Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Take back the night

update, October 21, 2005:  An arrest has been made in the Ardeth Wood murder.

There are three stories in today's Ottawa Citizen. Read about the arrest here; a hair-raising account from a woman who knew the suspect here; and Randall Denley's criticism of Ottawa Police here.

Very sad news here in Ottawa this week. The body of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague has been found not far from her home in Barrhaven (a suburb of Ottawa).

Jennifer Teague

Miss Teague disappeared in the small hours of the morning, Thursday Sept. 8, on her way home from work at a local Wendy's. Part way home, she stopped to chat with friends. (One can only imagine how they feel, thinking back to that conversation — just idle chit-chat on a night like any other.) The cause of death has not yet been determined but it's clear that Miss Teague was murdered.

We don't have much trouble of this sort in Ottawa, but no community is guaranteed to be safe — not even small towns. The terrible thing is, this is the second such incident in Ottawa.

Ardeth Wood

Just over two years ago, 27-year-old Ardeth Wood disappeared in another part of Ottawa and was later found murdered. The police have made zero progress in tracking down her murderer.

Obviously people wonder if Teague's murder is connected to Wood's murder, but police haven't reached that conclusion yet. More details are available in today's Globe and Mail.

I'm sad for Miss Teague's family, sad for the young women of Ottawa, sad to live in a world where beauty and horror are blended together as if this is the way it's meant to be.

I'm lucky to live in a community where incidents like this are occasional and shocking. But no one in Ottawa feels lucky today.


At 1:47 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

It is sad to say but I think that if you are a woman in Ottawa you should try to be accompanied when walking at night, and choose a walking partner you trust. I would like to think that our community is safe but can we now make that assumption?

That said, although I usually support the Globe and Mail as a quality paper, in this case I think it may be guilty of fear mongering.

The police in their announcement of the identity of the body of Miss Teague also stated that there was no connection to the murder of Ardeth Wood.

The following is from the Ottawa Citizen:

"However, police acted quickly to quell widespread speculation linking the Wood and Teague deaths.
. . .
They also dismissed any link between Jennifer's killing and the unsolved 2003 sex slaying of Ardeth Wood, who was hunted down along a bike path near Green's Creek off Rockcliffe Parkway."
. . .

"There is nothing to connect the two," said Staff Sgt. Monique Ackland. "There is no indication the Ardeth Wood and Jennifer Teague cases are related."

However, this is more threatening as it means there are two killers out there. A key police theory is that Jennifer knew, or had some connection to, her killer. Also the death of Miss Teague was not a sex slaying or so the Metro newspaper reports.

Although I support the idea of taking back the night, for now I think it is best to never walk alone.

At 3:10 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

It goes without saying that women shouldn't walk alone in isolated spots late at night; I certainly didn't suggest otherwise.

Evidently you're reacting to the title of my post. The Take Back the Night movement recognizes that it is not safe for women to go out at night, and protests violence against women.

As for the police statement: There is nothing to connect the two murders —

it means only that. So far, there is no clear evidence to connect the deaths of Miss Teague and Ms. Wood.

It is possible that Miss Teague was killed by someone who knew her and therefore the two deaths are unrelated. But we don't know yet … no possibility has been ruled out.

At 3:44 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Mary P. said...

I am often astounded at the way men I know will walk so much more freely than I at night. I am so cautious and tense when I walk at night, even when I am with a friend, all senses that much more alert, not taking my usual path through the park, careful to steer clear of shadows and parked cars and dark doorways and single men and...

Knowing that I am in no way unusual for a woman, it irks me no end when men suggest that I take even more precautions. Not that this young woman shouldn't have had a friend accompany her, or taken a cab home. But how many men think like this, have to think like this every moment of their days, compared to women? How nice to be that much more secure in your safety.

"Take back the night", even though I don't think it will ever happen in fact, is a good slogan to point out the hugely different worlds men and women inhabit in the area of bodily safety.

At 3:44 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

No criticism of your article was intended. I realise that the Take Back the Night Campaign recognizes that it is not safe to walk certain areas at night. The over arching theme behind the campaign is based on "a desire to end the fear and perceived responsibility women experience when it comes to sexual assault, harassment, and other forms of violence." The object is to address the root of the problem that is women should not have to fear walking alone at night if fighting violence against and harrassment of women was made a priority. I was more concerned with the fact that the police are trying to disasociate the two cases and the Globe was obviously trying to connect the two, if only by making the link between the two.

The Globe

"there are many other questions being asked by the people of Ottawa -- including is there a serial killer in their midst?"

The Citizen

"However, police acted quickly to quell widespread speculation linking the Wood and Teague deaths."

At 3:49 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Sorry Mary. I was posting at the same time you did.

I agree as the take back the night campaign is great. Women should not have to fear. I think it is possible that increasing penalties against crimes against women while possibly unfair might be the only way to address the problem. It is a male issue not a female one. The root is in male agression. We may need to protect women but if we cured men from the desire to commit violent acts against women, then women could walk without fear.

At 3:57 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

For those reading this that do not know what Take Back the Night is here is a good explanation I found.

What is Take Back the Night?

Take Back the Night is an action created to enable large numbers of women to publicly express our anger at the sexual violence that goes on and the victim blaming that accompanies it. Not every woman has been sexually assaulted, but every woman has been taught to fear it. We are told from the time we are young not to walk alone, not to go out after dark, to avoid strangers and to avoid dangerous areas of town. This advice is useless in the face of the reality that the largest number of women experience violence in their own home, at the hand of someone they know. The Take Back the Night March is a public protest organized by women, for women. It serves as a means for women to unite and voice our desire to end the fear and perceived responsibility women experience when it comes to sexual assault, harassment, and other forms of violence.

At 4:22 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Mary P.:
Years ago, I worked in a group home. I was shocked to learn that the female staff locked the door of the house if they were alone there during the daytime.

As a man, it would never have occurred to me to do that. It was a small window into the way that women view the world, as a place where they are always at risk.

It may be that Jennifer Teague hadn't learned that lesson, that the risks weren't real to her yet. Young women, growing up in a society where we take the equality of women for granted, sometimes fail to see the risks as clearly as a more experienced woman might.

(Which is not meant to blame Miss Teague for what happened to her. It's very easy to wrap oneself up in knots here, trying to encourage women to take responsibility for their own safety, on the one hand, while making it clear that male predators are the culpable ones, not women like Miss Teague.)

Miss Teague's friends, and many other young women living in Ottawa, have now learned the lesson in a horrific way. They have lost a significant part of their innocence, which is very, very sad.


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