Woman Set on Fire Outside Strip Club

I really wish that I knew what to say, and I just don’t:

Shortly after 1:30 a.m., 22-year-old Nathaniel Petrillo and 27-year-old Rianne Therialut-Odom allegedly called the unidentified dancer outside the Babes and Beer nightclub in Tarzana to meet with them. For unknown reasons, they poured a combustible liquid on her and set her ablaze. She then ran back inside the bar where people came to her aid.

The dancer is now listed in grave condition with severe burns over 60 percent of her body. The suspects took off in a metallic gold in color newer model four door sedan, police said.

In another article, police suggest (I think rather insensitively and hopefully not prophetically) that the two suspects may end up being charged with murder. Apparently the woman’s condition is just that critical.

I think that abbeyjean said it well with her apparently needed reminded that women who work in strip clubs are PEOPLE, not firewood. If only more of us could remember that, as well as the fact that this is where misogyny and hatred and marginalization of sex workers leads us.

My thoughts are with the woman who suffered this horrendous attack, and I hope with all my heart that she makes a recovery.  If you’re someone who prays, now would probably be a good time.

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54 comments for “Woman Set on Fire Outside Strip Club

  1. February 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    and sometimes, somebody does something so horrible, i find that i can still be shocked.

  2. February 5, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    all i can do is pray — for justice, for the loving care of her children, and that if she passes on that she does so peacefully and with dignity.

  3. February 5, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    …oh my god.

    women who work in strip clubs are PEOPLE, not firewood.

    The fact that anyone would actually have to say that makes me want to quit life.

  4. Kristen (The J one)
    February 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    What Jill said.

  5. February 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    The fact that anyone would actually have to say that makes me want to quit life.

    i totally agree – especially as we in LA JUST caught the guy who set fire to a homeless man who burned to death a few months ago. this trend of setting people on fire has got to fucking stop. now.

  6. February 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Ho.Ly. Shit.

  7. February 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I agree with everything that abbeyjean said here:

    women who work in strip clubs are PEOPLE, not firewood.
    people who live on the streets are PEOPLE, not firewood.
    any other person who engages in conduct that you don’t like is still a PERSON, not firewood.

    … but on the other hand, it looks like the man & woman who set this dancer on fire were regulars at the club where she worked. That doesn’t really sound like they disapproved of her dancing.

    The distinction is important because harassment and violence that disproportionately affects some groups of people (sex workers, poor folks, PoCs) doesn’t necessarily happen because one or two people don’t like those people, but very commonly because entire communities are marginalized and affected by all sorts of other contributing problems.

    Also, I can’t find where the cops suggested that the suspects will be charged with murder? Attempted murder is mentioned, which makes sense even if she lives — it’s still attempted murder. Hopefully, and hopefully for her family and children, she will live.

    The unemployed barber who set the homeless guy on fire, on the other hand, may have done so because he hated homeless people. Bastard.

  8. kb
    February 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    It’s true that I don’t see any quotes about being charged with murder. but, if death results from this, why is it insensitive to call it murder? that’s exactly what they tried to do. I feel that lighting someone who works in a strip club on fire is just as much of a crime as lighting someone else on fire. so I’m a little confused there. This all has to be hypothetical until they know how the woman will or won’t be able to recover, but still.

  9. February 5, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Holly, you seem to be right. One of two possibilities seems to have happened. 1. In being very upset over this case, I somehow drastically misread something or 2. in being very upset over this case, I somehow completely misplaced an additional article which has the relevant quote . . . which I really do seem to remember quite vividly. I’m not sure what happened, but I’ve crossed out this part of the post.

    KB, my point was that if she’s still alive, saying that a murder charge might come about would be insensitive by suggesting that she was going to die. But either I’ve lost the quote or completely imagined the whole thing, apparently, so it’s ultimately irrelevant in either case.

  10. February 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    When I read this, my immediate impulse is to find these monsters put them in a cell with a 300 lb. serial rapist for life.

    Then, I think about that dancer and the absolutely undeserved horror of her life from that moment until even now. No one deserves that.

    I ask myself, who can I be in my life that will make this happen less? What shall I do to help fashion a society that does not vilify or mutilate women, gays, children and anyone physically smaller or in some way weaker than grown men filled with rage, alcohol and ignorance?

    I look at my daughter and ask myself what lessons can I teach her about life and love that include awareness of this horror, without making seem like there is only horror?

