Saturday, February 23, 2008

Steve Wright Convicted Of 5 Ipswich Murders And The Changing Assumptions About Who Is Bad

From the Guardian UK:

Tracey [Russell] and her best friend Annette Nicholls had agreed, after the first women went missing, only to go with regulars, but Steve Wright was someone they both knew well; Tracey had had sex with him several times in the three years he had been using Ipswich prostitutes - not a matter of weeks, as he testified in court.

These women in England made the same assumptions that so many people around the world make, that men who pay for sex and who look normal are decent people not interested in harming anyone. If these men are doing anything wrong it is having pre-marital or extra-marital sex. Russell lived to testify at the trial, but her friend did not and was one of Wright's murder victims.

I'm not including women who pay for sex in these assumptions because I often see a different -- harsher -- response when the person paying to use another human being is a woman.

When it comes to this case and others where the police say the motive is unknown, I disagree. I don't think the motive is unknown, just unproven. Look at the common attitudes people express when they learn that a brutally murdered woman was someone known or suspected of having been paid to have sex.

I've heard "good riddance" and "no great loss" from people who claim to be absolutely anti-murder. This vengeful or dismissive attitude which makes some people disposable objects disproves these people's official stance on murder. Once a human being becomes a disposable object, you have a motive for murder which doesn't conflict with someone viewing themselves as a decent human being.

It sounds like all or most of the murdered women were addicted to drugs and had other serious issues, but the same attitudes which made them the most acceptable murder victims makes too many people resist supporting providing serious assistance to these women.

Their life, she said, was "horrible". "You learn to blank it out over the years, and because you are on drugs, [you] just think of something else. I know that sounds odd, but you do. 'Cos you get used to it, and it's over within seconds. Hopefully."

Shortly after Annette was confirmed dead, and with the help of a methadone prescription, Tracey stopped selling sex and using heroin, after six years on the game. [...]

For the past 14 months the quiet success of those working to help women off the streets of Ipswich has continued. [...] "We have to recognise that prior to the murders there were scant resources put into this area. I have worked in drugs for 16 years and I think [sex workers] are the most difficult and damaged clientele I have ever worked with. That needs resources." [from Brian Tobin, director of Iceni, a small drugs charity]

This doesn't match the fantasy held by those who view the prostituted as morally bankrupt and deserving of punishment. Too many people would rather see these women die than get effective and systematic assistance.

We see this dehumanization when people talk about rape of the prostituted as nothing more than theft. Human beings. Can of beans. Those who can find a way to see no significant difference are very dangerous -- either directly or indirectly through their support of the violent.

When a serial killer suddenly switches from murdering the prostituted to the non-prostituted then the uncaring suddenly become caring and determined that the police catch the monster -- before another innocent life is lost. The problem is that the previously uncaring contributed to the attitudes and actions which now has them shocked and disgusted. Once a person gets a taste for rape or for murder of those viewed as disposable, they can easily rationalize that others too deserve to be attacked.

This is why those who talk about girls or woman asking for it or wearing a virtual "rape me" sign need to be viewed as contributors to serious crime rather than viewing them as people seriously trying to prevent crime as they claim to be when they are challenged.

What has always bothered me about these contrasting assumptions is that those who pay for sex are by the very nature of the interaction selfish, insensitive and uncaring about others. They may ask for feedback from those they pay to have sex with, but questions such as "was it good for you?" are not genuine inquiries and are instead requests for ego stroking.

When men use brothels with security measures and surveillance systems better than most jails, they don't care that these security systems also keep the prostituted under tight control. If those locked inside look and behave the way he wants them to that's all that matters. Those who can't avoid thinking about the meaning of tight security likely comfort themselves by viewing this security as protecting the prostituted from the cops.

The same level of uncaring goes for those who look to pay for sex from those walking down the street. There is no concern about that girl or woman beyond the moment. If she isn't being followed by an armed guard then she isn't being exploited by anyone.

John schools for those caught trying to pay for sex were created to break this selfish illusion and they have succeeded at getting through to at least some of those who attend. But most who pay for sex never attend a John school and I doubt any sex education they've had included this view into the harsh reality of those who are prostituted.

I've lost count of the number of people who talk about children who have been prostituted using derogatory words and when someone is accused of raping a child who has been exploited previously I often hear people talking about the alleged victim being no innocent child.

Being the 100th man to sexually exploit a child who has built up a protective shell doesn't make that man any better than the 1st man to sexually exploit that child. The only difference is in the ease of rationalizations -- from the criminal and the public.

If that exploited child grows up to be a drug addicted woman who is paid for sex, too many people simply don't care.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

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