Monday, June 6, 2011

How can we be certain that vigilante justice is right?

(I'm talking about rape and genital mutilation in this post. Tread carefully.)

A few days ago on a post on the misandry on the show Criminal Minds April made the following comment:
I agree with you, mostly, but have to say... I love me some vigilante justice, and sometimes feel that it is more healthy for the victim to punish the perp, rather than the state. But I don't feel that way strongly enough to, say, vote that way or something.

The idea of a victim getting their own revenge just seems so... heartwarming. In that vicious sort of way.
As I responded to her I can understand the desire for revenge (its one of my Scorpio traits) but I don't think vigilante justice is often as cut and dry.

You see in that episode of Criminal Minds it was clear to the viewer that that rapist had attacked those women so that at the end when they caught him and castrated him (and enforcing the whole "no penis = woman" thing but that's for another day) the viewer felt no pity or sympathy for him. Personally I do feel a bit because I don't think that forcefully removing or mutilating someone's genitals is even justice for rape. That's no better than saying if someone punched me in the face and broke my nose I should get to cut off the hand they punched me with in retaliation. Maybe break the hand but cut it off?

Thing is being a tv show the viewer is being fed the truth in a way that the characters are not. Yes we know that man attacked those women so its pretty cut and dry. So how about when its not so?

Here we have a story of a woman who goes into a police station with a man's penis saying she cut it off when he broke into her home and tried to rape her. The man in question says they were having a consensual affair and when he refused to leave his wife for her she cut his penis off in retaliation. (Here's a link to my Google Search on it given how some people don't like the Daily Mail by default.)

So like that episode of Criminal Minds we have a woman who acted in what she claims to be self defense. But unlike that show we don't know for sure what happened. Yeah its possible that he did try to attack her and she did it in self defense. But what I'm wondering is this. What happens if his story is true and she really did cut his penis off in a fit of rage?

Between her and the police force the penis was kept away from the man for so long that doctors were not able to reattach it (but they did say that they are working on measures to give him a way to urinate). And even if they were able to reattach it its still a pretty serious matter. I think this exposes a serious flaw in vigilante justice. Vigilante justice depends on other people outside of the situation in question believing that the crime did in fact happen or (as I think will happen here) on the belief that enough people will side with the vigilante that it won't matter if they were really acting in self defense or not, which I think is already happening in the Daily Mail comment section.

Personally I have a few doubts about this story namely how in the world did this woman manage to hold onto his penis long enough to cut it off? I mean if he were trying to rape her then wouldn't it have been more efficient to stab him? Yes you could argue that she did that instead to stop him from doing it again but if that's the case I think it would have been easier to just fatally stab him. Two or three stabs to the chest would have done it, one if she hit the right spot. Or maybe if she stabbed him in the genitals and the penis was severed. I don't know this just feels odd to me.