There is no right way for a victim to behave.

People are saying stupid shit about Amanda Berry.

Burnett’s concerned astonishment was charitable compared to what the lowest form of opinion generators – Internet commenters – had to say about Berry’s newly reignited social life. “It’s just odd given the years of abuse she suffered. Normally she would not have that kind of trust or comfort. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make sense,” wrote one concerned ABC News commenter, while another more bluntly decided, “It seems to me she was enjoying it and is gonna use her ordeal to cash in.” Many were concerned that she appeared with a man who stood behind her and warmly put his arm around her and kissed her neck while she was onstage. Or, as some of the ABC commenters decided, he was a “dirt bag hanging all over her,” who “groped” and “pawed” her. A CBS News commenter more generously decided she looked “pretty hot.” And 645 comments later on NBC, Berry had plenty of well-wishers but also comments about her eyebrow piercing, and how she doesn’t look like “a real victim….lol.” And of course, if you want to plumb the absolute bottom of the barrel, there’s YouTube, where Berry is being  accused of “milking everything she’s getting.”

I think it would be interesting (if nauseating) to press these commenters on what exactly they’re implying about her. If she doesn’t look like a “real victim,” does that mean she wanted to be locked up in Ariel Castro’s house for ten years? Do you think she enjoyed what he did to her?

Does she need to justify going outside, looking cute and having a good time, now that she and her daughter are free and reunited with her family? Let’s not forget that Amanda Berry has a small daughter. When moms are happy and healthy, their kids are better off.

This is sort of a digression, but I’d also like to say that if Amanda, Gina and/or Michelle decide to make a living on book deals and TV appearances about their ordeal, that would be totally fine. Amanda and Gina were just teenagers when Ariel Castro locked them up, and Michelle Knight was a little older but also leading a very difficult, troubled life. They didn’t get a chance to go to college or build up work experience while they were Castro’s prisoners. I don’t think they have much to put on resumes after spending a decade as sex slaves. Their captivity has undermined their chances to make a living in the usual ways, so if the news media want to throw money at them, those young women are doing nothing wrong by cashing in.

That out of the way. The scary thing about this victim-policing is that it’s just a point on a continuum. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s appalling to imply that Amanda Berry isn’t “really” a victim of kidnapping and sexual abuse, but this is the sort of scum that sinks to the bottom of a culture that thinks we can define a crime by its victim’s behavior. We’re always telling rape survivors how they’re expected to behave as “proper” victims. Oh, she wasn’t really raped, she went shopping, she went out for beers with her friends, she did this, she did that, she seems too happy, she must be lying. That road leads to trolling women who survived years of captivity and abuse.

Rape victims respond to their trauma in all sorts of ways. The survivors of even the most profound horrors are entitled to get on with their lives.

Capital Punishment Logic is So Weird.

Here we have news of the Ohio kidnapping case, in which Ariel Castro possibly faces the death penalty:

Prosecutors said Thursday they may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the man accused of imprisoning three women at his home for a decade, as police charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and made her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly.

The allegations were contained in a police report that also said another one of the women, Amanda Berry, was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges punishable by death in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.

“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” he said. “The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life.”

Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping.

Michelle Knight is the one who was subjected to abortions by starvation and battery. She was also put on midwife duty for Amanda Berry’s childbirth and—how’s this for mental abuse?–threatened with death if Amanda’s baby died. None of the captives ever saw a doctor or other qualified health professional. Fortunately, Knight knew her MMR and saved the baby.

I’m sure it would be even more interesting—and probably horrifying—to find out why Amanda was allowed to give birth while Michelle was not allowed to continue her pregnancies.

That’s a digression, though. Here’s what I want to point out: the prosecutor is talking about the death penalty, while the prisoner is on suicide watch.

I suggest a different strategy: just don’t bother with the suicide watch. Put him in a cell alone with some razorblades and rope, and let the chips fall where they may.

I don’t agree with the death penalty. The practical argument against capital punishment is that are some suspects who are wrongly convicted and executed. As long as there’s any possibility of wrongful conviction, the death penalty is an atrocity. That’s not an issue with Ariel Castro: we know what he did. But then we have the philosophical issue that the government is using its power to kill prisoners in order to show the populace that killing people is wrong. There’s something inherently fucked up about that. I don’t think the government should give itself permission to kill prisoners.

However, I also think the justice system is not obligated to protect prisoners from themselves. If Ariel Castro wants to die, he should have our permission. It’ll be the most sensible decision he’s ever made.