Nobody But Cho Seung-Hui Caused This

I was once told by the police that there was nothing they could do about the boy who broke into my house and left me things because they didn’t get involved in domestic disputes.

I was forced by a teacher to go talk to him about how upset he was about me calling the police because, as she put it, “Girls shouldn’t call the police on their boyfriends.” and when I said, “He’s not my boyfriend,” she stared at me blankly and just said, as if I were speaking gibberish, “But he says that you are.”

That was a long time ago and in that time, laws about stalking have changed, incidents of rape have decreased over half, things are better.  We understand, we say we understand, that women don’t cause men to beat us or rape us or stalk us or kill us.

Men choose to do this and men can choose not to.  We know that men can choose not to do this, because the vast, vast majority of men are not abusive, stalking, raping, murdering assholes.

And when we blame women for what happens to them, or when we blame all men–boys will be boys–for what a fucked up few do, we are letting the evil bastards off the hook.

This time, let’s not do that.

Most folks are wondering how Cho Seung-Hui could have killed two people early in the morning and still been wandering around campus to kill more people once classes started.

One reason is exactly what Blackamazon says it is:

Students were prevented from being warned and properly protected because the first shootings were dismissed as a domestic dispute.

Do you get that?  Don’t you feel that right in your gut?  We’re used to believing that a man who kills “his” woman isn’t a threat to anyone else.  He’s done the violent act; now we just have to investigate and find him.  But he’s not a danger, we believe, any more.

Why even bother to cancel classes?  You have a dead woman and a dead man.  Clearly, clearly, he killed her and then killed himself.

It’s like Blackamazon says–that’s one way misogyny hurts us all.  We have a narrative in our heads, one we’re used to seeing played out over and over again, on our televisions (news or entertainment), and so when we’re confronted with that in real life, we don’t know what else to see, but a man and a woman gone wrong.

Nothing worth upsetting other students about.

And then, when it becomes obvious that the story is more complicated than that, look who gets blamed. (Hat tip, Feministe)

This is the face of the teenage student who may have sparked the biggest gun massacre in US history.


It is thought she was the ex-girlfriend of the unnamed killer who then went onto kill Emily’s neighbour 22-year-old Ryan Clark who had tried to help.

Fuck that.

Just fuck that.

What a cowardly, bullying bit of reporting that is.  The person who sparked this event was Cho Seung-Hui, not anyone who was the target of his wrath.  And to say “It is thought…” Thought by whom?  Name your sources.  Let’s meet these jackasses that would blame the victim in all of this.

Are there things the university could have done differently?  Maybe, but who knows?  If he hadn’t bought guns, maybe he’d have bought fertilizer and racing fuel.  Every single person who was killed could have, at any point before that made another decision–stopped to go to the bathroom, slept in, ran instead of blocking the door, not responded to cries for help, put a knife in her purse, taken a wrong turn, waited for that light to change instead of gunning it through the yellow–but only one of them knew that that was the day he was going to open fire on his fellow students.

And, at the end of this, no second-guessing is going to change that.  Nobody but him knew they were making decisions that would lead to death.  Nobody.

We can analyze what happened, and we should.  We can make plans based on what happened, and we should.  But at the end of the day, only one person is responsible for this.

Put his picture on the front page of the paper.  Name him.  Invite folks to gawk at him and wonder what he did that led him to that place.

But this is not Emily Hilscher’s fault and fuck anyone who insinuates that it is.

41 thoughts on “Nobody But Cho Seung-Hui Caused This

  1. I have nothing but contempt for the author of that article at

    I was attacked brutally by a man who liked me and to whom I was nice. I have no doubt in my mind that had others not walked in on the attack I would have been raped or murdered. I was told at the time that I shouldn’t have been nice to him because it led him on and then enraged him.

    Are we now to assume that every woman in a relationship with a disturbed person should just gut it out so that her partner doesn’t flip and shoot people? Please.

  2. You’re right.
    Stalking laws in this country used to be non-existent. When we would try to assist women (back in my days of working with battered women), those who were stalked where put in the bottom of the list.
    But, here’s the thing that I agree with the most of what you read. Killing a girlfriend/wife/partner is still seen as isolated acts of violence and has a ton of people’s inner thought process going about “it none of their concern” in much the same way that when a woman is raped I’ve heard TIME AND TIME again “What was she wearing?”
    It’s this and other stereotypical thinking that devalues women and kills people. And I can’t get into the pontificating right now because a very disturbed, crazy kid killed a bunch of people because warning signs were ignored by the majority and only valued by the few.
    You have made some very accurate points.

