A Friendly Reminder to KATC: Victim Blaming is Not Okay

Yesterday at 12:30 a.m. Lafayette Police found a 21-year-old woman’s body in a drainage ditch at Girard Park. The woman has been identified as Alexandria Shelton.

The cause of death remains unclear; however that’s not stopping local news outlet KATC from jumping right into victim blaming in this distasteful article by Akeam Ashford.

The article has since been removed from their website, but here’s some screen shots:

Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 10.46.38 AM Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 10.46.53 AM

What is victim blaming?
“Victim blaming is a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them.”

Usually when unusual and horrific events like this arise, news outlets focus their articles on case details, sympathy for the victim’s loved ones, or general safety reminders. However, in KATC’s insensitive article, they decided to take a different approach.

The article started the BS when they quoted Lafayette Corporal Paul Mouton saying, “Crime is about opportunity. If you create that opportunity, you create the opportunity of you becoming a victim.” The article continues with, Corporal Mouton says this morning’s discovery is a reminder that while the park is always open, you shouldn’t leave yourself open to becoming a victim of a crime.”

I just want to remind Mr. Mouton that while crime may be about opportunity, the victims are never at fault for “creating” that opportunity. The only person to blame for crime in the criminal. 

Mouton goes on to give us advice about nighttime safety at Girard Park: “Especially at night, if you’re going to be in the park area, you should always travel with a friend or buddy. I also suggest to always have a cell phone nearby just in case you need to call police.”

With this case being so undeveloped, I feel like Mouton’s comment was inappropriate. I appreciate his effort to remind the community of general safety tips; however, the way he went about it with this comment and the previous comment were not okay. He made it seem as if Shelton wasn’t abiding by these common safety precautions. 

Let’s be clear, we don’t know what this young woman was doing at the time, we don’t know who she was with, we don’t know if she took the precautions Mouton is advocating, and we don’t even officially know if this was foul play. We simply have no idea what happened, and it’s disturbing that a reputable news source like KATC would manipulate an article into blaming this poor woman for being “careless.”

I also think it’s worth mentioning that this woman probably had her phone on her and either lost it or had it taken since it’s playing such an integral role in the case. 

Now here’s where I want to tear my hair out:

KATC interviewed Jennifer Brown, a student at UL, about her thoughts on the case. 

The article wrote, “Brown agrees with the officer. She said she never goes out at night alone, and if she has to, she prefers to be with a male.” Brown said, “Everybody’s familiar of Mickey Schunick; she was out late at night too and look what happened. Females are just targets for predators in general.” 

As a woman, I understand why Brown would agree with the officer. It’s drilled into women’s brains that we need to be in constant fear of the unknown. We’re encouraged to carry pepper spray, take self defense classes, never go out alone, etc.

However, there are two parts of her statement that pain me. First, she jumps right into bringing up and blaming Mickey Shunick  for being abducted and murdered. She follows it up with, “Females are just targets for predators in general.”

I will say that Brown was just the unlucky lady chosen to be featured in this article. While her comments upset me, I think it’s important to know that her opinions are, unfortunately, popular ones caused by society’s attitude on these issues.

Regardless, I do want to clear up a couple things for people who think this way:

1. Like Shelton, Mickey Shunick was not at fault for her fate. Shunick is not at fault for being abducted and murdered. She wasn’t murdered because she was out late riding her bike, she was murdered because someone murdered her.

2. Women have the right to the same life as  men, meaning we don’t have to go into hiding, lock our doors, and pray for morning light once the sun goes down. As human beings, we have the right to go outside whenever we want (alone or with company), and we have the right to feel safe doing so. It’s disgusting that instead of sympathizing with the victim or calling on our community to give women their right to safety, we engage in victim blaming and complete disregard for the victim and her loved ones.

Victim Blaming is usually used to help people regain control and stability in their own lives after horrific events. Things like this body being found and the Mickey Shunick case are events that haven shaken the Lafayette community; so a need for security is understandable. See, Victim blaming is a self-defense mechanism used to say “oh well, they were just careless. Surely if I take the right precautions nothing will happen to me if I do the same things they were.”

However, when we do this we forget that the body found at Girard Park was a real person. We purposefully forget that she could have been just like us. Instead, we make her “special” and “careless” because we’re afraid someone will do the same to us (because well…they can.)  Because of how we react, we make it “okay” to put blame on victims of any crime rather than blaming the real culprit fully. 

It’s frustrating that a news station like KATC continued this cycle by centering their article and quotes around victim blaming. I only hope that KATC will learn from this and not manipulate their articles to blame victims again.

I challenge Lafayette and anyone with similar circumstance to find peace not by victim blaming, but rising up to make their community a safer place.

My heart goes out to the victim, her family, and her loved ones. I would like to apologized to them on behalf of this disrespectful article and let them know that there is outrage over how KATC presented it. I would also like to tell them what this article failed to do: accident or foul play, this was not your friend/relative/daughter’s fault.

