Friday, November 02, 2007

Horror Movie Mythology Hurts Megan Williams And Many Other Victims

Francis Holland wrote the following in a comment explaining now deleted statements in his blog post:

There is NOTHING that Megan Williams or any person could do to deserve this sort of treatment, and do it is impossible to say that she, in any way, deserved what she got. [...] And yet I think about those horror movies when one practically screams at the screen, "Don't go back into the haunted house!" I think Megan went back into the haunted house, and that's when the vampires attacked her.

The logical flaw here is that Holland is basing his opinion of Megan Williams on a fallacy that many of us wish were a universal truth.

We wish we could always hear the music which tells the viewer, "Run!" so that we could sprint safely away before the dangerous situation or person is close enough to nab us, thus saving ourselves from trauma and maybe even death. Life is much less stressful if we believe that danger never comes at us without horror movie type warnings.

This is also the same reason bigots love to paint other racial groups as more dangerous than their own. A father doesn't want to think his pregnant daughter is at greater risk of death from that nice man she married than she is from the anonymous monster lurking in the dark corner of the parking ramp who can be identified instantly by skin tone. He wants to think he's helping her remain safe by lecturing her about going alone into the grocery store after dark.

Add to this wish the tendency to assume that others have at least the same amount of information (too often misinformation) and resources as we have about a case so that we judge alleged crime victims based on our projected version of their situation.

This is why defense spin is such an important part of many defense team's strategies. They want your first impression to be the one they craft for you. They want any other version of what happened to seem like a distortion of the truth even when that other version is a damning truth.

Too many people are foolish enough to treat certain real-life crimes as if they were as 2-dimensional as a horror flick where everyone knows that the monster is lurking on the other side of that door. The blame for ignoring obvious danger then falls too heavily on the victim who as in many horror movies seems to deserve what is done to her.

Sometimes there are elements in a situation that people can recognize if they know what to look for which are true danger signals. Unfortunately, many of the same people who scold women for getting into situations where they become victims will scold women for being paranoid when they take evasive action before the threat is undeniable and unavoidable.

"Not all men are rapists or sadistic monsters. Just because they ___ [followed you, or harassed you, or grabbed your arm to stop you from leaving, or made a violent threat in anger, etc.] doesn't mean men who do that should be treated as if they might really turn criminally violent."

Holland has imposed upon Megan Williams the Too Stupid To Live label which is given to fictional characters (mostly women characters) who take actions because the writer decides those actions are needed to move the plot forward and which the audience knows puts that character in greater danger.

I don't know if he, and others who fall in the same trap, can learn to recognize and avoid it the next time the trap is laid out for him. If he doesn't then he's like that horror movie character who goes back in the haunted house.

From an anonymous comment I received about this case which sent me to a Charleston Daily Mail article entitled: Torture suspects sister says victim given chance to leave I was apparently supposed to believe a picture painted for me about this victim.

Williams was in black lingerie, with cuts on her body that were clearly infected.

"I couldn't believe someone was still alive in that shape," she said. "I don't know anyone who could have went through that and survived."

Christie Messer said she let Williams out of the bedroom. She gave her the keys to her car and told her to go to the car, but Williams refused to leave, she said.
"She said, 'I don't want to go. I love Bobby [Brewster].'

Messer said she told Megan she needed to go to the hospital to get treatment for the cuts on her leg.

Honestly, if I went to a house and discovered a woman in such bad shape that I'm surprised she's still alive, I'm going to call 911. I'm not going to offer that woman my car keys so this surprised-to-be-alive woman can go to the hospital for treatment. I'm certainly not going to expect someone that injured to be coherent enough to understand clearly what I'm saying.

How can Williams have truly been given a chance to leave as the headline asserts if it's a shock she's still alive?

She has as much chance as a coma patient has when she's given the chance to say no by a hospital employee intent on rape. Unfortunately, this claim of giving victims a chance to get away is a lie that gets believed on a regular basis.

The ugly truth is that it is safer for many people's view of the world to ask, "Why didn't she leave?" than to ask, "Why did someone do that to another human being?" because most of us don't really want a complete and honest answer to that second question.

The quote above seems to answer the first question ("I don't want to go. I love Bobby."), but it doesn't. Someone who has been tortured for days has likely been forced to make statements that pleased her torturers and may have been threatened with further violence, even death, if she dared to escape.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:41 AM   6 comments links to this post


At November 02, 2007 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't send you the link to convince you of anything, only to let you know what was being printed in the local newspaper there.

At November 02, 2007 11:26 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I sincerely apologize for reading too much into your comment. I did obviously find the link worthwhile so that you for giving me a heads up.

At November 02, 2007 2:39 PM, Blogger Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Let's face it: This is a very troubling situation for a lot of reasons. The white people were living in subhuman conditions, and reports say that one of them was convicted of manslaughter for killing her own mother. These were VERY, VERY dysfunctional people, to whom the term "sick" would normally be applied.

When I see the mobile trailer they lived in, I can't help but wonder how many people live in similarly filthy mobile trailers, with little out-house like structures outside that also serve as part of their living quarters. This IS a horror movie, except that it's real.

I often tell my daughters that I am not afraid of horror movies because the stories are so absurd that they cannot "jump out at you" from the screen. What happened to Megan Williams is terrifying precisely because it is real and cannot be denied, except by ignoring it entirely.

It's scary to contemplate that a young Black woman can fall into such a deny of mental illness and vile and sadistic behavior, motivated not only by color-aroused disorder but also by other unfathomable sicknesses that are plain in the faces of these white people for all to see.

One of these people killed her own (white) mother, and then, in concert, they nearly killed Megan Williams. It's horrifying. I am human and I am horrified.

At November 02, 2007 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's ok. Only good came of it in the end. I even came up with a new phrase over this, "media intelligence", sort of like "military intelligence", I guess, in more ways than one. Have a nice weekend.

At November 02, 2007 10:52 PM, Blogger sophie said...

This brings back another story, still fresh in my mind.
I read Louise Nicholas My Story a few days ago and one thing that struck me was her account of what she thought when she was picked up by an acquaintance one day. She *knew* from prior experience that bad things were going to happen to her. She knew danger awaited her in the house he took her to. Yet she 'chose' to obey, and to follow.
There was nothing clearer from the history that had she refused, even if she'd successfully escaped, he would simply have come for her the next day or a few days later. She had no tools for dealing with that sort of threat - very few women do.
Women have to be listened to and believed, before they get much leverage over their attackers at all. And damn, don't they know that? (The attackers, that is. Hers certainly relied on the knowledge that there was no-one she could turn to who would help her against them)

At March 15, 2008 12:49 PM, Blogger Crissy said...

You did not post my entire statement. I never gave Megan the keys to my car, I told her the keys were in my car, and she should get in it and drive away. I was fighting off two of the suspects. I put my life and my three childrens lives in danger, for what to be talked about and so Megan could give someone else credit for her rescue. I have the person she gave the credit to, his handwritten statement to the police stating that he met her on a chatline and when she came to live with him and he saw she was black that he sold her to Bobby Brewster for $20. Some hero!


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