News - Numbers game

Hate knows no boundaries — unless the victim is female

She was strung up to a tree in a graveyard in East Point and beaten to death, like Leo Frank was 85 years ago — and much like Matthew Shepard was in 1998.

It was a classic lynching: the tree, the rope, the genitals violated, the skull beaten in. It was a classic hate crime: The assailant stalked woman after woman, selecting females to torture and rape. He attacked the parts of their bodies that made them women. His crimes terrorized other women who feared they might be next.

But nobody called Jessica Marie Schultz's 1997 murder a lynching, and nobody called it a hate crime. Maybe if they had, the courts would've bothered to try her assailant by now, four long years after he was charged in Fulton County. Nobody called Schultz's murder a lynching or a hate crime because she was a woman killed by a man who preyed on women.

If it had been a black man or a gay man or a Jewish man found tied to that tree, the death would've been interpreted differently. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Democratic Renewal would've summoned the press and denounced the crime. Then the activists lobbying in Georgia for hate crime laws would've made a symbol of that tree — that death. Then we all would've noticed.

But the hate-crimes movement has fervently resisted defining violent acts committed against women as crimes of hate. They worry that there are just too many crimes motivated by gender to count them. In a movement that otherwise insists that "no act of hatred go unpunished," this is what passes for an excuse when it comes to women: We can't count assaults against women as hate because, if we did, then the huge numbers of crimes directed at women would overshadow other types of prejudiced violence.

Technically, these activists are correct. If Georgia's new hate-crimes law were being used to prosecute men who target and attack women, then the recent assault in Little Five Points, terrible as it was, would hardly qualify as the first hate-crime case to cross Fulton DA Paul Howard's desk. Thanks to administrative politics quietly controlled by hate-crime activists, attacks directed at women in Georgia are systematically excluded from prosecution as hate crimes. Reinaldo Rivera wasn't charged with hate in Georgia, even though he confessed to torturing and killing at least four women and trying to kill a fifth in the Augusta area between 1999 and 2000. Rivera also confessed to raping more than 150 women. How many women do you have to assault before your actions count as gender-bias? Apparently more than 155 of them.

Kane Walker raped and beat an elderly woman he followed home from a bank. Robert Rodriguez Johnson raped a woman and slashed her neck with a box cutter, leaving her for dead. Joseph Manning and Quentin Kendrick, Allen Brown Bailey and Kyle Evan Johnson each assaulted numerous female victims. Women in Athens were warned not to walk alone after one rapist attacked three women two months after the Georgia hate-crimes law went into effect. Women were warned not to use MARTA alone at least twice since that time. Elderly women were terrified by a serial rapist stalking retirement apartments on Ponce de Leon. Razon Jefferson and Charles Pearson raped and kidnapped a Morris Brown student and burned her to death in the trunk of her car, apparently on a sexual whim. A child was gang-raped by an entire community of men in Marietta. A gang of rapists recorded their victim on videotape.

None of these crimes was prosecuted as a hate crime because the victims were women.

Three months after Jessica Marie Schultz was found tied to a tree in Roseland Cemetery, I attended a conference on hate crimes held in Atlanta. One speaker after another got up and talked about the history of lynching in Georgia, about the murder of Leo Frank in Marietta in 1915, about the unassailable terror that comes from knowing you're a target of crime simply because of who you are. I sat in the audience thinking that the speakers were talking about the types of things that still happen to women because they're women. I didn't know then what I know now.

They were talking about anybody but women.


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