A couple of newspaper articles in the Montreal Gazette caught my attention yesterday.
First off was the statement by police that there is a serial rapist attacking women on the North Shore of Montreal. Between March 2004 and June 2005 at least eight women were attacked after getting off a bus or walking in the street at night in Laval, St-Jerome and Terrebonne.
The rapist is supposed to be medium build, about 5 feet 10 inches tall with short brown hair. He was often seen wearing a baseball cap, is francophone, and a red Honda Civic hatchback was spotted near six of the attacks. All of the attacks happened on Wednesday and Thursday nights between 10pm and 1am, and women were threatened with a weapon in all but one of them. We are told that now that this has been made public, the rapist may change his pattern…
Police did not issue any warning to women before yesterday, October 7th 2005, according to the Gazette article:
Asked why police didn’t make the information known earlier, Constable Francois Dore of the Surete du Quebec – the force co-ordinating the investigation – said police had several details to investigate first.
Also, because the assaults took place in different towns, and were being investigated by different forces, it wasn’t until this spring that police realized the cases might be connected, he said.
Laval police spokesperson Sgt. Daniel Guerin said making details public too early can compromise a police investigation.
In the present case, Laval police placed undercover offices at bus stops as part of their investigation, he said.
What’s more, now that several details have been made public, the offender is likely to alter his patterns, Guerin said.
It is worth perhaps also noting the chronology of these attacks:
May 11, 2004 – Laval
June 16, 2004 – St-Jerome
June 24, 2004 – St-Jerome
July 1, 2004 – Laval
Nov. 4, 2004 – Laval
March 24, 2005 – Terrebonne
April 8, 2005 – Laval
June 30, 2005 – St-Jerome
So according to the police, it took until “spring 2005” for them to realize there was a serial rapist – this despite two attacks occurring within ten days of each other in St-Jerome in summer 2004, and three different attacks occurring in Laval.
Deconstruct especially what Sgt. Guerin is saying: making details available would have hurt the investigation, which involved putting undercover cops on buses.
Putting decoys on buses sounds like a great idea, but think a moment: how would warning women in any way interfere with this? Well, he says it: warn women and “the offender is likely to alter his patterns” – don’t warn women, and the rapist will keep to his pattern!
Don’t warn women, and women won’t take any special precautions to protect themselves, so he’ll keep on raping them on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and hopefully eventually he’ll stumble upon a decoy and the police can say they saved the day!
Let me now skip to another newspaper article, also in yesterday’s Gazette, dealing with the report issued on October 6th by Judge David Plosz, an Alberta Fatality Inquiry Judge, about the September 28th 2003 murders of a woman and her son at the hands of her husband:
Blagica Fekete told RCMP on at least seven different occasions that her husband had threatened to kill her and that he had three guns at his home. A close friend of Blagica's submitted a 10-page statement to police detailing Josif's history of harassment and abuse.
Most disturbing of all was a statement Blagica Fekete gave Sept. 24, 2003, when she told police her husband had escalated the threats to include himself and their son. Little Alex told her, "Mommy, ah, Daddy said you gonna be dead soon. Me and him."
What did the police do? Well, they did investigate the husband’s complaint that Blagica allowed her son to ride in a taxi-cab without a car seat… but about the little matter of his threatening to commit double-homicide, well that would have been a bit too much trouble to deal with…
A worker at the Central Alberta Women's Shelter, where Blagica stayed at one point, warned police and Alberta Children's Services two days before the Sunday shootings that the mother and son were in danger. But police didn't act, and a social worker who wanted to seek an emergency protection order was advised it would have to wait till Monday.
In both the case of the North Shore serial rapist, and the murder of Blagica and Alex Fekete, the first thing you notice is that the police failed to effectively stop male violence. This is no news – i mean since the 1989 Montreal Massacre the police have failed to prevent the murders of 604 women and 173 children in Quebec, victims of male violence (a list maintained of all of these victims in maintained by the Collectif Masculin Contre le Sexisme) – and the response is to issue more recommendations and just hope that the police do a better job in future. “Better luck next time, boys!”
But the enduring inability of the police to actually ever get it right leaves a void that must be filled. Regardless of whether you are anti-cop or not, an anarchist or a liberal, you have to admit that the police are just not able to deal with this problem, and unless you think rape and murder of women aren’t problems that need dealing with…
Avoiding completely the question of whether we even want police in our communities, there is an obvious need to develop our own capacities for collective self-defense. Call it “safety” or all it “armed struggle” or call it a “feminist guerilla”, there is a particular need for women to develop their capacities, because – sad to say – even a left-wing or anarchist group led by us guys will most likely be unable to effectively appraise and intervene in cases of male violence against women. I mean, we’re still stumbling over how to deal with cases where anarchist or left-wing men have abused women and we know their names and addresses!
It is worth noting what Amazon theorist Butch Lee has written regarding the “Green River Killer”, a god-fearing Christian who raped and killed at least 48 women (many of them teenagers) over a twenty year period:
Women could have stopped it. But not by staying embedded in men’s laws for women. […] Armed units of women could have surrounded & patrolled Sea-Tac where the Green River Killer got women. Women’s armed checkpoints could have kept track of i.d.s and peoples’ comings & goings. Girl-children could have been taken to women’s schools, where they could have been taught survival sense. Rapists could have been hunted down by teams of women and killed. But all that would be illegal, while being defenseless & isolated are 100% legal and desirable under men’s laws for women. We’ve all had fantasies of girl gangs, of women with guns patrolling streets and making free territory for women, of women running it. “In dreams begin responsibilities.”
(from After Anti-War Movements win or Lose in Iraq… ther’s still women)
Is this realistic? Certainly not now, not in this situation where (to again quote Lee) “women have no army of our own, no foreign policy that is ours, no rescue force, no territory, no home base. No home.”
Acknowledging the fact that we’re starting from scratch is a start, especially if we also have an idea of what we want to build. Denying that there’s a problem, denying that there’s a need to be filled – that’s just going to make it all worst. And it’s not like we have to go from just reading about this stuff in the Gazette to having a Women’s Army in one quick step.
To give an example: about ten years ago there was a wave of violence against women in the student area known as the “McGill Ghetto”. Lots of women were being harassed and attacked day and night, and several had been raped. The police, the media, the university, etc. – all of those public authorities – were really uninterested in doing anything. One woman was apparently even attacked while, just streets away, others were marching to “take back the night” – but still this was not a “real issue”.
So a bunch of women wrote up posters with the big title “Attention Women!” explaining that the area was not safe and that attacks had been taking place, got together with a bunch of people they knew both male and female and plastered the area with them. Didn’t require an underground cell or an armed capacity, just doing what was do-able.
And wouldn’t you know it: within a day there were articles in the newspaper, women at shelters were being interviewed, and suddenly Montreal had itself a “real issue”.
Did this solve “violence against women”? Of course not. But it pushed things from a situation where nobody was talking about it to one where people were doing so. Little steps, but far better than nothing.
Unfortunately, this is something i imagine we’ll be coming back to…
UPDATE: Please note that on Wednesday, January 25th Benoit Guay – a Montreal police officer – was arrested – he stands accused of being the North Shore rapist – read more here.
Categories: montreal, police, violence-against-women