katha pollitt: "we are so used to violence against women we don't even notice how used to it we are"

From the one and only Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation.
On May 6 Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University student, was gunned down in the school's bookstore, almost certainly by 29-year-old Stephen Morgan. My daughter is a senior at Wesleyan, and so I got to see part of the aftermath close up: young people stunned, scared, in tears, confined to their rooms because Morgan was still loose. News accounts make Justin-Jinich seem outstanding in many ways: altruistic, brilliant, full of life, much loved. But in one way, she was far from unusual. She was a woman killed by a man because she was a woman.

We are so used to violence against women we don't even notice how used to it we are. When we're not persuading ourselves that women are just as violent toward men as vice versa if you forget about who ends up seriously injured or dead, or pointing out that most murders are of men by men, we persuade ourselves that violence against women just comes up out of nowhere. Murder is serious, especially if the victim is young, white, middle-class, pretty; harassment, abuse, domestic violence, even rape, not so much. After all, as I'm writing, I read that Houston, taking a leaf from Sarah Palin's Wasilla, is requiring rape victims to pay for the processing of their rape kits. Los Angeles has a backlog of 12,669 unprocessed rape kits, some so old the crimes have exceeded the statute of limitations. It's controversial to even use terms like "misogyny" and "male privilege" to explain the prevalence of these crimes and the shameful inadequacy of our social and legal response to them. And if you really want to be branded a square and a prude, try talking about the hatred and contempt for, and objectification of, women that permeates pop culture.

Before Morgan allegedly murdered Justin-Jinich, he stalked her. After the two took the same summer course at NYU in 2007, he made repeated "unwanted" "insulting" phone calls and sent her thirty-eight hostile e-mails ("You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any [expletive] criticism, Johanna"--a threat that has "I deserve to control and punish you, bitch" written all over it). The story gets a little unclear here: Justin-Jinich went to campus authorities, who referred her to the police, but like most victims, she declined to prosecute, and Morgan left town before he could be served with an order of protection. So, a situation important enough to warrant at least some legal intervention just vanished when the stalker moved away. "There was no way to foresee the sudden, nightmarish sequel," writes Robert McFadden in the New York Times. Really?

Stalking is a serious crime and a common one. According to a 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, about 3.4 million people, 74 percent of them female, said they had been stalked in a single year. ...

Read it here.

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