  3. I have to admit that left on my own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this subtle form of misogyny, and while I don’t think it’s deliberate, it doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Gone are the days when a veteran editor might have caught this bit of insensitive and irresponsible reporting. Too often news crews(print and television) are staffed by young, inexperienced reporters. I know, I’ve met too many.

    One thing, though, most domestic shootings are one-time “crimes of passion”, that is, impulse is key. Its not common that the perpetrator then goes on a rampage, once the target of his rage is eliminated, its usually over. I’m not saying more might not have been done, but I am mindful of that fact, as well as the logistical nightmare that securing a 2600 acre campus involves. Perhaps they did not have an adequate system to alert the entire campus. I have no doubt that we will hear all about that in the weeks ahead.

    I see no reason to make this girl’s identity and photograph public, she is only peripherally connected to this event, and her family and her memory deserve better.

  4. But B’s point is that domestic violence is not considered an aspect of societal violence. Somehow intimate coercion has been set apart from things that should be of broader concern, like it is an inferior subset because it produces an individual death rather than a big statistic. But all those individual deaths…they add up to a hell of a lot more than 33, which is not to say “my sorrow bigger than your sorrow,” or even “where’s the outrage”, but just to point out that batshittery is everywhere. But most commentators are willing to say that every instance of domestic battery is somehow singular, arising from a local dispute between partners…not as part of a connected web of terroristic rage that can be turned against property, pets, or others who respond (one of the big reasons why police don’t want to respond to domestic violence…they don’t want to be shot). There’s some sort of subsumed idea that women are somehow “taking one for the team” during a “crime of passion”. The truth here is that the people who do this have come unglued and are hitting/killing what happens to be handy and they think that because they “own” it, they can get away with it. It’s part and parcel of other rage-abuses…just more common.

  5. Dateline NBC did a ‘special’ on this shooting last night. I was stunned when they did this:

    Shows a view of the campus as the faceless narrator talks.
    Narrator: Why him [victim]? Why any of them?
    Then the shot IMMEDIATELY cuts to Emily’s picture.
    Narrator: This is Emily Hilscher. She was the first one killed.

    It just REALLY appeared that they were answering their own question and blaming her.

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  7. Oh, Mack. “…most domestic shootings are one-time “crimes of passion”, that is, impulse is key.” No. No. No. Most domestic shootings are not “one-time crimes of passion.” Usually there have been plenty of crimes that have preceded those events: beatings, terroristic threats, stalking, phone calls, harrassment; sometimes stabbings and attempted strangulations. Those are crimes, too. Maybe if you’d said that domestic shootings are often one-person events, it would be closer to correct – not counting the children, or boyfriends, or family members, or the occasional co-worker (we’ve had a couple of different events here in Philadelphia where women have been shot at work, and a couple of co-workers were shot as well), who have wound up as collateral victims of domestic shootings. Why on earth did you assume that domestic shootings were “one-time crime[s] of passion?” In point of fact, the only “passion” involved is usually rage on the part of the shooter – long-term, sustained anger, not heat-of-the-moment. Domestic partners who are shot have usually been stalked and shot in cold blood, often after they’ve tried to leave an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, you have in fact illustrated how most people in authority tend to view “domestic shootings.”

    However, this bears out exactly what I said at the gym this morning, when a couple of people were disparaging the incident it was handled by the administration and police. I said, first of all, it would be like trying to shut down all of Center City, Philadelphia; and in response to the “Why didn’t they notify the students?” I said it was because they thought it was just a “domestic violence” event; since it was just a girlfriend who was shot, they didn’t need to notify anyone. Which seems to be exactly the case.

  8. I had not even thought about it like this…which goes to show how conditioned some of us have become to the subtle messages being put out there.

    I agree with you, La BellaDonna, there 99/100 there is a pattern of physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse going on before a person snaps into murder. Stalking, sending threating IMs and e-mails, writing threatening papers for an English class for all to see (especially to get the message back to the girlfriend)…those are all instances of mental/emotional abuse. His roomates, professors, and those who had any contact with this guy saw all of the warning signs. They were ignored by the wrong people, and, B., after reading this post, I am convinced it is because the other abuse was blown off as “domestic.”

  9. La BellaDonna, what leads me to say this is my experiences as a police officer, and hell, I can read. The term “one person” would be no more accurate, for the reasons you posted. I in no way meant that the act of shooting a domestic partner or imagined significant other takes place in a vacuum, and I fully believe that there are often(probably most of the time) all manner of crimes committed prior to the actual taking of life. What I was saying is that once the target of that rage is dead, it usually ends there. It’s rare indeed when a husband shoots his wife, then proceeds to the neighbors house to gun them down as well. It happens, just not often.

