This is our truth, tell us yours
One of the dangers of remote blogging about things you’ve read in the media is that you can miss the nuances, or simply miss the point. This was part of the message that a Very Public Sociologist was trying to get out in his post on the weekend.
LeStewpot has done a similar think in this post for Everyday Victim Blaming, reducing a very complex, hideous case into a series of cheap shots at the media, who are, I have to say, far from blameless,but not as bad as they may seem in this case.
LeStewpot says it is unkind to blame Lisa’s death on her mistake in forming a relationship with Robert Tiffin. In case you haven’t read the article (and I wonder if Le Stewpot has) it’s here, and it’s obvious from the article that the word objected to, mistake, is a direct quote from Lisa’s mum. Now, if Le Stewpot has read the article, and is having a dialogue with Lisa’s mum about her choice of words, I can only say that this might not be the proper time for that dialogue.
Of course, mother of victim blames victim by implication is a much harder story to tell than ‘Lisa made a fatal mistake’, especially if you think, as I do, that the only people to blame for Lisa’s death are the killer, Robert Tiffin, and the people in the criminal justice system who had regular contact with him and failed to identify him, as many people in his home town did, as a violent and dangerous man capable of terrifying violence with premeditation. To have that reputation in Blyth is some achievement; in case people have forgotten, or never knew, it’s a town where the MP’s popularity grew after he had a fist fight in an Indian restaurant.
We don’t need to teach people that men like Robert Tiffin are violent and dangerous – he was notorious for it, as the article makes clear. We need to be clear about what kind of man he was, which Lisa Banks’ parents knew. The kind of violence that Robert Tiffin was capable of is not in the same category as hair pulling in the playground. Arguably, he even in a different category to a man who gets in a fight in a restaurant with a couple of drunks who accused his wife of having an affair. Tiffin was a dangerous thug, and it was no secret; Lisa Banks’ parents make that clear in the article cited.
The narrative that needs to be undermined is not the men are from Mars women from Venus stuff that is usually trotted out by apologists for low level sexism and everyday violence. If I had to offer an off the peg diagnosis of what led Lisa Banks to ignore the clear and present danger that Robert Tiffin represented it is the myth of the good woman as the saviour of the flawed and dangerous man. Or to put it another way, the Fifty Shades of Shite thesis that dangerous abusive men with poor anger control and violent tendencies just need the love of a good woman to make them whole again.
I don’t know if careful treatment and patient work could have made Robert Tiffin safe to live in our society. I do know that he was beyond the help of a good man, or a good woman; medical intervention was what was required to deal with his condition, which was not situational (‘he’s only violent when he’s had a drink’ or ‘he’s only violent with others, never me’ or ‘he’s turned over a new leaf’) but persistent and permanently dangerous.
Lisa Banks deserves a better memorial than her mother’s choice of words being picked over, remotely, by bloggers. Lisa deserves to be commemorated by all of us remembering, next time we encounter a stupid, foolish narrative about a flawed man being saved by a good woman that pernicious lies like that contribute to women like Lisa Banks getting killed.
Or to put it another way, Fifty Shades of Shite and narratives like it can get you killed. That should be how we remember Lisa Banks.