Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Guilty of Murder: A feminist view of the Yates children

The picture to the left is a real life photograph of the grave where Andrea Yates five small children lie dead. I selected that picture as a stark reminder about who the victim is because too often of late Andrea Yates has been portrayed as the victim. She had too many dishes to wash, too many diapers to change, and simply too much for one person to do. While I am sure her life had it's burdens and clearly that includes unstable psychiatric health the true victims are five little children that were drowned at the hands of their own mother. The eldest giving chase and having to be dragged back with great force.

Without question Andrea Yates had mental health problems. Without question she would have have benefitted from more intrusive psychiatric supports and a spouse more familiarized with childbirth and psychiatric health. It is his report that he was never advised by her psychiatrist that another pregnancy would worsen her emotional health. She had stabilized after other pregnancies so he had not realized how precarious a position he was putting her in by them conceiving another child. He had not realized the impact of another pregnancy and it's potential to cause such marked deterioration. If her psychiatrist did, indeed, neglect to share such critical information that is dumbfounding.

Without question Andrea Yates would have had an easier time if her parents and siblings had contributed positively to her life on a daily basis rather than waiting for the children to die and then doing the television circuit to talk about the unfair distribution of labour in the marital home. Given the long period of time they had not been a regular part of the home one wonders how that was known. It is known that Andrea Yates' mother in law came on a daily basis into the home. There was only one hour where Andrea Yates had the children alone and, obviously, that became a critical hour as she carefully timed their deaths.

Russell Yates, in my opinion, made critical errors in judgement in not more forcibly extracting information about his wife's mental health and the impact of pregnancy. He appears to have naively proceeded with the belief that if another pregnancy would be a difficulty they would have brought that to his attention. He also assessed his wife as needing supports and had daily support available but still did not realize the gravity of her problems given that he left her alone for a short time with them. A critical error in assessing risk. What a dear and high price to pay though - to have to bury one's five children. His willingness to support his wife throughout this difficulty, to advocate for empathy, and to pray for his healing show tremendous strength of character though. To witness such sacrificial love and then to hear people sniping in the background speculating on the number of diapers he may have changed or playing monday morning quarterback on his assessment skills is heartwrenching.

It was amazing to me during her first trial to see feminist groups rise to support her citing her mental health problems and how those should be taken into consideration. Some even raised funds for her legal defense. They spoke endlessly of her burdens and her difficulties everything from closely timed births to the number of diapers she changed to her home-schooling. They speculated endlessly about how much she contributed to her decisions and how much they were husband-led when she became ill. Clearly forgetting the evidence that she had spoken of plans to have a large family to girlfriends long before she met her husband and it was more her dream than his when they initially met. The idea that a woman would make these choices is foreign to them. Russell Yates is a Christian witness of forgiveness and compassion.

It bewilders me when I hear feminists speak of Andrea as a person who has a mental health problem. Can I know what person has murdered five people consecutively and doesn't have a mental health problem? What serial killer would they like to identify as emotionally well? Why are they not supporting THOSE men or women? Why is it just Andrea that should be considered mentally ill and not have to go to jail?

I believe that it is because the murderer is a female rather than a male. I have yet to hear of a single case where a women's right organization would support a man who was a mass killer. I also believe that if a lawyer tried to introduce evidence about the psychiatric health of a man who killed a woman they would vigorously (and rightly!) fight for that man to still be held to account. Sadly the other reason I believe is that this was a mother-child relationship and the victim was a child. I earnestly believe that they are hesitant to condemn in those circumstances but would be eager to in others.

And to the feminists that believe that Andrea Yates who chased down and drowned her children during a pre-selected time and then calmly called her family and the police to advise them is the victim please think again. No matter what activists tell you the beautiful faces of 7 year old Noah, 5 year old John, 3 year old Paul, two year old Luke, and little Mary who was just six months are the victims. They deserved a beautiful life.


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