The murder of Darlene Haynes, reported this week, like any untimely, violent death is horrific and tragic. In this case, the horror is magnified: Darlene was 8 months pregnant and her murderer stole the foetus. The baby girl has been found and has survived. The grotesqueness of the act is shocking but it is the intersection of violence and motherhood that disturbs us. And it is this that has raised the profile of the murder.
In our society women who are ‘good’ mothers are saintly and women who are ‘bad’ mothers are beyond criminal. Television and film are full of celebrated good mum goddesses and villified satanic bad mums (something that I had been about to write about in another post). Similarly, women who want to be mothers get the thumbs up whilst women who do not want children are still wrongly considered abnormal. Haynes’s death jars with all expectations of maternity. Women who want to be mothers are gentle, caring and self-sacrificing not selfish, violent killers. Of course hurting people is wrong but we are more outraged by violent women than violent men. The fact that a woman with a deep desire to be a mother would also be capable of committing a violent murder is ‘unnatural’ to our society. Mothers, children and mothers-to-be are high on the list of who we consider vulnerable and worthy of special protection in crisises. That Haynes was taken advantage of rather that protected and reveered goes against our expectations. Or at least our hopes. That someone could in effect steal motherhood from Haynes makes her death all the more frightening.
In the reports in the British press there has been no mention of other family, friends or a partner. The implication is that Haynes was alone and now her baby is alone and motherless. The Washington Post adds detail though: Haynes’s boyfriend of several years , Roberto Rodriguez, had moved out the previous month. It had been an abusive relationship; Haynes had survived dosmetic violence. Haynes had three other children. Two were being raised by her grandmother and the youngest was in state custody. Rodriguez has stated that Haynes was a “nice girl” who had “her problems” (hmm, you, perhaps?) “… but no one deserves to go through what she went through”. No shit?! No one should need to affirm that someone did not “deserve” a violent attack. So with his denial Rodriguez actually implies that Haynes could be to blame. This is ridiculous and offensive. I really hope that the mainstream media do not take Rodriguez’s lead and try to squeeze some victim-blaming into their coverage. My sympathies go out to Darlene Haynes and her loved ones.