Saturday, December 9

The Hunters and Their Prey

Let me be clear, Mr. Sela, the convicted escapee serial rapist is a dangerous person, a criminal. He violently raped several young women and girls after having broken into their homes, while threatening them with a knife, thereby traumatizing them for life. Their families and close others have been victimised as well.
The guy continued his sexual violence while in prison, towards female staff members. Many women, myself included, felt threatened, knowing he was on the run. For the first time in my life i felt happy my downstairs neighbors keep this very big and mean rotweiler in our common yard.
However, we should also remember the majority of all sex offenders are never sent to prison, because in the majority of cases, women do not file complaints. They are scared the complaint will do them more bad than good. Their are scared of having to testify and be made to relive the trauma in court being victimized once more. They are scared of being objectified by the media as well. An i understand them. It is not as if we are "safe", now that Sela has been caught.
For the sake of honesty, i must also admit here, that i used to be the general manager of one of Israel's rape crisis centers. On princinple i never thought much about the rapist, as i needed all my energy for his victims.
I am absolutely convinced Benny Sela should be in prison, first of all, in order to protect us. Secondly, because justice needs to be done. He victimised and terrorised several women directly, and perhaps all women in the country indirectly. His long sentence (35 years) is just.
Having said all this, making clear where i stand on the main issue, i need to say something else as well.

At first, when i noticed the street posters with his mug and the caption "Let's catch him together, call 100", i felt dis-taste. Something very wrong, although i couldn't exactly put my finger on it.
Then the media coverage showed me the people hunting him, literally proud, certain of their righteousness, civilians just like me, becoming hunters going for their prey.
The forced photographs of Mr. Sela after his capture (he appears to be hiding his face, unable to do so, because of his hand-cuffs), showing him like a prey helt up forcibly by the proud hunter policemen made it clearer to me. The policemen are all very proud. the press must have been invited to make this picture, to show the proof, "yes, he is back in our hands".
Once more, i feel it is good Mr. Sela should be under arrest and sent back to prison.
However the glee of the hunters scares me as well. Yes, Mr. Sela has committed terrible crimes, yes he should be in prison but after all of that, Mr. Sela is still a human being, not an object, not a prey.
The objectification of Mr. Sela causes me no happiness. In fact it scares me. Very much.

It seems i have been given a glimpse of what is underneath the very thin veneer of our civil society. And what i have seen worries me.

I remember that as a child i saw an image in my history text book: the crowd of onlookers cheering as the decapitated head of French queen Marie Antoinette is being held up by the guillotine operator. It scared me, as i couldn't understand how people could possibly cheer when another human being is being killed. At the same time i told myself that "today something like that couldn't happen", not here, not us." The thoughts of a naive child.


Lisa said...

I experienced a very similar reaction when I watched the news of Sela's capture last night - disgust at the way the police were grinning holding him up like a trophy to the cameras (and yes, the reporters were invited for a photo op).

Anonymous said...

Benny Sela is believed to have raped more than 'several' young women. He was convicted for raping 14, but a further twenty rapes are suspected to have been his doing, as well. And it is believed that there are more women who didn't file complaints against him at all.

On the whole, I agree with your comments about hunters and their prey. It is not pretty.

I myself was once one of those hunters and left the job mainly (besides burnout) because, much as I believed in the necessity of 'the hunt', I hated the feeling when we finally caught 'the prey', often after months of hard work. It gave me no pleasure. I hated finally meeting the person I had previously regarded as a worthy opponent, at the lowest point of his life.

You see, as a hunter, I never ever objectified my 'opponent' while the hunt was on. You can't catch a thing you despise. You have to give your 'prey' all your attention. You have to understand how his or her mind works.

The policemen who put Sela on display so distastefully last night were not the investigators and detectives of the Tel Aviv Central Unit who worked very hard to catch him the first time, and have been working day and night to get him back, since he was so negligently allowed to escape. These must have been the local Nahariya policemen, basking in their five seconds of glory before the Tel Aviv policemen whisked him away. Disgusting, I agree, but at the same time so very human.

Nominally Challenged said...

I was going to comment here, but my comment grew rather long, so I posted it on my page, and linked back to you instead :) Hope you don't mind!

ee said...

Couldn't agree more with nominally challenged's comments.
I find it quite repulsive the way the police congratulated themselves, after everyone and everything was in the air for two weeks, and other domestic issues were inevitably neglected, and suddenly Israeli society is all united and fuzzy warm - when often most couldn't give you the time of day, or a stuff about the issues you care most about.
(Just me being a "bit" bitter and venting)

ee said...

Chana Beit Halachmi has something along the same lines, quoting her 11-year-old son at the end of her article:

"What are they smiling about? They were the ones who lost him..."

Article link:,7340,L-3337764,00.html

Amos said...

I have to confess that I had similar feelings when I saw those photographs - both of Sela and of the police officers who caught him. I'm glad and grateful to them that they found him, of course, but those scenes were unnecessary. Have you seen Fritz Lang's M?

yudit said...

Metropolis, Amos?

a long time ago, when i was in junior high.
i remember mostly the editing & photography of certain scenes.
thanks for the idea, gonna get it from the 'third ear' and watch it again


Amos said...

No, it's M. I don't like Metropolis actually. Bad movie, stupid politics. He made M after; I think it was his first sound film, and it's amazing. It's about the hunt for a rapist/killer who targets children.

yudit said...

Amos, thanks,

i'll try and see it, although as a former rape crisis center manager i've seen perhaps too many victims and too much suffering.

Mostly when facing a film about sexual violence, i tend to turn away.
For the same reasons i left the RCC, too much exposure to violence even if it is secondary exposure, leaves one hurt.


Amos said...

Fair enough. The Fritz Lang film is more about what happens to the society hunting this perpetrator rather than about sexual violence. Either way, this might not be your cup of tea.