The Daily Mail is reporting on the sickening story of Deanna Ballman, a nine-months pregnant mother who was raped and killed by a doctor she met online. Except The DM is less concerned with reporting the actual story and are more interested in painting a sordid picture of the victim, running the disgusting, sexist headline “Pregnant mom Deanna Ballman who was killed by Craigslist doctor was prostitute.” Oh, she was a sex worker? This changes
Ali Salim is standing trial for raping Ballman and “administering a lethal heroin injection.” Here’s what we know about the defendant:
Salim, a former doctor, used Craigslist extensively to meet sexual partners, with many references in his ads to exchanging drugs for sex, including heroin, the filing said. Salim also wrote prescriptions for hard drugs for women with whom he had sexual relationships, and bought heroin that he gave women who visited his house in an upscale neighborhood.
He has pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. Regarding the rape, he “entered a type of guilty plea…under which he maintains his innocence but acknowledges prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.” So this is a bad guy. This guy is fucking scum. But you know what? That woman was hooker, so…you know.
It doesn’t matter at all that she worked as a prostitute. While it came out in the trial because it was relevant to how the two met, it’s patently unacceptable for The Daily Mail to run a headline like that. And of course, it’s The Daily Mail, so the fact that they managed to string words into a sentence is pretty impressive. But I’m willing to ask that we raise our standards just a little bit, so that media outlets don’t run victim-blaming headlines like this nonsense.
Last week, Nigella Lawson testified about being a victim of abuse and instead of focusing on her abuser, ex husband Charles Saatchi, the headlines screamed about her recreational drug use–as if it were at all relevant. The blood sport of finding dirt on women who are abused needs to end; there is simply no excuse to abuse, rape, injure, or murder someone, ever.
Headlines like this are almost microaggressions–they aren’t coming out and saying “she deserved it,” but the whole point is to give you a quick pause or to wonder for just a moment. It plays on the very wrong idea that sex workers cannot be raped, or that rape and murder are simply occupational hazards of their judgement-worthy professions. It’s not complicated. Anyone of any gender, age, profession, or status can be raped. This includes sex workers. And anyone can be murdered, and nobody is ever asking for it.
This is so blatantly gendered, because when men are murdered by women, more often than not we see “Upstanding citizen murdered by cold hearted ex-wife,” “Doctor decapitated by sex crazed bisexual lover,” or the upsettingly real “Harassed boyfriend jumped to his death after his girlfriend insisted on going into another clothes shop.” So let’s call this like it is. It’s not victims or murderers media outlets want to scrutinize. It’s women.