Borutski trial part six: His truths continue to emerge

I have the privilege of following this trial from a distance, never in the courtroom, measuring how much of it I can manage at any time and only hearing what I do through the somewhat neutralizing intermediary force of the news media.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to sit in the courtroom day after day, whether as a friend or family member of one of the murdered women, a member of the community who is bearing witness, a police officer involved in the case or the Crown Attorney who is prosecuting it.

I also cannot imagine what it must be like for Basil Borutski, although the truth is that I am not very concerned about that.

Reducing women’s lives to legal evidence

Even taken in small doses from a distance, this trial is hard on the soul. It is not easy to see the lives of three vibrant women reduced to legal evidence; to hear from their friends and families but never from them. I find myself turning to images like this one of the Renfew County memorial to murdered women, just to reassure myself that the women at the heart of these stories still exist; still matter.

We may not be hearing from the women, but we are certainly hearing from Borutski, even though he is continuing his silence in the courtroom save for the occasional flurry of hand waving and note taking. His voice, his truth, is persistent and loud: Basil Borutski has had a lot to say, most of which he put into writing in the days leading up to September 22 and on that day itself, and those writings are all being presented as evidence to the court.

Of course, this evidence is critically important to the jury, which has to determine whether or not, beyond a reasonable doubt, Borutski is guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and, if the issue is raised by either the accused or the Crown, whether he is not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.

Just what does he have to say?

But what he has to say is also important in a bigger arena, as we consider the ways in which misogyny creates the stage on which violence against women is acted out. Because Borutski has been so loquacious in his writings, we have a rare opportunity to see inside his mind; a mind that is not so very different from the minds of many abusive men.

While perhaps more direct and less sophisticated in how he puts it than many abusers, Borutski is not unique in appointing himself judge of women he perceives to have done him wrong.

First, he condemns them:

“I have been judged wrongly. Now ye shall be judged by me. . . .The system is being used by women who are in a rage-hate-revenge.”

Then, he imposes his punishment:

“I CAN’T TAKE IT anymore . I’m getting out and I’m taking as many that have abused me as possible with me.”

Both these comments appeared in a letter received by his probation officer five days after the three women were killed, apparently written by Borutski.

Like many men who engage in abusive behaviour, Borutski sees himself as an innocent. Elsewhere in the same letter, he writes:

“I am a caring, loving human being. I hate violence. I have been wrongfully accused of hurting, assaulting women numerous times. That is not true.”

Further on in the letter to the probation officer, Borutski says what we hear abusive men say time and time again, whether in family or criminal court or in conversation with friends and family members:

“I AM NOT GUILTY. I am the victim.”

Text messages sent from Borutski’s phone while he was hiding from the police on September 22nd continue to express the same misogynist ideas and thoughts:

“The guilty have paid . . . justice finally . . . I m tired.”

“Murder is killing something innocent. I didn’t.”

So, what do we think?

Are these the ravings of a man who should not be held criminally responsible for his actions by reason of mental disorder or are they simply the usual thoughts of another abusive man, supported by the misogyny and patriarchy that continues to thrive around the world?

2 thoughts on “Borutski trial part six: His truths continue to emerge

  1. Why would you make it an either/or choice between
    1. men subject to a mental disorder which might render them not criminally responsible at law and
    2. men who are simply the usual abusive men fueled by the misogyny and partriarchy all around us.

    If the culture of male supremacy is pathological then those mired in it/acting out of it at the violent end of the extreme are all the more pathological – and yet in understandable ways like all the other abusive men, so ‘usual’ or ordinary. We are all very deeply embedded in the culture, and when it’s pathological, we are.

    To generalize that, no doubt controversially – consider the consumer culture, shop til you drop and its relationship to everyone, but for my purpose right now, especially women’s acculturation. Individual materialism doesn’t often lead to violence or other harm to individuals, but the materialism is pathological in my view, destroys the earth if not its individual people and some women are mired in it at the extreme end of the pathology as it manifests in individuals. In that way they are pathological. Cultivating materialism in women and men is just not seen to be pathological because of its relationship to capitalism, its ubiquity, and non violence. Not sure that works as a comparison. Perhaps anorexia would be a better example, because it’s so much more destructive (though of self, not directly of others) and treated as an individual pathology already (though not a mental disorder in law?), while it’s distorted bond with the misogynistic cultural demands re ‘female beauty’ is obvious.

    My main point is that I think individual pathology is never totally independent of cultural tropes/trends/pressures/ whatever, but rather fueled or at least nourished by them. I first tried to articulate this with respect to the Lepine murders of women who were engineering students. I can’t quite get what I want to say right, but I think the dichotomy between individual psychology and pathological cultural patterns is false and needs critical examination. Rather we need to work on understanding how the cultural feeds the individual. The law doesn’t recognize that relationship or care about it, and this renders it useless to the discussion, and oversimplifies the ‘by reason of mental disorder’ findings. Yet we do recognize and honour it in the political sphere, as you have with respect to the sexual harassment by all the notorious men now being outed for attitudes/actions rampant in male culture. And as you in fact say above “Borutski is not unique,,,”

    So maybe, I’ve written myself through to the right point – the law re this kind of thing is totally naive, outdated, silly really. And we shouldn’t be surprised by that. Look who it’s protecting!

    But will leave this comment as written since it may spark other ideas in readers.

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