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News Outlets Are Somehow Blaming the Texas School Shooting on Female Victim

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With the recent shooting in Santa Fe High School in Texas, the number of school shootings of 2018 has gone up to 22—that averages to just over one shooting per week this year. (Conservatives are disputing this number, but one is already too many.) The news cycle plays out as predicted: incoming NRA President Oliver North’s deflection is to blame Ritalin, while Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has decided to start advocating for door control (yes, you read that right).

Like many women, we’re furious about how the links between toxic masculinity and mass shooting are being overlooked again, in favor of victim-blaming and stigmatization. The connections between domestic violence and gun violence are a well-documented fact. Most men who commit mass shootings display hostility towards women, a violence bred from a sense of dangerous and deadly entitlement. We see this time and time again, with “incels” who propose women have sex with men so that they don’t kill or news outlets that find out a woman rejected the Golden State killer once.

Reports have since come out that one of the Santa Fe High School shooting victims “had 4 months of problems from this boy,” 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis. 16-year-old Shana Fisher was among the first students Pagourtzis killed. The girl’s mother told the Los Angeles Times that he “kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no.” When he continued to aggressively harass her, the outlet reports, “She finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class,” a week before the shooting.

This information was then problematically framed by other outlets. Reuters, for instance, writes, “Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim’s mother says,” or “Rejected advances might have spurned Santa Fe shooter.” To say he was “spurned” and “provoked” distracts from the fact the the shooter was harassing the girl for months and, intentionally or not, is an awful act of victim-blaming.

The reliability of the mother’s story is still being investigated, but these headlines speak volumes about how people will go to incredible lengths to alleviate violent men of responsibility. The LA Times even begins with a description of the shooter as a “smart, quiet, sweet boy” before going into his yells of “Woo hoo!” and taunts as classroom phones rang. (“Do you think it’s for you? Do you want to come answer it?”)

If the reports are true, this was not about being “spurned.” It was about the shooter not getting what misogyny taught him he was owed and deciding people had to pay with their lives. This is not about provocation; it is about someone being repeatedly told no and reacting violently when rightfully called out for harassment. The two were not in a relationship, and it’s unclear exactly how she stood up to him, but his reaction reminds me of the fact the 70% of domestic violence murders happen “after the victim has gotten out.” If you wonder why women often try to de-escalate situations, act polite, or don’t speak up, it’s because they are scared. It’s because we live in a world where saying no to a prom proposal can mean death.

In case anyone needs a reminder: Women and girls don’t owe you anything.

(image: Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

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