Roch Theriault and Domestic Violence
Roch Theriault, a Canadian cult leader who killed two of his followers, maimed a number of others and practiced sexual molestation of children, was killed by his cellmate last year. There are any number of ways in which this matter can be parsed.
One is to claim all cult leaders as being evil and to identify brutality with cults. However a number of cults, such as the Amish, do not practice things of this sort. And outside of cults, there are any number of people who commit crimes of this nature. Every year 1,500 American women die from domestic violence. In Russia, it's 14,000. In India, it's 40,000. In Middle East it's worse than in all of the above. And many of the men who murder their wives or girlfriends in all of these places do not wind up with a life sentence or anything approaching a life sentence.
Why would Roch Theriault's crimes be seen as greater than those of the Pakistani man who murders his daughter for getting raped or throws sulfuric acid into his wife's face for arguing with him? Most likely because he was a cult leader. Whereas a Muslim who does horrible things to his wife or his children is typically supported and abetted in his crimes by the mosque and the community.
Paula Jackson, a Canadian social worker, did an excellent job prosecuting Roch Theriault. But here is the real challenge: Would she be able to prosecute Muslims, Hindus or Christians who do similar and worse things than did Theriault? On a larger scale, would Western social workers and feminists be able to make serious in-roads among large populations that practice domestic violence? And whose help would they require in order to do such a thing?
Nobody is defending Theriault's actions toward his followers. But there are now much vaster problems that require the same kind of attention. Domestic violence is a huge problem and is nowhere close to being limited to cult leaders or "weirdos" or "sociopaths." In much of the world - and in parts of most Western countries - it always has been and remains the social norm.
Much thought in social work advocates respect for all cultures. What this means in reality is that cultures in which serious domestic violence is the norm get respect from the same people who put others away for much smaller violations. This is not a sustainable state of affairs. At one point or another these people will have to decide what is more important: Fighting domestic violence, whatever its source, or practicing cultural tolerance toward "cultures" that abet hideous violations toward women and do not tolerate the cultures of the West.
I would very much like to see the kind of attention that Paula Jackson paid to Theriault being directed at wife-beating Muslim cultures. For that matter I would very much like to see that kind of attention being directed at other large populations that condone domestic violence. Doing that would be a much more worthy direction of effort as well as a much more courageous direction of effort. And it would vastly benefit far greater numbers of women than stand to be saved from minor cults like that of Roch Theriault.