Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

The murders of Clodagh Hawe and Megan Short.

There was a tremendous amount of outrage about the appalling media coverage of the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons in September. Unfortunately, this level of grossly inappropriate and inaccurate representation of family annihilators is not an aberration.

Mark Short Sr. murdered his wife Megan and their children — 8-year-old Lianna, 5-year-old Mark Jr., and 2-year-old Willow. He also killed the dog. Time magazine covered their murder with this headline:

Pennsylvania Father Took His Kids to a Theme Park Before Killing Them

Because murdering your children and your wife is somehow a lesser evil if you treat them to a day out in a theme park first.

NBC Philadelphia chose this headline:

Wife Who Died Alongside Husband, Children in Murder-Suicide Alleged Abuse, Had Plans to Leave

Despite the fact that the most dangerous time for a woman living with domestic violence is when she leaves him, Morgan Zalot and  Andrea Cruz chose to imply that Megan was to blame for ending the relationship. Zalot and Cruz not only implicate Megan, they fail to mention that she was murdered in the first paragraph:

Megan Short, who died alongside her husband, Mark, and the couple's three children in an apparent murder-suicide over the weekend, had been planning to leave her husband, according to Mark Short's relatives.

The Washington Post simply went with:

A dad took his children to a theme park. A day later, the police found their bodies.

Only once does the Washington Post mention that Mark actually shot Megan, Lianna, Mark Jr, and Willow.

Even the prosecutors reduced the murder by suggesting the family had 'domestic issues'. Despite the fact that Megan was in the process of ending the marriage due to Mark's documented history of domestic violence that had resulted in police involvement on multiple occasions. As we've said before, this type of statement insinuates that killing your current or former partner and children is no different than an argument over whose turn it is to do the dishes.

I suppose we should be thankful that the above media actually named the real perpetrator. Unlike the Morning Ledger who immediately assumed that Megan had killed her children. Despite the fact that men are responsible for the majority of fatal violence globally. In the annals of irresponsible and utterly disgraceful media coverage of violence against women, Eliza Marie Uygongco decided Megan murdered her children due to PTSD following the transplant surgery of Willow, and this utter shite:

Because of her leaving Mark, the couple has been suffering from a lot of domestic issues which could be the reason for the murder-suicide and finding Megan Short dead.

The couple did not 'suffer domestic issues'. Mark was a perpetrator of domestic violence who exhibited numerous red flags. That Mark was able to legally purchase a gun after Megan ended the relationship due to his violence is a travesty. That the Morning ledger still hasn't bothered to update or remove the article three months after the murder of Megan and her children is a mockery of justice.

Erasing Mark's responsibility for murdering Megan and their three children is part of a wider media narrative that consistently fails to hold men accountable for their choices to be violent and controlling.

The vast majority of murders that are classed as 'family annihilators' involve a middle/ upper class white male as the perpetrator who have a history of coercive control that is fundamental part of domestic violence. These men are not aberrations or 'mentally ill'. They are representative of a culture that views women and children as the possessions of men. And who believe that women have no right to live outwith their control. Ending a victim blaming culture requires an intersectional lens that recognises who perpetrators really are.

Below are a number of articles that sought to change the victim blaming narrative of mainstream media.

Stop making excuses for Alan Hawe - he killed three sons and wife with hatchet and knives 

I'm sick of hearing how Alan Hawe was a fantastic father, loving husband and all round pillar of society. For God's sake, he used a hatchet and knives to murder his wife and kids. Had he black or brown skin, had he been on the dole and living in a housing estate when he butchered his family, he would have been instantly demonised. But Hawe had all the trappings of respectability.

He was a person of prestige and influence in the local community. He was a schoolvice-principal, a stalwart of the GAA and Catholic Church. It's not every household that is privileged with a visit from the local priest on Christmas Day.

And so the mainstream media - with a few honourable exceptions - have fawned over Alan Hawe in a way that I've not seen them do with other mass murderers.

We have been treated to tales of his decency and kindness. He was most obliging, a great neighbour, you could rely on him at any time of the day or night to lend a helping hand, we have been endlessly informed. ...

Rest in peace, invisible woman by Linnae Dunne

Five people die in Cavan, and in the days to come, Irish newspapers are full of questions. “Why did he do it?” asks one national daily, picturing a man and his three sons. “How could he kill those poor boys?” asks another.

It is almost immediately clear that the father, Mr Hawe, has stabbed the other four to death: the mother and the three sons. He has then killed himself. And in search for answers, we are told what an honourable man the murderer was: “a valuable member of the community”, “very committed” and “the most normal person you could meet”. Soon follow the calls for increased funding of mental health services.

Role of domestic abuse in Hawe  deaths must not be ignored by Linnae Dunne  via @IrishTimesOpEd

It has been a week since the tragic Cavan killings. A man killed his wife and three children before taking his own life and media outlets faced the difficult task of looking for answers.

“Why did he do it?” asked one national daily, picturing the man and his three sons.

What ensued was little short of a tribute to the murderer alongside speculations into his mental state and growing calls on social media for increased mental health funding.

Quotes describing Alan Hawe as “a valuable member of the community”, a “real gentleman” and “the most normal person you could ever meet” were regurgitated like mantras while Alan’s brother spoke about the killer’s passion for handball and how he’d “won a number of titles”.

Her Name Was Clodagh. She Mattered.  by Gary Cannon

I was curating the @ireland account on Monday, when the story of the ‘tragic deaths’ in Cavan broke.

We heard in hushed tones how the police were ‘not looking for anyone else’ and how ‘the answers lay within the family home’, how five people had lost their lives unnecessarily like there had been some sort of unprecedented carbon monoxide incident.

In the aftermath of these ‘tragic deaths’, I learned that a man can literally get away with murder.

He can kill his partner and his children and we will still eulogise him. We will care more about his ‘motives’ than her life. We will even go so far as attribute some sort of nobility to his well-intentioned but unfortunately murderous actions.

You know what the worst thing is? Not just that the murder of a woman and her children becomes the footnote in a story about a man’s mental health, but that the woman is totally disappeared in all media discourse.

Abuse is not always ‘visible’ and Megan Short was punished by death for realizing this via @FeministCurrent

Last week, Megan Short, 33, posted a request to Facebook, asking for help moving on August 6. Only weeks earlier, she had commented under an article posted by a friend, saying she was leaving her husband. The article, written by Leigh Stein, was titled, “He didn’t hit me. It was still abuse.” In it, Stein explained that, while working at a diner, her boyfriend made her shower twice a day, so she “wouldn’t smell like French fries after work” and so that she could shave her entire body, “or else he wouldn’t touch me.” He also told Stein she “wasn’t sexy” and that, therefore, he needed to sleep with other women. Stein didn’t see her relationship as abusive, at the time, because her abuse was invisible — there were no bruises to prove it. “I didn’t know what to name what I couldn’t see,” she writes.

Like so many other women, Stein had learned that red flags were, in fact, “romance.” She writes, “I felt like I was in a movie — how quickly we moved in together and isolated ourselves from friends and family, because all we needed was each other.” Women are groomed to become victims of abuse, in this way. We watch movies that send the message that stalking, jealousy, and force are romantic — signs of “passion,” not control. The fact that we don’t recognize psychological abuse for what it is, and only accept “abuse” that looks like physical battery, doesn’t help — women are tricked into complacency, and learn not to trust themselves. They are unable to “prove” to themselves or to others that something is very wrong, often until it’s too late. ...

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