Sympathy for the perpetrator, but not the victim.
A link to the article: "Arizona teen fatally shoots ex-girlfriend in murder-suicide: police" was sent to us this morning by a supporter. There are a number inappropriate words and quotes which culminate in sympathy for the perpetrator, Matthew Bolton (15), but not the victim Anastasia Greer (16).
1. The sub-heading refers to Bolton as "clean-cut". It is a signifier for the term a "good" boy. Considering the sub-heading also states that Bolton stalked Greer, it is hardly appropriate.
2. The very first sentence of the article starts with "A jilted 15-year-old Arizona boy gunned down his ex-girlfriend...". Jilted is a term which is almost exclusively used against women who choose to end a relationship. The implication being that the woman was wrong to end it and that we should have sympathy for the "jiltee".
3. The fifth paragraph starts with: "Apparently angered by the split". This is an example of insidious victim-blaming. Bolton's "anger" is used as justification for the murder of Greer. How often do we see the criminal behaviour of men in cases of domestic violence justified because of something the victim did? Greer was not Bolton's possession and she had every right to end the relationship. Being angry is never an excuse for committing violence.
4. Neighbour Jo Friel's quote is understandable:
“Broke my heart, because I have grandkids and I have children,” Friel added. “And I have compassion for both victims because they’re only kids.”
Greer was shot 4 times in the chest. They may both be still kids but Bolton chose to stalk Greer and kill her. Our first reaction is assume something must be "wrong" with the perpetrator; that he must be mentally ill. This is a myth. Men (and increasingly teenage boys) who choose to commit domestic violence, which is what this crime is, do so because they believe they have the right. Responsible media should make this clear.
5. We then discover the fact that authorities were warned that Bolton had a gun:
Students at Sandra Day O’Connor had warned authorities Bolton had a gun. A cop assigned to the school searched for the boy on Friday morning but eventually decided he wasn’t a risk, officials.
How often do we read stories of fatal male violence against women and girls where the perpetrator was known to the authorities who decided he was not a risk? How many women and children have to die before we start to acknowledge the reality of male violence? Let's be perfectly honest here, if the students were moved to tell authorities that Bolton had a gun, it's because they were worried what he would do with it. We need to start thinking worse-case scenario in situations where a woman ends a relationship and the former partner has access to weapons. We also wonder if violence was part of the relationship and how well-known this was.
6. These are the final two paragraphs:
Classmates described Greer as an outgoing sweetheart and the clean-cut Bolton as a decent kid who showed no signs of such brutal violence.
“I don’t hate anybody in my life, and I’m never going to hate this kid,” Greer’s friend Rose Mazikowski told CBS 5. “But I feel pity for him for doing that.”
At no point in the article is anyone quoted about Greer. Instead, the quotes from friends are all about Bolton. They all serve to point out that Bolton must have had some justification is killing Greer because he was "clean-cut" and "decent". There is no exploration of the possibility of domestic violence, which is very common indicator of murder-suicides. There is no discussion as to why Greer ended the relationship; instead we are invited to feel "pity" for Bolton for killing himself. It is victim blaming by omission.
It is entirely probable that the journalist Doyle Murphy has no idea that he is engaged in victim blaming with this article. it is clear that Murphy has very little recognition of the reality of domestic violence within teenage relationships or the fact that men who choose to kill aren't mentally ill.
A 16 year old girl was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend. We need to talk about these situations without blaming the victim or excusing the perpetrator. The murder of women by a current or former partner is far too common and we do a tremendous injustice to victims when we try to excuse the perpetrator.