Friday, September 18, 2009

When Violence in the Workplace is not Workplace Violence

by Pat Brown

There has been an arrest in the gut-wrenching murder of Annie Le, the Yale grad student who was to be married the day her body was found. Raymond Clark, the lab tech who worked in the same building as Le, has been brought into custody, police stating that DNA linked him to the crime. I couldn't be happier that they got the guy who took the life of this most promising young woman.

I am concerned, terribly concerned, however, about a statement released by New Haven Police Chief James Lewis: “I think it’s important to note this is not about urban crime, not about university crime, not about domestic crime — but an issue of workplace violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country.”

Let's define this label. Workplace violence is generally said to be “incidents where people are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health.”

The issues that lead to rage are supposed to be connected specifically to the work environment: you aren't getting the job done, you are always late, you are teaming up with the boss against me, I didn't get a raise, everyone is gossiping about me, etc. Not included in this description is a male psychopath's ego problem: needing superiority over women and proving his manhood by attacking them. This kind of assault happens everywhere: on the street, in the park, in the victim's home, in school, and, sometimes, yes, in the workplace. But the motive has nothing to do with the workplace itself and, therefore, should not be considered workplace violence. It is not; it is violence that took place at work.

My phone started ringing early this morning as soon as the news media heard Chief Lewis's statement. They had also learned of text messages sent between Clark and Le on the day of Le's murder.

ABC News reported that detectives had found texts exchanged between Miss Le and Mr Clark arranging to meet on the day she disappeared. Mr Clark texted her early that morning to ask for a meeting to discuss the cleanliness of the cages of the research mice.

"Wow!" they said, "It comes as quite a surprise that this crime was not what many thought it was (including you)." The text messages seemed to prove to them that Annie Le was not targeted by a psychopath who had a thing for her, but by an employee who lost his cool because of his unhappiness with her work ethics.

So, now the motive for this brutal homicide, the strangulation of Annie Le, is supposed to be dissatisfaction with a co-worker's performance, a crime of workplace violence. I say no, it is not a matter of workplace violence and nothing else. True, there was an act of violence at the victim's place of employment (or research work), and the alleged killer was also an employee at that location, but the the issue was not about cleanliness of mice habitats nor a workplace disagreement that erupted into a violent rage. To claim this crime is workplace violence is absolutely untrue and terribly damaging to the awareness of what this crime was really about - a psychopath's rage against women, one of the most prevalent crimes in this country.

This malignant psychopathy, with females as targets is expressed in serial homicides, rapes, and domestic murder. "The bitch made me do it" is a common refrain among male psychopaths. The psychopath faults his victim for making him feel less of a man and decides she deserves punishment; or he feels society has disrespected him, and he decides to conveniently blame his failures on the women of that society. Why? Targeting someone smaller and physically weaker makes his assault easier to enact, ensures victory over the victim, and, through conquest, helps him regain his sense of importance and omnipotence.

Annie hurt Clark's ego, whether she knew it or not; "The bitch thinks she better than me, smarter than me, and she isn't even interested in me at all." Clark decided to teach Annie a lesson she would never forget (or survive). He would finally be the winner (in his own demented mind). This kind of murderer is very similar to mass murderers and serial killers in motive and psychology. They're motivated by rage, and the victim must be humbled (raped, terrified, lowered to a subservient position) and, sometimes, destroyed.

Raymond Clark was not upset over Annie's treatment of mice. He was upset over Annie Le's treatment of him. After all, if he was such an animal lover, he wouldn't choose to work in a lab that essentially harms and kills animals. It's also not reasonable that he would single out Annie Le as an "animal abuser" over all others who work in the lab. He may have texted Annie that he had an issue with her handling of the mice and requested to meet her in the lab, but this was a ruse and excuse to see her and confront her over her treatment of him.

Clark had issues with women, power and control, similar to psychopathic serial killers and rapists. He has been accused of rape by his girlfriend in high school. Neighbors says he was very controlling with his fiancée. Clark also joined an Asian club in high school. Since he is likely a psychopath, he wouldn't have joined to help the community but to find Asian women he thought would be easier to control and dominate than American-born women.

Clark likely obsessed over why (in his mind) Annie believed she was better than him just because she was a grad student and he was just a lab worker. He probably thought that was why she didn't want to date him, or talk to him, or flirt with him, or whatever. Psychopaths have ego problems and Annie likely did not feed his ego. He built a rage against her, and now that she was getting married, she really wouldn't have anything to do with him. Clark was also getting married and likely feeling pushed around by his fiancée as the wedding approached (as men usually do little of the wedding planning and women are all gung-ho in this area). This probably made him feel even more powerless (much like the Craig's List killer, Philip Markoff (pictured left), the med student who was attacking women just as he was about to walk down the aisle).

Both impending marriages may well have escalated Clark's rage at women, and he decided to go for a last-ditch attempt at proving himself with Annie. She objected to his advances or pressures, and he killed her.

This is male psychopathic violence against women that happened in the workplace, but it was not workplace violence. Raymond Clark was not upset about Annie's treatment of the mice in the lab, just the big rat (on right) in the lab that she unfortunately believed was a decent human being.


