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  • Writer's pictureGail Debono

Paulina Dembska

Rape, Murder, Misogyny, Mental Illness, Religious Fundamentalism and so much more...

Two weeks on, Malta is still reeling from the shock of the rape and murder of Paulina Dembska, the 29 year old Polish woman whose lifeless body was found in Sliema's Independence Gardens early in the morning on the 2nd of the month.

The dawn of social media has brought with it the possibility of receiving news in real time, often from various sources, albeit with differing details. It is human nature for one to want to express their opinion on incidents that stir one's emotions.

Many newsrooms and pop news sites often race to publish stories first, sometimes at the expense of accuracy and fact checking. Then the reader, who does not seem to have time to read beyond a headline - one that might have been written sensationally to garner as many 'likes' as possible - spends less time analysing what they have read, than they do reading it, before they comment. Now add to that the fact that there are some who will stoop to use others' tragedies for their own personal and organisational agendas, and who share such news articles with their own interpretation of events, and within the hour of a crime happening, one is already bombarded with loose interpretations, fabrications, and worst of all conclusions on the cause of the crime, and who should pay for it.

I am of firm belief that such hasty conclusions and their propagation, resulting in discussion after discussion exclusively focusing on one or two aspects of the crime as spun by those with a following, is in fact harmful to society as a whole. The only way society would benefit after such crimes is for the real cause of the crimes to be understood, not for the sake of satisfying anyone's curiosity, much less for the sake of feeding an agenda, but, because only by truly understanding the underlying causes of an event can society look inward into how those underlying causes can be prevented.

By assuming Paulina's rape and murder to be based on misogyny, for example, we may be setting ourselves up to ignore other prominent issues that might have caused her rape and murder, and unless we understand the complexity of the causes of these crimes, we are not going to be able to prevent them happening again. Should us professionals, experts and researchers not get together and truly examine the complex causes of these heinous crimes, we would be shirking our duty towards society.

There seems to be a faction of people who decided the cause of these crimes within the hour of Paulina's lifeless body being discovered, and who are doing their damnest to convince the country that their assumptions - which coincidentally fit their own and their organisations' usual agendas - are the case, even though those who have the most information - the police - are saying otherwise. These people seem to want or need the death of Paulina to be about their cause and are trying everything to convince us of it.

The saddest part of this is that these people's causes are worthy. Their causes are ones I and many others support wholeheartedly, yet with their blanket statements, assumptions, generalisations, and blame-ridden rhetoric, they are driving away those who prioritise evidence-based conclusions over everything else, which thankfully, are a large number of people.

The real causes of this case will take years to unearth, and will only be unearthed if those with the opportunity to analyse the case and its perpetrator/s, do so. The police have started their investigation. As it stands, nobody has more knowledge of the case than they do. That there are those who are immediately dismissing these findings is in itself worrying. First of all, propagating distrust in the police can be damaging to a society, and secondly because they are wasting police and public time and diverting public attention from an evidence-based investigation.

Is misogyny a problem? Yes it is. Should something be done to address it? Of course. Should we decide a priori that these crimes are based on misogyny? No. Not so early on in the investigation. Nobody who has read anything about this particular case can deny that mental illness could have had an influence, much the same as we can't deny that the accused has problems with his sexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, religious fundamentalism and who knows what else, all of which may or may not have also played a part in his actions.

My point is that so early in these investigations, we know almost nothing of the case, let's keep open minds, and let the experts do their work, and should we need to engage in the case, let us do it in a responsible manner.


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