Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Post#105 Murder Two - And Some Rapes (Fatal Choices by Female Crime Victims.)

It is a truism familiar to law officers and connoiseurs of crime that most crimes against women are committed in their own homes by men who are closely asociated with the victim. When any woman turns up dead or suspectly missing, the police searchlight swings around seeking the (usually estranged) husband, boyfriend, father, brother, son, etc. That is, unless there is a self-evident circumstance that indicates a different class of offender.

In any interview with a "dial-a-quote" type on the topic of women and crime there's now a mandatory phase in which the expert informs the audience that women are in most danger from their own "friends" and family. It's become a commonplace datum which most people are aware of due to dint of repetition. The usual focus of the argument is that fictional accounts of crime are weighted in favour of depicting "stranger danger" because it provides better material for creating dramatic tension.

I don't contest any of that, but it still leaves a large body of crime that is committed against women by strangers. I've observed a pattern in these events that is an ironic and tragic counterpoint to the threat from one's familiars. Again and again I read accounts of women raped and /or killed in a repeating scenario which I call Fatal Error Number One or "The Angry Girl Storms Out".

An example which is close to hand is the case of the 1963 murder of Rosemary Anderson in Perth, W.A. The prelude to her death was a horribly trivial tiff over a piece of fried fish. While visiting her boyfriend she tried to pilfer a piece of battered fish from his plate. He, seeing a hand sneaking into view, mistook it for the hand of his younger brother and snarled, "Get your own!" in a very savage tone of voice. Rosemary was appalled by the cruel response to this bit of mischief and gathered her gear and left the house in a distressed state. According to John Button, her boyfriend who was later wrongfully convicted in the matter, Rosemary had done this before when affronted and was impervious to reason when angered. She set out to walk home and was the victim of vehicular homicide by Eric Cooke. John had followed her in his car hoping that she would cool off and allow him to drive her home. It was during an interlude when she was out of his sight that Cooke ran her down with a stolen car. This case is definitively covered in Estelle Blackburn's books Broken Lives and The End of Innocence and John Button's work Why Me, O Lord!

Another famous case in W.A. is the rape and murder of Anne Zappelli in 1969. She was at a drive-in theatre in Geraldton when she became bored or irritated and decided to leave her friends in their car and...walk home. A man later made a death-bed confession; there's a link to an ABC story about it here.

An episode that caught my attention was a brutal rape that occurred in Perth in the early hours of New Year's Day in 1993. A young woman took a taxi home from celebrating the New Year and asked the driver to let her disembark at a corner a short distance from her home. According to the taxi-driver, a man walked by as she left the car and she called out "Happy New Year!" to this passerby. He didn't respond. She was later found unconscious in an alley; severely beaten, raped, her clothes torn to bits and her shoes missing. When she was able to speak, she alleged that the passerby she'd greeted was the offender. I never heard further on this case after the initial report. I have no idea whether he was caught but I do know this to be an example of Fatal Error Number Two or "The Girl Snatches Peril From The Jaws Of Safety". In this scenario simple impatience or penny-pinching or not wanting to impose or some other such exasperatingly trivial impulse leads to horrible consequences. A short-cut through a car-park, a playing field, a poorly-lit laneway. Saving a bus or taxi fare. Not waiting for that friend to provide a ride home. Not wanting to take someone a kilometre out of their way.

Again and again the stories appear. Women fleeing the safety of their friends' company and delivering themselves into the hands of monsters. Women unwittingly taking grave risks for petty reasons. "Reclaim the night!" Sure. Call me when it happens. Until then, I wish I could scream in the ears of all those who may make these errors: "Don't! Don't! For Christ's sake, DON'T!!" As a less histrionic aid I'd advise any young woman to find a copy of Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear and recommend that they read it twice and be prepared to answer questions. The answers could save their lives.


Dina said...

I think there's much more danger to women than a lot of people realize.

The two most serious romantic relationships in my life (college boyfriend and husband) show/showed no concern over this.

Both of them have/had the idea that women should be tough and independent. Brave.

I'm not into men opening car doors for women or pulling back their chairs for them. That kind of chivalry annoys me. I don't think it's needed.

But I do feel men should PROTECT their wives and girlfriends.

My college boyfriend refused to walk me home at night--complaining that he was just as likely to get beat up.

My husband shows absolutely NO concern for my safety. When he was out of town, our alarm went off. I t woke me up and I was terrified. We asked the alarm company to send the police. My husband later found out. He showed no concern over a possible intruder. He was more annoyed that I had the police come over. He said it was a problem with the alarm and solved the problem by just saying we shouldn't put the alarm on.

Anyway, he shows no knowledge or worry about the dangers women face. Not that I'd want him to be overprotective and paranoid, but I don't know. Maybe I'd prefer that to what he is.

Maybe I'm just horribly old fashioned. I like the idea of a guy who worries about me and protects me. I think what my husband's ideal is to be married to one of Charlie's Angels--someone who can kick ass on her own. I'm not quite there yet.

Actually, my fantasy is to BE able to totally kick butt, but STILL have my husband worry about me.

Retarius said...

I'm amazed by that! Solve the problem by not putting the alarm on!! I think you should give your husband de Becker's book to read. I think he's showing a monumental degree of complacency. Or callousness. I hope it's the former.

Michael said...

Not a happy topic, but well reasoned and thought provoking.

Related to this is the myth that men don't suffer sexual abuse ... maybe something for another day.

Retarius said...

1.Thanks, Michael.

2. Or suffer as victims of domestic violence for that matter.