Why Is Annie Le’s Murder Being Called “Workplace Violence”?

We’ve been following the story of Annie Le, the Yale grad student who went missing on Sept. 8, days before her impending wedding. Her murder is beyond sad: The body of Le, who was killed by “traumatic asphixia” or strangling, was found inside a wall in the lab where she worked — found on the day she’d planned to marry her fianceé, Jonathan Widawsky, on Long Island. Yesterday, police arrested Yale lab technician, Raymond Clark III, after his DNA matched samples taken from where Le’s body was found and swipe cards proved he had been in lab rooms at the same time as Le. Clark’s bond has been set at $3 million.

Le was not sexually assaulted before her death, the New Haven Police Chief stated yesterday, which is an oddly consoling bit of information. But what I don’t understand is why police are calling it “workplace violence,” which has been referred to in the New York Post as “work rage.” (USA Today referred to it as “workplace violence” as well.)

“Work rage”? What the hell is “work rage”? That makes it sound like Clark was just some fussy jerk who had a temper tantrum. (Every office has one of those!) But this wasn’t just a temper tantrum. Allegedly, Clark killed her. Calling Le’s murder the result of “work rage” just sounds wrong, as if that label is a way to create a legitimate motive. But labeling motives reminds one of those two men who murdered Matthew Shepherd, the gay man in Laramie, Wyoming. They tried to explain why they killed Shepherd by saying they had “gay panic.” Frisky blogger Kate even pointed out to me that sometimes when a husband or boyfriend kills the woman he is with, we still call the murder “domestic violence,” as though he just slapped her. My personal suspicion is that perhaps Yale University, in whose lab Le was killed, wants to brand the murder (for lack of a better word) as “work rage” so the incident doesn’t reflect badly upon them.

Still, doesn’t a cutesy little label give legitimacy to a motivation that should never be considered legitimate? True, calling a murder “domestic violence,” “work rage” or “gay panic” may help us as a society zero in on areas where we need more sensitivity. But when a young man’s fianceé is killed one week before they’d planned to marry, who really cares what the reason was?