the particular issue at hand but which does raise its profile.

In my opinion, it is this “raising the profile” which is always the necessary first step to taking effective action. This is particularly important in people taking collective action outside of the institutional channels – i.e. without the police – and so it is perhaps not coincidental that these cases of violence against women are taken less seriously. People are less likely to think about violence against women, certainly less likely to do something about it, if it remains wallpaper to our social reality, rather than appearing as a glaring provocation. There is nothing about violence against women that should make it seem so “natural”, “unavoidable” or “eternal” – it is all in the spin.

And until we change how we see the problem, it is unlikely we will be able to solve it.

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