    I don’t have the answers, only the questions.


  11. Kristin
    February 5, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Oh my fucking god. This is awful. Thanks, Holly, for providing clarification. And, this, what Jill said:

    “The fact that anyone would actually have to say that makes me want to quit life.”

    Me too.

  12. BruceJ
    February 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    No, you didn’t lose something, The original link went to a news report where a police spokesman in Tarzana said that her condition was grave and that the two suspects “…may ultimately face murder charges.”

    Since the original link is now gone and ^@%@$ NetNewsWire doesn’t have a history for me to look at the article, I suspect that if it’s not in that link now, the original source has retconned it out of existence, the bane of the web

    Here is a link to a news article with the statement.

    I don’t think that it was that insensitive, more inarticulate.

  13. February 5, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    horrible. i can’t understand the level of hatred that would make someone want to burn another alive. i feel truly sad that these women often have to face significant danger every day and every night to make a living. i’m just saying…we’d have a pretty pent up, and even more violent, country without sex workers, yet people continue to disrespect and degrade them as less than human.

    prayers and peace for this sister and her family.

  14. February 5, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks for the link Bruce. I’m terribly confused, but I have edited the post again, for hopefully the last time, to unstrike the previously crossed out area, and put the link (yours) back into it.

  15. February 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    That’s horrible. My heart goes out to that woman and I wish her a good recovery. And also what Jill said.

  16. denelian
    February 5, 2009 at 8:07 pm


    seriously. what the hell was the POINT?

    (also. i used to be a Domme, in a BDSM show, and i lit people on fire. ina very small and controlled way, and i had it done to me before i did it to ANY one else, and it was not hot because of what we used and it never hurt anyone, it was actually very relaxing and nice. to i am EXTRA pissed off at this crime.
    not only is it BEYOND senseless and fucking despicable. not only is it totally inhumane and cruel beyond words. not only was it arrogant and destructive, and this poor woman has lost AT A MINIMUM her livelihood and is going to hav horrible horrible pain that i can empathize with. but on top of the horrible fucked-uped-ness, i have to worry – did my show contribute to this? i hope that this question is understood here. i guess that it does seem a little selfish, but it was my third or fourth thought – after i could get around the rage, that id – and it went like this: *incoherent rage*; that poor woman, if she doesn’t die she is going to suffer for the rest of her life and i know chronic pain and *incoherent rage*; what kind of fucked up person DOES something like this? why would they do this? its fucking PSYCHO *incoherent rage*; omfg. did these fuckers see my show and think that what they were doing was THE SAME? is this, even partially, my fault? did i encourage this, ignorantly, with my fire show? HOW THE FUCK COULD THOSE BASTARDS THINK THIS WAS OK TO DO!?!?)

  17. NancyP
    February 6, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Half to three-quarters of those with 60% third degree burns will die of the burns.

  18. February 6, 2009 at 5:48 am

    The entirety of my comments are quoted as follows:

    “Fucking why?”

    That said, regardless of the circumstances, this:

    When I read this, my immediate impulse is to find these monsters put them in a cell with a 300 lb. serial rapist for life.

    still isn’t cool.

  19. February 6, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Monsters. And check this out, ya’ll – one of the attackers is a woman.

  20. February 6, 2009 at 5:51 am

    (I originally heard it was two men)

  21. Endor
    February 6, 2009 at 8:46 am

    W.T.F. Shocked and horrified are too small to describe what I feel. People are #&%^@)O# sick.

  22. February 6, 2009 at 9:21 am

    That said, regardless of the circumstances, this:

    When I read this, my immediate impulse is to find these monsters put them in a cell with a 300 lb. serial rapist for life.

    still isn’t cool.

    Thank you for saying that, Ryan. Because it’s definitely not cool.

  23. Evie
    February 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

    “And check this out, ya’ll – one of the attackers is a woman.”

    Why should it be surprising that one of the attackers happens to be female?

    Misogyny is internalised to a greater or lesser extent by all women, which leads to women being victimised not just by men but by women as well. In just the same way as racism is internalised e.g. the prejudice against darker-skinned people amongst some African-Americans.

    Obviously, setting someone on fire is an extreme example, but the involvement of a woman shouldn’t surprise us any more than the involvement of a man. The female perpetrator does not have more responsibility for this crime than the male perpetrator simply because she shares the victim’s gender.

