Sometimes the universe, the communal conscious, puts things in front of me that I can’t get out of my head and I end up writing about them here. And today it just so happens to be about violence against women. I feel like the majority of women in the US, the majority of middle class women at least, would say that women in this country have it pretty good, we can vote, and we have title IX, and we have the right to choose, and women can be fire fighters and astronauts. But that’s not enough for me, that’s not enough for my future daughters, it’s not enough to be able to vote.
One morning this weekend while browsing the internet in bed with Kamel, we both started reading this article from The Stranger (a weekly newspaper in Seattle) called the Bravest Woman In Seattle. It’s amazingly well written and brought me to tears multiple times, so I encourage you to read it, but I’m also going to pull some excerpts. The breakdown of this story is this: Two women, planning their wedding and living together in a little red house outside of Seattle in a place called South Park. A man enters their room in the middle of the night while they are both sleeping, rapes them, and kills one of them.
Ok. That alone screams violence against women, right? So why am I talking about this? Why is this bouncing around in my head. Big deal, I hear about these kinds of things on the news all of the time. But generally, all I hear are stats, I don’t see the victims or am afforded a glimpse into their lives, or have a moment where I suddenly realize: that could so easily be me.
They were attacked on a Saturday night, Friday night happened like this:
“We had one of the deepest conversations that we’d had in a long time,” Butz’s partner recalled on the stand. “She’d always had this dream of—I think she always wanted to work for herself. And she had this dream of owning a cafe-slash-movie theater. She wanted to call it the Reel Cafe. We were talking about it, what it would mean, what it would take… We came to this decision that we would work at our corporate jobs for as long as it took to make that happen, and then she would do that.”
They talked about children. Butz, who was 39, who had never been the one they thought would carry the child, announced: “Maybe I’ll have the baby.”
The prosecuting attorney asked: All of this happens at Loretta’s?
She laughed. The crowd in the courtroom laughed. It did seem remarkable.
“Yeah,” she said. “We were there for a few hours… It was our place.”
“It was just one of those nights,” her partner said. “I remember thinking: ‘In this moment, my life may not be perfect, but I am so happy.’”
Two women. Something about that makes them so much more vulnerable, so much more tender. I doubly relate, not from sexuality but from a deeper part of who I am. Two of me, planning a life, building a life, having a normal Friday night.
But then of course, on Saturday:
“I woke up to a start,” she told the court. “There was a man that I could see was naked, standing over the bed with a knife in his right hand… And the knife immediately went to my throat.”
She gasped. She thought: This is a dream.
“And then,” she told the court, “it’s just processing that there’s a person here and something’s going to happen.”
Which of course blows my mind because, that’s pretty much the worst nightmare, right? A nighttime intruder standing above you when you wake up. That’s it, that’s the bad dream, the scary movie, the beginnings of hell all wrapped into one. And of course he raped them multiple times, multiple different ways, continually telling them he wouldn’t hurt them. They went along with it thinking, “Just get through it, just grit your teeth and take it, let’s just get out of here alive.” And I wonder, on a smaller scale, how many times do we do similar things. When male coworkers make rape jokes and I have to pretend not to hear, or when I’m walking down the street and men are acting aggressive, calling to me, maybe following me, and I’m thinking, “Just get to my car, just get to my car.”
Of course, these women were trying to survive. But what if they had been taught to fight back, immediately. What if it had just been a given that they would. What if their first instinct was to not allow him to force his penis into their mouths. What if the scenario where they get raped and stabbed seemed ridiculous, like a piece of science fiction! Could the story of two women, woken in the middle of the night to a naked intruder with a knife and who didn’t laugh him out of the room, who didn’t beat him to a bloody pulp, who didn’t knock him to the floor and sit on him until the cops came, could this ever become absurd?
This isn’t my attempt to blame the victim. I would also like a world where intruders didn’t happen, where rape didn’t occur, but unfortunately I think that’s too far reaching. It’s not within my space of control.
The man asked the couple for lube before one of his rapes of Butz. When the women replied that they didn’t have any lube, he said: “Too bad for her.”
The man asked, at one point: “So are you guys lesbians or are you bisexual?” Butz’s partner’s mind spun. Which would be worse? Which answer would make him more likely to stop?
“I remember what I said was, ‘Well, we’ve been together a long time, so I guess that makes us lesbians.’”
She felt that she deserved to ask him a question at this point, so she asked: “Have you seen us before?”
He shook his head no.
Butz asked: “What if we’d been an old man?”
He just shrugged.
Butz’s partner made up a story that someone was coming to pick them up at 5:00 a.m. to take them to a wedding in Portland. She asked him if they were going to make the wedding. He said yes. She said: “Please don’t hurt us. We’re good people.”