If you have any information that would aid the investigation, you’re encouraged to contact LPD at 337-291-8200 or Lafayette Crime Stoppers at 337-232-8477. 

TAKE ACTION

I would like to remind anyone still reading that if you are as outraged as I am then you need to let KATC know how you feel. Change will not come unless you demand it. I hope you realize that your voice is very powerful in these situations and with enough of an uproar we can see some change within KATC and the Lafayette community.

Here is a link to KATC’s contact page. I suggest emailing the following with how you feel on the situation: Site Content (webteam@katc.com), Andrew D. Shenkan (andrew@katc.com), Letitia Walker (lwalker@katctv.com), and Kelly Garrett (kelly@katc.com).

When I originally wrote this article, KATC’s article was still up. They have since taken it down. Now it’s time for an apology.

Tell them three things:

1. That you’re upset with the article “Families Enjoy Day In Girard Park Despite Body Found Hours Earlier.”
2. Explain what is wrong with the article, what “Victim Blaming” is, and why it’s hurtful to our society, this case, and this woman’s loved ones. (If you don’t know how to express your feelings feel free to link them to this article.)
3. Demand a public apology.

If you’re not into email, let KATC know how you feel by making a post on their Facebook Page.

You can also contact the author, Akeam Ashford, about his article here.

Remember when you contact these people to be professional and explain your point calmly. Many people (even news crews) don’t understand what they’re doing or why it’s wrong. No one is going to listen to your important message if you’re too angry.

UPDATE: KATC has since apologized for the article.

UPDATE: “The Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office says there is no evidence of foul play in the death of a Lafayette woman at Girard Park.” (source)

29 responses to “A Friendly Reminder to KATC: Victim Blaming is Not Okay

  1. I applaud this article and this site! The female community in Lafayette has, for too long, sat in silence despite the atrocious conduct of some of the most “respected” individuals and organizations in Louisiana. These words shed light on the shadows that hover over our goals and aspirations. I would also encourage anyone reading this article to follow up with posts on this new and powerful hub of information. THANK YOU!

      • Did we read the same definition of victim blaming?

        “Victim blaming is a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them.”

        Now I quote the article:
        “Corporal Mouton says this morning’s discovery is a reminder that while the park is always open, you shouldn’t leave yourself open to becoming a victim of a crime.”

        “Leave yourself open” implies that she is wholly or partially responsible for her own death.

        Please explain how the original article is not victim blaming.

  2. I applaud this analysis as well. As a former cisgender male community member, I feel this perspective is necessary and should be spread far and wide—-it is important to realize the problems with victim blaming and how media can encourage and disseminate that perspective.

  3. I think you have taken things a little too far and beyond what they were meant to be.
    I think victim blaming is wrong, but they never said it was the victim’s fault. I live downtown, I am a woman, and I am a student. If you don’t take precautions you’re not “asking for it,” but you’re not being safe either. It would be nice to think we live in a nice world where tragedy isn’t around the corner. However, being safe and carrying pepper spray isn’t a bad idea.

    I have seen MEN get stabbed and jumped downtown. I am all for women’s rights. I have done extensive research on equal pay for men and women. I am the first to call people out when women are being discriminated against and I stand up for myself. I do not believe they were making us sound like we cannot be out without men and/or a buddy. As if we needed them to protect us and we needed to go into hiding. I think they just want us to be SAFE. You mentioned not locking your doors. I lock my doors because some people are crazy out there and people steal. People kill. People rape. They might be men or women. Because whether you like it or not, we are what predators are looking for. We are smaller and not as strong. We are an easy target (even though I would like to think I could kick some ass if needed).

    Statistically men tend to be pedofiles over women. Women suffer most of any kind of abuse. The United States is in the top 20 countries with the most human/sex trafficking. Men lose their guardianship over their children after a divorce more often than women, even if they are more qualified to care for them. There are MANY types of injustices and reasons why things happen. One of them being that us, women, are at more risk than men to be kidnapped and murdered. Whether we like it or not.

    Now, I don’t disagree that some things said by KATC could have been said differently. I do think that you have targeted a group of people trying to do their job (not perfectly done by far) and have embellished and focused on the negative. Please write an article about the people that comment on the KATC Facebook. Some of them really need a reality check. Especially the “those damn librals/conservatives and thanks Obama” people.

    I do have to applaud you for voicing your opinion. I’m glad people take the time to write about things that matter.

  4. I find your view of this article very appalling. I do not see any blame being put on the victims in this KATC article. I see this as a warning to young females to be smart. The truth of the matter is that young girls should not be alone in dark secluded areas late at night. KATC has since removed their article which I find sad. People need to be reminded that times are different and young women who are out alone are leaving themselves open to be targeted by predators. This article did not state that either of these girls were at fault for their own deaths. It simply stated a similarity in the 2 cases, which is that both very young women were out late and completely alone. People in Lafayette need to be aware of these things. If young women are going to be out, they should not be alone. This goes for young men as well.
    I applaud KATC for their professionalism in dealing with the backlash of that article.
    I do wish the best for this family in their tragic time. It is not fair that this happened to her. I only hope that others learn from this tragedy.

