Last week i wrote about Benoit Guay, the Montreal cop who was charged with being the “North Shore Rapist” who has attacked and raped several women over the past two years.
I repeated what i had written last October, before anyone knew the rapist was a cop, namely that more police is not an effective answer to violence against women. I suggested at the time that – no matter how daunting a task it may be – women organizing to “take matters into their own hands” was the only solution that made sense to me
The fact that the Montreal serial rapist is a cop is relevant because it gives lie to the State’s trump card, its insistence that the police protect us. It makes it deceptively easy to make the argument that the police are not the ones who will put an end to violence against women. At best, the police are just like “regular” people who are put in positions of power, at worst they are like cynical bullies with violent training who are put in positions of power.
Regardless of the “assurance” (!) given by the chief of police, that Guay “was not on duty” when he raped, other police officers have admitted that his training in the Montreal police surveillance unit would make picking out victims and avoiding capture a piece of cake. Furthermore, we have not been told if the gun he threatened women with was “police issue” or not…
…but when you think of it, does it really matter?
I still can’t help but feel that a far greater outrage is the fact that the police kept quiet about the fact that there was a serial rapist until last October. It apparently took their computers until spring 2005 to notice a pattern – this despite two attacks occurring within ten days of each other in St-Jerome in summer 2004, and three different attacks occurring in Laval – and after that they waited until the Fall because they hoped undercover police would be able to catch the perpetrator. (Did his elite “surveillance and counter-surveillance skills” help Guay spot these decoys? And did i mention that last summer, while police were sitting on this information, another woman was attacked?)
The problem is far greater than the fact that police rape (although that is a serious problem). More serious still is the fact that by their very nature the police make it much more difficult – both psychologically and materially – for women to protect themselves. Most efforts at organized self-defense are in fact illegal unless they are organized under the State’s control. Efforts to organize an armed capacity outside of the State invariably meet with repression.
Even more importantly, though, by monopolizing the function of “community defense” the existence of the police serves as a powerful disincentive for anyone to organize themselves. “How can we ever be as effective as the cops are anyway?” we wonder. They have these high-tech computers and training and infrastructure, while we have nothing.
Or so they would like us to think.
The hole in their logic lies in the fact that the majority of victims of violence are already members of oppressed groups… women, people of colour, queers, otherly abled… all of the same people who are more likely to be poor, more likely to be disregarded, more likely in fact to be abused by the police: these are the people who are most likely to suffer from violence.
When the police intervene, it is often to protect the violent perpetrators and to aggravate the damage they have done.
This cannot be repeated too often: the police tend to make matters worst.
The oppressed are the most likely to be victims of violence, and the oppressed have little to gain from trusting in the police, and the oppressed know this all too well.
Take for example the case of Robert Pickton, the British Columbia man accused of killing dozens of women on a misogynist murder-spree that stretched over decades. Dozens of women “went missing” from Vancouver’s East end during his period, but because most of them were poor, were from the First Nations, and so many of them were sex trade workers, the police turned a blind eye as they disappeared one by one.
Families of the missing women have accused Vancouver police of mishandling the investigation from the beginning by ignoring evidence that a serial killer was at work. The RCMP became involved in 2001.
The families also say police neglected the cases because many of the women were prostitutes and drug addicts.
It wasn’t until August of 2001 that Vancouver police began hinting that a serial killer could be responsible for the disappearance of the missing women.
Pickton’s kill-spree may have started as early as 1978. The police would not admit that there was a serial killer at work for over twenty years. Pickton was not arrested until 2002 – despite the fact that the police knew about him since 1997… when he had been charged with attempted murder… of a prostitute… the charges were dropped – are we catching on yet?
If women and their loved ones had not organized to call attention to the slaughter, it is possible Pickton would still be victimizing women today.
Or in another Canadian city… look at how since 1983 the bodies of over 20 women have been found in or around the city of Edmonton – “all are described by police as being prostitutes or having high-risk lifestyles and only five of the cases have been solved.” In Edmonton, too, the majority of missing people are First Nations women. Indeed: according to the Aboriginal Youth Network, since 1988 over 500 First Nations women have “gone missing” across Canada.
So to recap: the fact that a Montreal police officer called Benoit Guay is accused of raping eight women is something that should make you angry. As should the fact that a pig farmer called Robert Pickton stands accused of several dozen misogynist murders. As should the fact that over 500 First Nations women have been “disappeared.”
The fact that this “extra-State violence” follows the contours of “legitimate” capitalist exclusion and violence suggests that the solution will entail overthrowing class society itself. As a step in that direction, supporting women’s efforts to organize against the ongoing war against women – up to and including developing an armed capacity – is necessary and just and obvious.
Some related links worth checking out:
- Missing/Murdered First Nations (Native) Women
- missingpeople.net – dedicated to Vancouver’s missing eastside women
- Sex Trade Workers of Canada
- The Military Strategy of Women and Children, by Butch Lee
And finally, for those who can make it (or organize something similar in your own community):
Rally against Racist Police Inaction and Impunity
Hundreds of Native women have gone missing or been murdered from B.C. to Nova Scotia in the past 20 years. Many of their cases remain unsolved and too often no police investigation has ever been conducted. Family members seeking help are met with disinterest and racism.
Join us for a rally and ceremony at 12:00 Noon on Feb 14th at Toronto Police Headquarters – 40 College Street at Bay – BRING DRUMS!
Now is the time to take concrete steps to ensure that the lives of Native women in Canada are no longer treated as disposable.
NO MORE SILENCE is a network of native and non-native individuals and organizations in Canada.
NO MORE SILENCE is a campaign to break through societal indifference towards the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women in Turtle Island.
NO MORE SILENCE believes that all native and non-native Canadians have a responsibility to act to restore justice to Indigenous communities, that all non-native Canadians need to learn to de-colonize their thinking and practices about Native peoples, to speak out against the violence of Native women, to insist that the Canadian state ensures that all crimes receive adequate responses from the police, the RCMP, the coroners’ offices, and the courts.– No More Silence Network