Feminism | Posted by Kayleigh Bolingbroke on 05/5/2017

Stop Blaming Women For Men’s Violence

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Joy Lane on CNN

Last month, thousands of people watched as a man recorded a live Facebook video of himself shooting 74-year-old Robert Goodwin Sr. The shooter, who has since been identified as Steve Stephens, claimed to have already killed 13 people, asserting that he “just snapped.” Before killing Goodwin Sr., Stephens forced his victim to say a name directly to the camera in the since-removed Facebook video: Joy Lane. He told his victim of the woman, who was later confirmed to have been in a relationship with Stephens, “She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you.”

Before this horrifying, now infamous, livestream, Stephens had posted another video aimed directly at Lane herself. “I’m killing mother****rs because of this b***h,” he said. “She’s putting me at my pushing point … Today is the Easter Day Joy Lane massacre.” He said that he wouldn’t stop until she called him. Lane made the decision not to call.

When the details of this latter video became public, some asked why Joy Lane didn’t “just call Steve Stephens.” Stephens’ mother, Maggie Green, confirmed to CNN that Stephens was on the rampage because he was “mad with his girlfriend.” It seemed, at this point, the crime a man decided to commit was being pinned on his girlfriend, who was not present, not, as she told Time, sure “as to why [Stephens] was committing such violence.”

Blaming Lane for Stephens’ horrific behavior is evidence of a much deeper problem: our tendency to blame women for the crimes that happen to them as well as to other people. It’s a reflection of the wider victim-blaming culture that’s been embedded into society for far too long. It’s a common pattern in abusive relationships for abusers to blame their partner for their actions; they’re targeted as the cause of the abuse they suffer at the hands of their perpetrator. This attitude is essentially an expansion on rape culture, in that our society’s knee-jerk reaction to male violence is to question any women involved, to ask “Could she have done anything to prevent this from happening?” This phenomenon of blaming women who are either not at all involved in violence or the target of it points to a deeper misogyny that we, as a society, have upheld for centuries—and one we need to eradicate once and for all.

Besides, let’s consider what could’ve easily happened if Lane had called Stephens. Maybe Goodwin wouldn’t have been murdered. But either way, Lane would’ve found herself stuck in a threatening situation with somebody who was mentally ill and hell-bent on guilt-tripping her into thinking that his actions were a vindicated response to her behavior. Why should someone completely uninvolved in a man’s decision to commit an unthinkable act of violence be obligated to put herself at risk to stop him?

The reality is that Stephens is the only person who should be held responsible for his actions. Stephens alone made the choice to commit the heinous acts that he did. We need to let go of the idea that victims, or those implicated in others’ harmful actions, have the obligation–let alone ability–to do something to stop an abuser, and that another person’s violent actions are their own fault.

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  • Jennifer Townsend @ at 1:29 pm, May 13th, 2017

    What you say is such basic common sense, how could anybody disagree with it? We DO live in a victim-blaming culture. Centuries go by; decades go by; and nothing changes in regard to violence against women.

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