Credit: Gadiel Lazcano via Unsplash

Do we ignore victims of violence?

By Molly Craddock

Halyna Hutchins is the latest victim of violence to be ignored by the media in favour of the perpetrator.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was only 42 years old when she was tragically shot and killed on the set of Rust. A gun that had been deemed safe to use on set was fired and Hutchins was struck by ammunition left inside the weapon. Despite being airlifted to hospital, she was pronounced dead hours later. 

Press coverage of this incident does not paint this tragedy as that of a young woman cut down at the height of her career; rather it has become the tragedy of Alec Baldwin, the actor who fired the gun. Countless articles have been produced discussing how exhausted and despondent Baldwin appears, how much this event has impacted his family, and the degree to which he should be held accountable for Hutchins’ death. Halyna Hutchins occupies perhaps a line or two of these articles. 

The Rust shooting is a tragic incident for all involved and, of course, public speculation surrounding Baldwin following this event is to be expected. This speculation should not interfere with the respect and attention that Halyna Hutchins’ life is owed, but on countless occasions it has: the most glaring of which being a reporter unable to recall Hutchins’ name whilst interviewing Alec Baldwin. The 42 years of Halyna Hutchins’ life have been condensed into a single line, or even worse a single word, to add some context to her death. Sadly the treatment of Hutchins by the media is not unique. The press and the public are often on the perpetrators side of violence, rather than those that have fallen victim to it. 

If I asked any of you reading this to tell me some facts about Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, or any famous perpetrators of violence, I’m sure you could reel some information off with ease. However, when asked to list any information about their victims other than the events of their death, I’m certain you would struggle. A lot of you wouldn’t even be able to give me a name.

So why is it that the victims of violence are ignored? Perhaps it is due to the morbid curiosity of the public – the popularity of true crime television shows and novels indicates that there is a large audience of those excited by experiencing violence vicariously from the comfort and safety of their living room. This plays into a wider issue of the sensationalising of perpetrators of violence and their actions. Numerous documentaries recount the lives and violence of countless killers, all seeking to in some way explain or justify their actions. Is our desire to focus on the perpetrators an attempt to understand their behaviour and make some sense of it?

“So why is it that the victims of violence are ignored? Perhaps it is due to the morbid curiosity of the public…”

In the case of Halyna Hutchins, neither of these motives make sense. Her death was accidental, there was no perverse motive or any mystery for armchair detectives to try and solve – it was just a nonsensical and preventable tragedy. So, why is it that her life is overlooked in so many articles? I believe that people have an innate desire to distance themselves from victims of violence in order to avoid feeling the true extent of the tragedy; to protect their own emotions. By not portraying victims as their authentic three-dimensional selves, we are able to emotionally detach from them, thus allowing us to ignore how similar these victims are to ourselves and those we care about. In doing this we can avoid facing the truth that any one of us could easily fall victim to violence. 

It is understandable that many would rather sensationalise violence and view it as an exhilarating fictive story rather than a real-life tragedy with grieving families struggling to carry on with day-to-day life. It is much easier to let the violence end when the article does. This, though, is disrespectful to the victims. When we ignore the victims of violence, we commit a posthumous final act of violence against them. In ignoring them, we take away their agency and characterise their whole life by the manner in which they were harmed. We strip them of any sort of meaningful legacy: instead of being remembered for who they were, they are remembered for what was done to them. 

I will end this article by attempting to give Halyna Hutchins some of the attention that she deserves and to ensure that you finish reading this article knowing more about her life than you do her death. Halyna Hutchins was a Ukrainian cinematographer, journalist, wife, and a mother to a nine-year old son. Halyna Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base stationed in the Arctic where she fell in love with films as it was one of the few forms of entertainment available to her. Before becoming a cinematographer, Halyna worked as an investigative journalist in Eastern Europe. Hutchins was a fan of extreme sports and enjoyed parachuting and exploring caves. In 2019, Halyna Hutchins was named as one of the “10 up-and-coming directors of photography who are making their mark” by American Cinematographer. Halyna Hutchins was so much more than her death.


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