  24. shah8
    February 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Was my comment too sad? I was thinking about Sati.

  25. February 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Shah8, I personally found your comment flippant, inappropriate for the serious subject matter, and adding nothing to the conversation, and therefore made the decision to remove it.

  26. February 6, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    …oh my god.

    women who work in strip clubs are PEOPLE, not firewood.

    The fact that anyone would actually have to say that makes me want to quit life.

    I second that.

  27. shah8
    February 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Ok, your board, your rules.
    /me shrugs

    I disagree with your description of what I said. I was, however, trying to be concise, so…

    Tho’ saying that I was flippant raises my eyebrows. As I said before, I wrote that in a spirit of resigned sadness about the nature of human beings.

    Do you seriously think that this stripper was the *only* stripper or woman burned to death because she’s a sexually available/tarnished woman? Just in the US and not worldwide? The notoriety was in the openness and aggravated nature of the act, not the act of burning women itself. Do you seriously think that, given the way I spoke in Jill‘s thread about justice in Iran, that I would be flippant about burning women? I’d like just a bit more credit for my sensibilities than that.

    As (probably)you know and I know, many people have killed women for the sexual being of women. It’s just so damned deeply ingrained. I spoke about fire being a bonus in the sense that fire so rapidly speak to our destructive natures. It’s not just in Hindi culture with Sati. This lust is even in Leviticus, specifically Leviticus 21:9. It goes back way before ancient jews, and it will be a struggle to stop it from continuing way into our future.

    quickie link:

  28. February 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Do you seriously think that, given the way I spoke in Jill’s thread about justice in Iran, that I would be flippant about burning women?

    I would certainly hope not, Shah8, but it’s also certainly how I read it. I apologize if I read it wrong. That being said, a lot of the comments you’ve left here in the past and the fact that we’ve had to put you on moderation mean that no, I do not always view your comments in good faith. So I guess you are in fact up against that bias. And that constitutes the entirety of what I have to say on the subject.

  29. February 7, 2009 at 2:36 am

    looks like its a bad week to be living while female (link may trigger! warning!)


  30. February 7, 2009 at 6:31 am

    women who work in strip clubs are PEOPLE, not firewood.

    While this is true, I think you’re making an unwarrented assumption. There’s no evidence that this attack had anything at all to do with her stripping, per se. It seems to have been the result of a personal vandetta, that could just as easily have happened if she had worked at McDonalds or Walmart.

  31. February 7, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I agree with the above poster who mentioned that the odds are low that this happened because the people in question hated her for being a stripper. A lot of the violence strippers have to deal with isn’t the type where somebody hurts them for just being strippers- a huge amount of it is due to the fact that strippers are extremely low in socioeconomic status, often doing things which are technically illegal to make mountains of money for other people. Through no fault of their own, this makes many of them poorer, more likely to do drugs, more open to abuse by cops and their rich bosses, more likely to have mental problems, and more likely to interact with explosively violent people who also have mental problems.

    (Note: I’m trying to critique the effect of poor work and societal conditions on the well-being of most strippers, not critique their character.)

    What I’m trying to say is that this almost certainly happened due to our society’s low valuation of strippers, but to say that it happened because the individuals who set her on fire objected to her job choice is almost certainly wrong, in a pretty obvious way. These people were regulars who knew her personally. People who set their acquaintances on fire almost always have primary motivations other than that acquaintance’s job, even people who set their stripper acquaintances on fire.

  32. Bitter Scribe
    February 8, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    A long time ago, I read a feature in (I think) the Wall St. Journal that described a limo service that specialized in driving strippers home. Apparently it was the only way for them not to get attacked in the parking lot.


  33. February 9, 2009 at 2:23 am

  34. February 9, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Evie, I don’t think she deserves more scorn or hate or anything of the sort – and equal amount of scorn and hate, please – but it IS interesting that in the e-mails I received about this originally stated that the attack was carried out by two men.

  35. February 9, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Oopsies. It should be an “an” not an “and” up there.

  36. Interrobang
    February 9, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I have some second-hand experience with bad burns — a friend of mine was in a terrible fire and suffered structural second-degree burns (the worst second-degree burns you can have without actually having third-degree burns) over 60% of his body. If this woman survives, she’s looking at easily three to four months in hospital at minimum, a high probability of several iatrogenic infections (my friend got C. difficile in his intestines), long-term blood pressure, vision, and mobility impairments, and likely a period of several years of life-threatening health episodes every four to six months or so.