When we finished reading the article I was crying. Of course I was crying. The woman’s testimony is raw and real and gritty and detailed. And I cried for her and for her partner who was murdered in front of her after living through atrocities and witnessing atrocities. But I also cried because, “Being a woman is sometimes really unfair.” That’s what I said before I cried harder into Kamel’s neck space. It’s so unfair. It’s so unfair to be a woman sometimes, to be the one who is entered, to be the victims of these crimes, to have this be a real threat, something that actually happens to everyday women sleeping in their everyday home on a warm summer night.
But I told you there were multiple articles that came across my
desk screen in the last few days. This next one by Vanity Fair called Murder By Text. The title alone makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and declare all doomed. What? Now technology is a weapon in violence against any and all marginalized groups? Of course it is, of course it would be. Why this is a given I don’t know, but there it is. A given.
The article in VF spells out this particular situation right up front:
When Kruse IM’d Kim to see if she was done babysitting, no response came. But he didn’t expect one. The instant message was a cover. Kruse knew Kim had never made it to her job. She was right there in his house with him and Cam. Bound. Beaten. Raped. And, by the next morning, stuffed in his freezer. Dead.
High school kids, Kruse and Cam became obsessed with violent porn and rape fantasies. Do I think porn is bad? No. Do I think porn makes people kill other people? No. But this is another example of the prevalence of violence against women. It’s there and it’s ignored or seen as “creepy”. I hate being told to “lighten up” about things like that. I don’t care if you’re pretending to rape a woman or not, you’re raping in effigy is far as I’m concerned. And that means all of us.
They chose a week when Kruse’s mother was out of town, perhaps to ensure that they would have free run of his home. They called up Google maps of local wooded areas, drawing red circles around areas where they might dump Kim’s body. At four minutes after midnight on Monday, March 15, Cam searched Wikipedia for the terms “vagina,” “speculum,” and “lithotomy position” (followed by a Google image search of the same).
Three days later, at 1:11 a.m., an instant message popped up on Kim’s screen at her home. It was Kruse.
Kim asked Kruse to call her. He secretly patched Cam in to eavesdrop on the call. As Kruse and Kim talked, Kruse and Cam IM’d each other, reveling as their fantasy came to life. “I’m gonig to rip her nose ring out and burn it,” Kruse typed. “BURN HER FLESH.”
“Y not keep her bound and alive,” Cam suggested.
“That’s what I’m going to do but I need to get her stoned first and possibly seduce her.”
“Lol, try quickly.”
In the early hours of that morning, Kruse had told Cam he’d use a code phrase—“I think I’m going to make some KD”—a Canadian abbreviation for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner—when he was ready to attack. Shortly after arriving at the house, the boys struck, kicking and hitting Kim as they bound her hands and ankles. Kruse stuffed a sock in Kim’s mouth, which he then wrapped in duct tape. The two raped and beat Kim for hours until she died from suffocation. They mutilated her with a knife and stuffed refuse, including a four-inch-long lollipop stick, into her vagina and anus. They moved her body to a freezer in Kruse’s garage.
In both of these situations the bad guys were caught and sentenced to life in prison. But there isn’t any justice in the whole wide world that would make up for these crimes. Preventing them from hurting others is nice, but there will be other people to take their places.
These are extremes. Extreme in violence, extreme in torture, extreme. But I think it speaks to the bigger problem. Why is this happening? Yes, we look at it and say “Oh my gosh that is awful! Those poor people!” And it’s almost a kind of fascination. Watching the most gruesome of human nature unfold behind a glass window and thinking, wow how fascinating, and feeling oddly safe because the reality is that glass window can crack.
There is an attitude about women’s health and women’s safety that puts us as second. We are not most important, or safety should be put second below a whole list of other things. In Topeka, Kansas the city repealed it’s domestic violence law because they didn’t want to spend the money to prosecute. Or what about the “Protect Life Act” (if that life is that of an unborn child that is, nothing about this bill protects the life of WOMEN) that was PASSED in the House this month? Have you seen anything about it on the news? Has it made a big splash where you’re from? Even though in this bill it says:
It is the latter part of the bill that has prompted its opponents to dub it the “Let Women Die” act, arguing that it would remove the existing requirement of hospitals to provide access to emergency services, regardless of one’s ability to pay. Talking Points Memo explains that argument: It “would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under [current law], meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn’t have to – nor would they have to facilitate a transfer” to another hospital that would.
I will not sit back and grit my teeth and wait for things to pass. I will not simply be grateful for the vote. I will not revel in my equality until it becomes a reality.