Wednesday, October 18

The Amish shooting was easily a "hate crime." But is stranger-rape?

A Seattle-based blog generated some interesting comments on Bob Herbert's article. What can we get a large number of people to agree is a hate crime? The commenter "SDA in SEA" wrote:

"Hate Crime" itself is a term that many don't understand. What, exactly, is a hate crime? Why is it necessary to add that designation to a crime that is already on the books? For example, assault and murder are already against the law. What difference should it make if you also make it a hate crime?

The best rationale that I have heard is that if someone commits a random murder, there is only one victim. If, on the other hand, someone murders an African-American while wearing Klan regalia and burning a cross in their yard, there is more than one victim. There is the person killed, but in addition, the entire black community also become victims to a lesser degree. The crime is committed in part with the intent to cause fear in that community. If a person is gay-bashed, the beating isn't directed at the individual fag, it is intended to cause harm and fear to the entire gay community, to put them in their place or to drive them away. If someone paints a swastika on a Jew's door, it isn't simply property damage against one individual, it is intended to terrify a whole community. So it isn't the individual assault or murder, it is the harm directed at a whole community that raises a crime to the level of a "hate" crime.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know the legal definition of a hate crime, but the general premise makes imminent sense to me.

I haven't followed this case closely enough to know if it would qualify under that description of a hate crime, but on the surface, it certainly looks like a possibility.

The law aside, I agree that this seems like something you could convince a large number of people is a hate crime.

"Keshmeshi" commented that the violent act doesn't even have to intend to intimidate more than the primary victim: the victim just has to be selected based on group identity characteristics, and that this would even apply if the "group identity" were "white male:"

if a black guy walked into a school, separated out the white students and executed them, that would also be a hate crime.

I think many people could be convinced that the target just has to be picked for violence because of his/her membership in a certain social category.


Then I read Keshmeshi's reply to "DougSF's" comment that said:

"About the shootings: Um, I think, actually, we are shocked the gunman targeted, seperated, then murdered these little girls. The NYT writer is probably reeling more from the fact that he doesn't have a 'hot topic'-angle to work on this story, but the rest of us I think are pretty mortified"--

The NY Times writer was stating the fact that people don't see these kinds of crimes against women and girls as hate crimes. Excuse me, I take that back, men don't see these kinds of crimes as hate crimes.

It seems like men are as likely to admit it as the average American is to admit that U.S. foreign policy is usually not so savory. If men admitted that women are frequently raped and murdered just for being women, then they might have to confront why that is, and their complicity in our misogynistic culture that embraces violence against women. But, hey, at least we're making progress. Now it's actually illegal to rape and murder women and girls.

Woah. After nodding my head to definition #2, I suddenly thought, "Rape is a crime that most often happens because the victim belongs to the social category called 'women.'" What does that mean?! Is it a hate crime? (Yes, I know rape happens to men & kids, too, but most of the time, when you hear 'rape,' what kind of victim do you think of? A woman. Why? Because it's usually a targeted crime. Same as lynching doesn't have to be of a black person, but hey, the reason we associate "black" with "lynching" is because we've accepted that it's been violence done to a person targeted for being black.)

I mean, most people don't even have to feel like an agressor would've used the word "hate" about the victim's social category to accuse the agressor of having committed a "hate crime." We've come to consider most crimes thought of by the perpetrator as, "That's just what people do to ___________ people," or, "If you're going to do this, you wouldn't do it to anyone but a __________ person" as nonetheless "hate crimes." Even if they just think it's because "________ people" are inferior, less deserving of things they might want (say, the love of a white woman), contemptible, etc. we've still become comfortable shouting, "Hate crime! Hate crime!"

Soooooo...even if a stranger-rapist doesn't consider women an object of what he'd call hatred, he is picking women, rather than men, to target because he thinks there's something unique, inferior, contemptible, less deserving of "getting to do ________," etc. about them than there is about members of other groups, right?

Or is he? The popular line among progressives is that that's the case.
But in wider American society, it still seems to be widely thought that rape--even rape by strangers in a dark alley--is at least partly about sex.

Does a violent act have to be exclusively category-based for it to be a hate crime? I mean, if the lynchers thought that black person was a real pain in the ass, too, and so did other black people, is it no longer a "hate crime?" If the rapist considers women inferior and the kind you "can hurt" the way white people used to think of black people, but he also considers them "arousing," then is his violent act that happens to be done in a manner that resembles sex no longer a "hate crime?"

Plus, most people in our society still seem to think that it's difficult to get into a rapist's head and imagine why he thinks that women are okay to harm in a way that resembles sex. They'd argue that my parallel to other hate crimes falls apart because it's not like there were any friendly ways of putting a noose around someone's neck--ways encouraged by society as something everyone should try--but that there are friendly ways of having man-with-woman sex, and that those are rightfully encouraged by society as something everyone should try. In a heterosexual-relationship-encouraging society, women are "for having sex with" (though only in nice situations) by men. And men are "for having sex with," too--by women (though again, only in nice situations). So how can we say that a rapist chose to target someone who belongs to the social category of "woman" as "for committing violence against in a way that resembles sex" solely because he had various deranged reasons to consider "women" appropriate for violence (which would make his violence a hate crime)? How can we say that little or no part of his selection was based on the exact same opinion--"that women are for having sex with"--that nice interactions of having sex are based on, too?

I'd say, "Because in interviews & studies of rapists of women, both stranger & relationship, they said it was about contempt, inferiority, appropriateness for violent acts, etc. of that other social category called 'women.' I believe those studies. They keep coming out with the same conclusions, over and over, for decades."

But I think I'm in the minority.

Also, can even I, individually, feel like stranger-rapes are a "hate crime" according to that 2nd definition if I know that even the perpetrator himself might, at the time, before he gets caught, reflects, and ends up giving an interview, think that he's doing it partly because he wants "sex?"
I mean, he comes from that majority I'm thinking is "out there" that sees rape as being in a significant part "about sex" due to the shared "target group" between the two.
And can I really trust the studies? It's only what I read, and they say not to believe everything you read. I haven't exactly interviewed a man who decided to commit violence against a woman in a way that resembled sex myself.

Of course, the question of relationship rape is trickier, and I think it'd help to answer the questions I've asked here about stranger-in-an-alley rape as a hate crime before tackling an issue complicated by so many more potentially confused & confusing social messages of "these people are for _______ing--in a nice way." As "Think about it" said, it's trickier, but stil worth asking:

I think that most stranger rape does fall in the category of hate crimes... after all, is the motivation really just to have an orgasm?!? No, it's to subjugate a woman, as an indication of contempt or rage.

Date rape is trickier, of course, but even then I think most men who commit it have contempt for the woman... how else would you justify giving someone a roofie so you can fuck them? I wouldn't call that respectful or friendly!

It saddens and sickens me that violence against women has been normalized to the point that the men who commit it are not considered to "hate" women.

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