    My friend wound up with about $750 000 in hospital bills. If there is any way of locating the woman and taking up a collection for her, now is the time.

  37. Suki T
    February 9, 2009 at 11:13 am

    My friend formerly was employed at the establisment mentioned. This is not the first fire issue they have faced. When she worked there someone set fire to the whole place. She knew both women involved well. The victim was a single mom of two boys.

    I think that to some extent the fact that she was a stripper had alot to do with the kind of attack she was victim to. Strippers are seen as disposable in our society, and even though the perps were regulars at the strip club, that doesn’t mean they fully accept the women there as full human beings. If she was a checker at Walmart, she might have been more likely to be beaten up. But because she was “beautiful” and made money off of that, she was disfigured by fire. If she survives, she will never be able to seek employment in her chosen field, and most people will never find her sexually attractive again.

  38. stripper bitch
    February 9, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Dear Holly,

    When I stripped I can’t count how many men and women came into the club- REGULARLY- who hated strippers, thought we were subhuman and treated us horridly.

    I’m sorry to tell you, the fact that they went to the cub often doesn’t make thme sex worker advocates.

  39. February 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm


    I am simply…..speechless. In rage, horror, and anger.

    This is exactly why I am a sexual rights activist, a socialist, and a pro-sex progressive.

    Because this world is sick enough, repressive enough, and sex-negative enough that a stripper can be burned nearly to death for no other reason than her occupation. Or…for simply being her own sexual self.

    (Yes, there may be other ulterior motives for this act of murder, I know….but how many Walmart stockers or people greeters or cashiers are targeted with disfiguring??)

    Until this Goddess damn society gets over the notion that strippers, sex workers, and sexual women are anything less than full HUMAN frakin’ BEINGS worthy of respect, dignity, and autonomy, we’ll continue to have incidents like this.

    But pontification is not the main need here…support, comfort, and thoughts and prayers for the victim and her family is right now.


  40. ripley
    February 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Just because people patronise strip clubs doesn’t mean they don’t hate strippers or think they are less than human. Some might suggest that attending strip clubs is a sign of the same – (paying for a sexual experience with a woman doesn’t signal to me that someone has respect for women as humans– otherwise why not go through regular human interactions until you get to the point you can have a sexualized experience with a women because she actually wants to without being paid?).

    This is what patriarchy is all about – it is entirely possible for lust, desire, and paid-for-sexual-experiences to coincide with and even reinforce hatred and dehumanization.

    and yes, where can we help with her medical bills?

  41. dave
    March 17, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    it is very hartbreaking to read this sort of thing! i truely hope the assholes who done this gets whats comeing to them! i am a praying person and her recovery will be in my prayers! it is a very sick world and full of hate! but i know i do not need to mention that!

  42. ellen99
    April 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you Ryan and Cara.

  43. ellen99
    April 13, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    “When I read this, my immediate impulse is to find these monsters put them in a cell with a 300 lb. serial rapist for life.” Yes, because more violence is always the answer.

  44. peaches
    August 5, 2009 at 4:33 am

    It really bothers me when people think of strippers as people with mental problems, violent, druggies etc. As someone mentioned above. I’ve been stripping for 5yrs now and yes there’s plenty of girls that do drink and do drugs but there’s also plenty who have never even smoked weed b4 believe it or not! Half of them have regular jobs n go to school. Some are even finished with school but still choose to strip cause the money is good.we make more in one night than most average peeps make in a week. And whoever mentioned that they r more likley to be poor…I’m laughing, I know a shit load of strippers and they’re smart with their money, own homes some even own stocks. Also I’d like to mention is that for as long as I’ve been dancing I’ve never once done anything more than dance such as sex or any other sexual activities in all my 5yrs of dancing. Shit I know lots of girls who are not strippers that are ten times worse!!!

  45. london
    August 9, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    it is sad but one must understand that it happens all to offten, I have worked with in the clubs for 21 years and have wached as the woman i worked with have lost there lifes, and untill some one stands up it will keep happening, we will keep our sister in our payers. I for one have have desided to stand and be heard a voice of all who can not speak out, in my book stiletto diears. please remember toghther we can put a stop to all the volince. by trying to get some of the laws changed. peac be with her family

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