Jeannine said...

I get your argument, but the bottom line is that it DID happen in the workplace and not at home. He took out his anger on someone who was vulnerable because he had too much respect (lack of a better word) for the woman at home - for some reason one was better. The workplace puts people in a vulnerable position. You are trapped there in a sense for 8 hours. You are not going to "walk out" on an argument and take a walk around the block, or go to your mother's. You will deal with it there because that is what we do. He was not connected to her family and friends, as he was his own fiancee, and as was the Craigslist guy. Therefore she was a workplace object, not a human being to him. He had a thing about Asian women, and about women in general, but because he had an easier form for assault in the workplace he chose this destination, rather than somewhere else. It was where he was comfortable, new his bearings and could do what he wanted. We all know that sometimes peoples desks, workplace environment, cubicle becomes their domain. Their one place to take control. The one place where sometimes the power you do have goes to your head. That is why people get out of control at work. Misleading themselves. You are only looking at one side of this. We also don't know the whole story.

Pat Brown said...

I see what you are trying to say, but the definition of workplace violence takes the emphasis off of male on female violence and focuses on disagreements in the workplace escalating to violence.

This is NOT what this crime is about. I would also disagree that this was an easier place for a crime to be committed against a woman; it was a location that would narrow the suspect down and that is exactly what happened. Also, the evidence was hard to remove from the location. It is far easier to attack a woman on a path while she is jogging or grab someone in a parking lot.

This crime is about psychopathic mindsets and obsession with particular victims. This same crime could happen at a school, at a heath club (as we saw recently with the mass murder) or in a store. There is no methodology that can be used at the workplace to prevent this type of crime; no sensitivity training or mediation. The guy obsessed about Annie Le and did her in. Women need to recognize this kind of psychopath can attack anywhere.

surrey said...

This is really so scary,scary , scary......disgusting..

Suzan said...

I am in total agreement with Jeannine, I could not have said it better myself :)

Pat Brown said...

Man kills ex wife in courthouse parking lot = Courthouse Violence

Boy rapes girl in school = School Violence

Woman beaten to death behind bar by male patron = Bar Violence

Jogger slain on bike path = Park Violence

Each man had these locations as one place he met a woman, where he had a window of opportunity to kill her. The problem is not the place, but the person. The common denominator is a male psychopath who hates women and what they do to his ego.

Leah said...

I understand what you are saying Pat. I think he killed her at work because that was the only place he could. It isn't likely she would have met him anyplace else and he was very comfortable with the lab and his surroundings at work to commit the crime there. He'd probably been planning this for some time.

Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought this up, the workplace violence remark hit my ear wrong too.

Jan said...

Murder is murder. Calling it something else belittles the life that was lost. My son and grandchildren were murdered in their beds...that doesn't mean it should be labeled as only "domestic violence". I know that Murder is a word that many people don't like to use, but when one person kills another, that's what it is - murder, and nothing less. There is no "why" or "explaination" that can excuse murder. Everyone always wants a reason. That's the first thing anyone asks and that is one of my pet peeves. Murderers and defense attorneys always try to blame the victim, but no one EVER asks to be murdered. No one.

Alice said...

I've been waiting for someone to give a professional accounting for this behavior and there you were on Larry King tonight. I am following this closely as I am dealing with a "weirdo" who uses ruses to try to draw me to him right now and for the last few months. I met him at an ongoing outdoor exercise event. I mentioned I was looking for work. He began saying various things about work leads that he had (all of which went nowhere) that became increasingly bizarre. I stopped going to the exercise events and stopped answering his emails. He is persisting. I am ignoring him, but I am scared because you never know who is a simple weirdo and who is a killer. This has also happened quite a few times with these weird men. What is it with them? Why are they so frail that they feel like they need to murder to feel empowered? Is there some common demominator in how they were raised? Something in our society? Are there tips to avoid them? What is a woman to do to stay safe? I am generally friendly and maybe I should be less so. Are there any tips online? Have you written an article you could point us to?

Linda said...


Can you tell me a bit about your education and experience? How did you come up with your theory?

Women in Crime Ink said...

Dear Readers,

A comment has been removed from this post. Opposing viewpoints are welcome and encouraged here—as long as they are on topic and expressed appropriately. Generally, this leads to interesting, lively discussion. However, all reader comments that contain vulgarity, malicious personal attacks, or deliberately misleading information will be deleted. Please be advised that a WCI administrator will remove any destructive comments to this post without further notice. Thanks for your cooperation.

Women in Crime Ink

Linda said...


Does this mean you're not going to answer my honest question about your credentials and how you came about this theory?

David hogard said...

Workplace violence prevention programs can be incorporated into existing safety programs. The topic should be addressed in employee handbooks and manuals of standard operating procedure. The policy should address the company’s position on workplace violence, and set forth that all claims of violence will be investigated and remedied immediately. Supervisors should be trained to spot changes in behavior, or personality that could lead to violence. There are always warning signs that an employee is becoming unstable.