MOLLY MCLAREN AND THE WOMEN WE FAILED TO PROTECT
"The verdict has brought us a small measure of comfort. But it seems nothing will take away the pain or allow us to come to terms with our Molly being taken from us. We are serving a lifetime of pain, anguish and loss. [...] A light has gone out in our hearts but shines bright as a star forever above us. We love you Molly."
-Detective Inspector Alistair Worton on behalf of the family of Molly McLaren, ITV News
Molly McLaren was a woman who did everything she could in the face of domestic violence. Still, she was murdered by her abusive ex-partner. He has now been sentenced to at least 26 years for the horrific injustice he committed, but even though he is now facing a life sentence, no amount of years served will ever be enough to punish this man for McLaren’s murder and the anguish he caused her family and loved ones. She was a 23-year-old university student, full of potential and the capability to do great things.
On June 29, 2017, McLaren’s ex-boyfriend Joshua Stimpson stabbed her 75 times in Chatham, Kent. He murdered her in a parking lot outside a grocery store after he had followed her to the gym. When she was exercising hours before, she managed to text her mother, “Mum he’s turned up at the gym and come next to me,” according to Cosmopolitan.
While Stimpson pleaded guilty to diminished responsibility manslaughter and not murder, Judge Adele Williams and the jury were quick to deny his appeal and convict him of murder. According to the Guardian, Stimpson showed no remorse when listening to his sentence.
“This was an act of wickedness. You took away Molly’s life quite deliberately in the most vicious fashion. You were determined to punish her for ending the relationship with you. You were seeking revenge,” Judge Williams said. “You are a highly dangerous young man and you will pose a very considerable risk to women for a very considerable period in the future.”
McLaren broke up with her abuser two weeks before he murdered her, according to the Guardian. They had originally met on Tinder in July of 2016. After McLaren broke up with Stimpson, he began exhibiting typical abusive behavior: he stalked and defamed her on social media, falsely accusing her of using drugs.
McLaren did everything she possibly could in this situation. She went to the police, who contacted Stimpson twice, warning him to stop harassing her or face prosecution. She told her friend repeatedly about how nervous she was. Stimpson had already been reported to authorities three times by a previous ex he also abused, according to the Sun. Still, the concerns of both women and their families weren’t taken seriously enough.
Those unaware of how toxic masculinity and rape culture fuels domestic violence perpetrated by men will claim that McLaren was guilty by association. They’ll claim that she should have never been Tinder, or that she should have never been dating, or that she should have distanced herself from men. They’ll claim she could have been safe if she isolated herself from the world and men that commit violence, as if the onus was on the victim and not the criminal. But she did nothing wrong--she was just trying to go to the gym. She was just trying to enjoy her life without the threat of dangerous men.
Molly McLaren is yet another woman who was murdered by an abusive ex-partner.
According to Women’s Aid, a UK organization aiming to protect women and children from partner and family violence, domestic abuse is defined as:
“[A]n incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.”
Last year in the England and Wales, an estimated 1.9 million cases between the ages of 16-59 experience domestic violence, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales published in March 2017. For England and Wales’ combined population of slightly more than 58,000,000 people (as of 2016), that is an alarmingly large percentage of people who have even reported a case of domestic violence. Of those 1.9 million cases, an estimated 1.2 instances of domestic abuse were faced by women. Between the spring of 2013 and the spring of 2016, 70 percent of domestic homicide victims were women.
The United States is just as bad. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the U.S.’ primary organization for domestic violence prevention, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by a domestic partner, 1 in 3 female victims of murder and 1 in 20 male victims of murder are committed by intimate partners, and 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by a partner or former partner. Additionally, NCADV reports that young women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by a domestic partner.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization reports that 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual intimate partner violence. An estimated 38 percent of murders of women worldwide are committed by a male intimate partner. WHO cites domestic violence and abuse as a worldwide public health problem and a violation of women’s rights.
“Why didn’t you call the police? Why didn’t you tell anyone else? Why didn’t you try to distance yourself?”
These are questions constantly leveled at victims of domestic abuse. They aim to place blame on those who experience domestic abuse instead of the abusers themselves, and color domestic abuse as an individual problem instead of a social epidemic. McLaren did all these things--but she should have never been abused, stalked, and murdered by an abusive man in the first place.
In his viral TED Talk, “Violence Against Women--It’s a Men’s Issue”, Dr. Jackson Katz outlines why these questions are pointless, and why efforts on preventing domestic violence should focus on questioning men:
“We say things like ‘Why do these women go out with these men? Why are they attracted to these men? Why do they keep going back? What was she wearing at that party? What a stupid thing to do. Why was she drinking with that group of guys in that hotel room?’ This is victim-blaming. And there are numerous reasons for it, but one of them is that are whole cognitive structure is set up to blame victims. It’s all unconscious--our whole cognitive structure is set up to ask questions about women and women’s choices and what they’re doing, thinking, and wearing.”
Instead, we have to start asking why so many men abuse women and why so many bystanders are unwilling to correctly place the blame on these criminals.
When women speak up, we must listen.
Domestic violence knows no gender--any person can be threatened by abuse from a partner. Of the more than 1.9 million cases of domestic violence reported last year for England and Wales, more than 700,000 cases affected men (although, to be clear, the majority of domestic violence cases against men are also perpetrated by men). However, this form of violence undoubtedly disproportionately affects women. And because we are focusing on the tragedy of Molly McLaren’s murder, we will be focusing on the root causes of the domestic abuse she faced: toxic masculinity and rape culture.
The thinking patterns and actions that led Stimpson to murder McLaren were instigated by toxic masculinity and rape culture: the notion of hunting women for sex and conquest; acting out irrationally when you don’t get your way; smearing the name of the person you claimed to love just because they won’t give you what they want; murdering someone out of revenge. These all come from toxic masculinity and rape culture. And the actions of these abusive men are harming women, children, and other men around the world.
While Molly McLaren is gone, those who loved her will never forget her. They will also never forget the horrific actions of this grotesque individual. We must listen to women and take domestic abuse seriously so we will never have to see a tragedy like this happen again.