  10. We are a society based on a concept of acceptable risk. So long as the people defining what is acceptable and what is not are uninvolved in such discourse, it’s a moot point. More than 30 people lay dead because of the actions of one man. The blame lies with everyone involved, equally. It falls on all of us to witness this and learn something from it.

  11. Mack, I can appreciate that in your experience as a police officer, people who commit domestic shootings do not then generally go on to shoot the neighbors. What I object to, very much, is the “one-time crimes of passion” description. And, fine, “one person” is not sufficiently accurate; I should probably have said “primary target” crime. Because whatever else domestic shootings are, they are notone-time crimes of passion.” The meaning of a “one-time crime of passion,” to me, is … one time. No related crimes. No other indications that something is going to happen. The phrase “one-time crime of passion” brings to mind a person who walks in to find his/her significant other entwined with someone else, and, rightly or wrongly, shoots, stabs, or otherwise terminates one or both parties. Most domestic shootings have a long history preceding the shooting of other abusive, illegal acts. If the shooter is the abusive partner, he (or she) will often have stalked the victim for a length of time. That’s not a heat-of-the-moment decision. If the shooter is the abused party, it’s usually done in self-defense, and is a lot more likely to be a heat-of-the-moment action.

    It’s the perception that a domestic shooting is a “one-time crimes of passion” that needs to be changed.

    Mack, look at what you wrote! “It happens, just not that often.” The person who is capable of planning a partner’s death is perfectly capable of killing someone else! Maybe another partner in the future, maybe someone who just happens to be in the area during that particular shooting. It doesn’t make it OK if it’s just another “domestic shooting” in the future! It doesn’t make it OK if you happen to be the one in the vicinity of that event! It would make much more sense if the police treated someone who commits a “domestic violence” shooting as if he (or she) were more, and not less, likely to shoot other people!

  12. Agreed, Belladonna, but I wasn’t commenting on how those crimes are perceived by the public at large. And it doesn’t happen that often. Of course someone capable of murdering another is capable of doing it again. The decision to kill is often impulsive, I think that’s indisputable. Does it apply in every case? Of course not. We may be arguing the same point, from a slightly different angle anyway…

  13. Well shit, Mack. I never knew you had been a police officer. Where the hell have I been?

    Augh, I think someone must have given me a lobotomy in my sleep last week.

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  15. You’re absolutely right.

    Emily didn’t cause this
    Liberals didn’t cause this
    The prohibition of guns at VT didn’t cause this

    Cho chose to do this.

  16. Excellent post. The implication Emily could have done anything to prevent or cause this massacre is disgusting.

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  19. THe guy was messed up…. What else can we say?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    It was not ANY of the vitims fault. What did they do???? THey unknowingly got up in the moning, took a shower, went to classes and WHAM! THeir life was over. THey didn’t have a problem… He did. HE did. I cant use his name… it infuriates me. Maybe they can burn him… it would be a small consolation.

  20. I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now about how the killer had “Ismael Ax” scribbled on his arm and he sent a package to NBC News with the return address (i.e. his address) bearing the name “A. Ishmail” — Why associate himself (a Korean whose name is Cho Seung-Hui) with Ishmael? Obviously he was cryptically indicating that he is a Muslim terrorist. Obviously “Ismael Ax” is broken foreign mangled English for Axe of Ishmael, and he is claiming to be Ishmael’s Axe or in other words, a Muslim executioner. He also made references to “martyrs” in his notes to NBC. But although NBC released the facts of what was scribbled on his arm and what the return address of his package is, they are too PC to mention what it indicates and what this means–America has been attacked again, by Islam. This is 911 all over again, but this time Bush and the media together will sweep it under the rug and make it all about gun control rather than Islam.

  21. I’m ignoring the nonsense posted above me, but I’d like to thank aunt b for putting the blame where the blame belongs. I think if we took crimes against women more seriously we could cut a lot of this stuff off at the pass.

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  23. I’m going to go ahead and address the “voice of reason” just because. First, as Coble points out, there are good reasons an English major might fixate on the name “Ismael.” Second, Ishmael is a central figure to Islam, but he’s also not unfamiliar to Christians and Jews. One could claim to be “Ishmael’s ax” and be working from a Christian perspective. Also, Christians have martyrs. And why would he have to use “broken foreign mangled English” when the dude had been in the U.S. for most of his life?

    Here’s what I would ask you. Would you like it if every time Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest some poor soldier’s funeral the news portrayed that as “Christians” protesting that funeral? What about Eric Rudolph? Or Tim McVeigh? Fair to call them Christians who are attacking America? Should we talk about the Christian war on America?

    Or should we realize that, when a religion has over a billion followers, there are bound to be some nutjobs?

