Recently, during the annual 1000km Desert Race competition, a woman, believed to be 20-years-old, was found dead in an area in Jwaneng, the Desert Race host town. When she was found, the young woman was naked, with legs wide open. Although rape had not been established, it could not be ruled out.
The woman’s identity is unknown. It’s one of those tragedies that as at now, has no real explanation. Many people blamed the deceased.
A prominent social figure partially attributed what he called the unfortunate event, to the girl’s poverty and carelessness, suggesting that she left home with no money, nor accommodation.
He said this while attempting to wipe clean, the hands of the organisers of the Desert Race. To be fair, he extended the blame to what he calls young boy thieves with uncouth tendencies of erections and poverty. Many agreed with him. But many others didn’t.
So we clearly need to have a discourse on why do men kill women. We also need to discuss why women are often blamed for the violence they suffer at the hands of men.
Sociologist, Ian Hughes reasons that violence cannot be explained in terms of a single cause. Instead, there are multiple possible factors that contribute to violent behaviour. One possible contributing factor, is said to be biology. Research has been said to show that persistent violent offending is often correlated with minor brain damage or certain psychological abnormalities, particularly psychopathy. A second possible contributing factor has been said to be childhood trauma.
Hughes says severe neglect and violent abuse in childhood are high risk factors for violent behaviour in adults. He further says that whatever the range of factors contributing to the said violent behaviour, it clearly affects men to a larger degree than women, providing a final possible contributing factor as gender construction.
Hughes concludes that the degrees of brain damage, psychological abnormality, childhood trauma, group peer pressure and social environments are said to be the main explanations for persistent violence.
We are not born inherently knowing the differences between men and women including the roles, norms and behaviours that the two play in society. These are things that we are taught, and that we learn through personal experiences, and from our own cultural upbringings. Our social environments advise how we behave, both individually, and collectively. Essentially, patriarchy is the problem. A gender perspective provides that men are killing women because we live in a misogynistic society, which encourages men’s violence and compels women to suffer in silence.
So how are we still blaming women for the violent attacks of men, often ending up in death? Sometimes, victim blaming is not as crass as the gentleman who blames the Jwaneng death on the woman puts it. Often, it is subtle. Other times, it is in questioning the victim, and objectifying her and denying her dignity. It’s an urge we have to think that good things happen to good people and therefore misperceptive implied opposite, that therefore bad things happen to bad people. We are often shocked that many women take part in the derogation of violated women. The shock is usually accompanied by a justification for why men are violent. We say things like, “so many people said the nastiest things about her, even women.” Or “even women say things like that, it’s not just men!” or “what about the women who also said mean things?!” often, this is to negate the violent experiences of women, particularly at the hands of men. Renee Grinnell, who founded the “just-world” hypothesis or fallacy, essentially provides the idea that people need to believe one will get what they deserve so strongly, that they will rationalise an inexplicable injustice by naming things the victim might have done to deserve it. Simply put, I suppose it’s a way of dissociating ourselves with the likelihood that actually, the injustice could very likely happen to even me. This would mean coming to terms with the fact that the world is actually an unjust space to even exist in. I suppose the “just-world” bias is more prevalent in women because we are literally at the bottom of the pyramid.
The world is not a fair place for women. Sometimes, even when we do the right thing, not everything is going to be ok. It’s rather profound that the young woman found dead was naked and her identity unknown. She could literally be anyone. That could have easily been me, or you.