Did the Craigslist Killer Victims Deserve What They Got?

Kim Conte

gilgo beach
Gilgo Beach, where the victims' bodies were found
Now that the four female bodies found last month on a Long Island beach have been identified, police say the women were likely the victims of a serial killer.

If the news of the deaths of these young women wasn't devastating and scary enough, now police are pointing to some striking similarities among the victims: All were white; all were in their 20s; and all worked as prostitutes and went missing after meeting clients found on Craigslist. Officials also report that the ways the women were killed were "substantially similar" but did not comment as to the specific means used.

Now, if you think this unbelievably sad story seems like perfect fodder for a cheesy Lifetime movie, unfortunately, you'll find yourself a little late to the party ...

The Craigslist Killer, which premiered on Lifetime last month, told the story of Philip Markoff, the man who was accused of killing a woman he met through Craigslist in April 2009, and committed suicide in a jail cell while awaiting trial.

The made-for-TV-movie marked Lifetime’s fifth most-watched movie premiere ever. But many critics lambasted it for sanitizing the true profession of the victim, Julissa Brisman: Specifically, Lifetime portrayed her as a "masseuse who advertised on Craigslist" instead of being honest about what she really was -- a prostitute. Some critics interpreted this glaring omission as suggestive of the pervasive belief in our society: that sex workers don't deserve protection (given the fact that their work is illegal) and, therefore, deserve whatever they get -- even if that is brutal violence.

Is the media -- with its recent coverage of the four victims found in Long Island -- engaging in some victim-blaming on its own? In some of the articles and clips about the story, there seems to be a fixation on the fact that the women were prostitutes. These women's professions seem to be equally if not more important than, say, their names and ages. Some media outlets are even using the slang term "hookers." (And don't get me started on the commenters -- is it really appropriate in stories about their deaths to call these women "whores"?)

True, the media is being transparent about their true profession in a way that Lifetime wasn't; but it's difficult not to wonder whether the outlets are doing it in a way that suggests women who advertise sex on the Internet are too difficult to protect.

And why is it that not one of the journalists covering the story are questioning why it took so long -- one woman had been missing for more than three years -- for police to find and identify the bodies?

What do you think of the media's coverage of the Craigslist serial killer so far?

Image via WorldIslandInfo.com

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