  24. B– thank you for making that point about where the blame lies.

    Anyway… maybe I’m just a bad feminist, but I do not believe that sexism played a role in the VT police not notifying the general public about the first murders. Perhaps it’s because my job brings me in close contact with police officers, but I don’t see “domestic dispute” as being the pejorative, dismissive term that some here seem to believe it is. It’s a description, to differentiate a crime that occurs between people who know each other or who have an existing relationship from a crime that occurs randomly, between strangers.

    There are many reasons the police may not have notified the public. First among them: they simply didn’t know enough about what had happened yet to risk tipping off the killer. Second: they had already arrested Emily’s actual boyfriend (side note: there is no way in hell that she ever dated Cho; he didn’t speak to other students, he didn’t date anyone), who they thought might have been the killer (based on the sad fact that when a woman is killed it is her boyfriend/fiance/spouse who pulled the trigger, the majority of the time). Third: they took the step of locking down the dorm, and they really had no reason to believe there was any additional risk to anyone else. In the vast majority of homicide cases, the killer flees the scene, and flees the area.

    If Cho had not gone on to kill 30 more people, I don’t think anyone would be asking why the entire campus wasn’t locked down because of a shooting in one dorm. Virginia Tech is the size of a small town… heck, it’s probably bigger than lots of small towns. If what appears to be an isolated shooting happens at a motel, do they shut down an entire town? I’ve never heard of it happening like that.

    I also don’t think the warning signs were ignored. Professors referred him to counseling. Students reported his harrassing behavior and suicidal tendencies to campus authorities. Authorities and counsellors determined him to be at risk of harming himself but not others, and referred him to an inpatient psychiatric facility.

    He was released from that facility after some days had passed, and for 16 months he had no run-ins with other students or with authorities, save minor behavioral issues that happen every day on college campuses everywhere.

    You cannot lock people up for being weird, or for writing disturbing poems/plays, or for being antisocial, or for antagonizing other students (particularly if the behavior stops and the students don’t press charges). You cannot kick a person out of school for those things.

    Cho was 23 years old, and an adult. There was very little the campus authorities could do about his mental health issues. By all accounts, staff members and students did everything they were legally able to do. Unfortunately, when a sociopath is bent on destruction, and is highly skilled at hiding his emotions and his plans, there is very little that can be done to stop him.

    Sorry for the very long rant, but I feel somewhat close to this, since I went to college at a Virginia state university similar to Tech, I live in Virginia, and a friend of mine’s father was wounded in the shootings on Monday (he is recovering, at least physically).

  25. Cho is a fucking hero. He was a poor sexually frustrated kid who tried as best as he knew how to get laid, but women would have nothing to do with him. If you dig deep enough through his history, you will find that right before the incident, he was denied sex by an escort. The problem is all these fucking feminists taking over now. All the women want to sleep with the top 5% of the upper echelon of men, leaving the rest alone without sex. Women dont understand that for men sex is a life need third to food and water. Being there myself, I know what lack of sex does to one’s mental state. Of course, you never hear about such things in our feminized society. I just wish Cho had taken out his anger in a sorority house or a victoria secret or something like that. Mabey then america would have been awakened to a much deeper issue in our society. Everyone talks about equality in our society, but no one ever talks about equality in being able to get sex. Well, it will happen again and with the sexual starvation of men in our society I am surprised it does not happen more often.

  26. So you’re saying that, before fucking feminism, women didn’t want to sleep with the top 5% of the upper echelon of men? And feminism (sorry, I mean “fucking feminism”) was all about getting women to sleep higher? I can’t believe I misunderstood the movement so badly. Thank you so much for enlightening me. Your clarity of thought and expression suggests that you must be in the the top 5% of the upper echelon of men yourself.

    B, you get such a high caliber of trolls here.

  27. I think it’s even fewer than that, Editor. It’s 5% of the upper echelon of men. And surely the upper echelon doesn’t contain all men, just the best of them (or the tallest, I suppose). You get 1 out of 20 out of that group. So they should be really, really choice, which ought to make up somehow for their scarcity.

  28. Joe, as much as I would love to snark on you, something in the tone of your comment prevents me from doing such. And so, I must say, in all sincerity, if you truly believe what you’ve written here and aren’t just spouting off to be a jerk, please seek help before you hurt yourself or others.

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  30. I just have to say, if Joe were right I’d have had sex a lot more often back when I was single. I’m obviously in the top 3% of the upper echelon of men.

  31. Agreeing with Joe’s comment! Yeah, before feminism, women had to get married/have sex with to “average guys” in order to eat. Since feminism, women no longer need to “settle” since they can find work themselves. They then go after the “alpha” men and the average guys get nothing!

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