  5. While I share your stance on victim blaming, your arguments don’t necessarily support that KATC is guilty of victim blaming. You explained how Mouton and Brown’s quotes suggested victim blaming, and you showed that the article was focused on the interviews of only those 2 people. However, to claim that KATC was intentionally placing blame on the victim would require evidence to support it. Such as quotes from other people who are placing the blame on somebody else that KATC did not report on. If those statement exist, then yes KATC is guilty of not fairly reporting both sides of the story and placing focus on the statements made that were suggesting the victim was to blame.

  6. Seriously people? No one blamed Mickey or Alexandria for being murdered, but the truth is had they not been there it wouldn’t have happened. Plain and simple, it is a cold hard fact. They are both horrendous crimes and everyone wishes it could be undone. This doesn’t change the fact that it could’ve been avoided. There is a reason your mother tells you to avoid being out alone late at night, and it is not to blame you if you are murdered.

    OF COURSE WOMEN HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS MEN. Just because you have the right to do something does not imply that it is safe to do it. This article was not saying that women don’t have the right, rather it merely states that most women do not have the potential to defend themselves (without a concealed permit) as men naturally do. Some people in the world we live in can be cold, brutal, animalistic, and downright insane. There is nothing we can do to change that. This article just emphasizes on the fact that women should take extra precautions against these types of people and avoid environments that these people thrive in, or be prepared to confront the dangers head on (once again ladies, consider a concealed permit).

    Neither person quoted calls the victims “careless” or “special” so how about you don’t twist this. The corporal wasn’t implying that either of those adjectives describe the victims or their actions. He was only trying to educate the community on how to avoid becoming a victim because truly, this could have been anyone.

  7. I don’t think this is victim blaming… this is trying to warn other people that it’s dangerous to be out at night alone. The title of the article is a little distasteful though.

  8. I don’t see what the big deal is. The cop made a very good point. Women tend to be easier targets for criminals. You shouldn’t go into a dark park alone. He wasn’t blaming the victim in any way. A criminal had seen an opportunity and took it as the officer stated. He, in no way, said it was the victims fault for what happened nor that she was in the wrong in any way, shape, or form.

    Now, please stop making a big deal over some GREAT tips that a cop said. Any basic self defense class will suggest the same, I know because I took one.

  9. It seems like if there was any victim blaming, it was the police, and perhaps the student they interviewed, not KATC. Seems like this article is shooting the messenger.

    I am also not sure there was really victim blaming here, just acknowledging that the park is not a safe place to be.

  10. Here’s a good question- was Ms. Shelton even murdered at the park? There’s always the chance that she was killed elsewhere and dumped.

    • thank you!!!!!!!!!!!! some of these people are so immature. even if they feel the media is not to blame, the media heavily influences the way things are perceived. if her perception of the article was not to their standings, then so be it. it’s her opinion!

  11. No blame game, just facts! We live in a cruel world! You can put yourself out there at night if you want, but you will have to face the consequences! Rapist and murderers don’t think like you!!

  12. Has anyone read captain Moutons full statement? It’s ridiculous and definitely considered victim blaming. Guess if you are 21 and out past 7:30 you’re asking for it!? I feel like KATC is getting more negative feedback than the “PROFESSIONAL” officer who was trained on how to handle these types of situation..KATC is the messenger..read the message behind Moutons insensitive comments

    • I believe he was just stating the obvious. Young people in lafayette do need a taste of reality! I still see people riding their bikes alone late into the night, girls that have been obviously drinking – walking alone after 2 am.. I don’t get! Why put yourself in the situation to be a victim in the first place?! At some point in time, you have to take ownership of your actions

  13. Don’t touch that stove, it’s hot and it will burn you! Oh, you burned yourself? Well it’s not your fault, it’s mine because my “words of caution and warning just weren’t strong enough”. I can’t believe that I just wasted 5 minutes of my life on this site reading this ridiculous article and posting this comment. I hope you all have a nice life and never get blamed for not heeding warnings or words of caution from officers of the law!

  14. To imply that her having been at the park was in any way at fault in the scenario is victim blaming. Although, perhaps it is a poor decision to be in the park late at night, ( which we are not even 100% sure of) the person at blame should be the person who committed the act. If you wanted to accurately portray a way to avoid this, they teach your children not to kill, not teach your children fear. Either live in fear, or ignorance? Are those the only two options available?

  15. This article is ridiculous. I don’t think that KATC was victim blaming and Paul Mouton was only stating the obvious… Don’t put yourself in stupid situations and you won’t become a victim.

    It’s not taking fault off of whoever killed the girl, if there was foul play. It’s giving the young people in lafayette a slap of reality. It’s just like any other big city and there are people that want to hurt other people like in Mickey’s case… Why put yourself in a situation to test it!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s