Respect for the victim, respect for the victimizer

In Louise Penny’s excellent mystery Bury Your Dead, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is taking an extended leave from his job after a terrible disaster. He is visiting a friend in Quebec and happens upon a crime scene. He realizes at once that it is a murder investigation, and listens as two young officers discuss the victim.

“He hasn’t begun smelling yet,” said the young officer. “Those make me want to puke.”

Gamache took a breath and exhaled, his breath freezing as soon as it hit the air. But he said nothing. This officer wasn’t his to train in the etiquette of the recently dead, in the respect necessary when in their presence. In the empathy necessary to see the victim as a person, and the murderer as a person. It wasn’t with cynicism and sarcasm, with dark humor and crass comments a killer was caught. He was caught by seeing and thinking and feeling. Crude comments didn’t make the path clearer or the interpretation of evidence easier. Indeed, they obscured the truth, with fear.

-Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead, pg. 30-31

I appreciate Gamache’s opinion, and I think he’s right.

Murder victims are people, deserving of respect for being human.

So are the murderers, and they, too, deserve respect for being human, though not for their actions.

Often, fear prompts us to see murderers (or bullies, or any enemy, perceived or real) as less than human, a butt of wisecracks or a caricature of themselves. This only obscures truth. It never reveals it.

Just want to share something that made me think.


9 thoughts on “Respect for the victim, respect for the victimizer

    1. That is an amazing thought. No matter how broken that image is, it is still there somehow, even if we can’t recognize it. I think when we grasp this, we can extend grace more easily too. (Though, of course, Penny’s book isn’t talking about grace in this section.)


  1. Do you know, this has really set me thinking. There may be a blog post of my own brewing. We just had a vulnerable person visit for the weekend and for the first time I was able to offer support and help but also to remain within my boundaries – by which I mean I had great sympathy, but I knew it wasn’t my problem to fix AND it didn’t cause me too much stress and set my own head stuff off again. For me, this is a miracle (I suspect you will appreciate what I mean). I will think about it all and how it relates to what you’ve said here. I’ll link back to this post as I write a post of my own, if I may? Thank you 🙂


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