I’m sure we all remember Jill Meagher, who was was raped and murdered by a serial, violent offender who was on parole. He had been charged with an assault but his parole was not immediately revoked. Meagher was one of 3 women attacked and killed in a 6 month period by men on parole in Victoria and her case, along with that of Sarah Cafferkey and Sharon Siermans, was one referenced by a coroner who said that Meagher’s rape and murder could have been prevented. Thankfully, since Ms Meagher’s murder in 2012, Victoria has reviewed and amended their system, making it much more difficult for violent offenders to be released on parole.
Over the last few days, there has been a number of articles published in the media about the fact that a tougher parole system for violent and sexual offenders could have saved Jill Meagher. However, we can’t expect people to actually read and understand articles before sharing them, along with their insipid commentary, on social media.
Take this troglodyte, Peter, for example:
I usually try to be forgiving and balanced about many issues but comment’s like Peter’s hit a nerve every time.
A woman is raped and murdered by a serial offender. A man who has served time for more than a dozen rapes, who has even been charged with a few more since his life sentence began. A man who has absolutely no respect for the agency a woman has over her own body. A man who, if what the experts say about rape is correct, is filled with anger and desires control and power and uses rape as a way to get it. A man who callously and thoughtlessly attacked and killed a woman who was simply walking home. Yet who does Peter blame? Jill Meagher.
Peter says that he “doesn’t condone” the actions of her attacker. Do you know what I think of that?
He calls a raped and murdered woman “foolish” and says she “should have taken more care”. Unfortunately, rapists and murderers rarely do us the courtesy of indicating they are rapists and/or murderers. They don’t wear illuminated signs saying so and I’ve yet to hear of one verbally alerting passers-by. They don’t look any different to anyone else. What exactly should Jill Meagher have done to “take more care”? He did mention her marital status, so was he implying that she’s have been safer if she had her husband with her?
Hey, that may well be the case. Maybe having her husband there would have put her attacker off. Maybe he’d have raped and murdered the next woman to walk past unaccompanied instead. Is that somehow more acceptable? The thing is, Peter, all of us women are part of the community. We have the right to walk up the street, even after *GASP* having a few drinks, unmolested. This is the reason I call bullshit on Peter saying he doesn’t condone the actions of her attacker. Whether he’s conscious of this or not, he’s thrown a line in there that’s a bit like saying “no offence” after something enormously offensive. Peter implies that rape and murder is the price Jill Meagher paid for her lack of “care”; she had a few drinks and tried to walk home alone, he is “just saying” that had she been more careful, this wouldn’t have happened.
Nothing in his remarks lay any blame or responsibility on the man who made a decision to rape and murder someone.
Female victims are blamed more.
I wonder what Peter shared on Facebook when men like Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly died after random one-punch attacks? I’m sure he was horrified, like everyone else, because no doubt Peter thinks he’s a pretty decent human being. Do you think he said that they should have taken more care? Did he mention their marital status, I wonder? Did he label them foolish for going out at night and maybe having a few drinks? I doubt it, somehow. Studies show that female victims are blamed for their attacks more often than male victims. And it’s not on.
Am I being a bit rough on poor old Pete? Maybe you think so. However, Peter is just one of many people who question the behaviour of female victims of crime rather than simply holding the offender responsible. Jump into the comments section of any article on the subject of violence against women and there are people questioning the validity of a woman’s allegations. Peter is every second commentator. Peter is reading articles about domestic violence and demanding to know why a woman stayed so long, with no understanding of (or interest in) the psychological impact such abuse has on a woman. Peter is reading about sex tapes and nude pictures being sold to porn sites without the consent of the women involved and remarking that they shouldn’t have made such tapes or taken such pictures in the first place. Peter is not even close to being unique.
I have blamed the victim.
Whether the issue is a relationship that has become abusive or a random attack, the victim isn’t to blame. I have learned that through reading, through conversations and through opening my mind to the possibility that something I had previously thought wasn’t actually correct. I remember hearing stories of women who were sexually assaulted and wondering why they went to the guy’s room or why they got drunk with him or whatever. Such thoughts are indefensible. They were, however, quite in line with the thoughts and opinions of my peers. My victim-blaming thoughts were the norm, part of the internalised misogyny many (if not most) women live with to some extent. I think the last decade or so has seen a cultural shift in that many people, including myself, are recognising such thoughts for what they are. It actually took very little to open my eyes.
What did it was the idea that I should be able to walk down the street stark naked and no one should actually lay a finger on me without my consent.
It’s a strange thing, to realise that you can and should be able to exist and remain completely unmolested. Revolutionary. No one has the right to touch you if you wear shorts. No one should be groping you if you’ve had too much to drink. No one should be forcing you to do anything at all against your wishes. And that all people should have those same rights.
It didn’t take much to open my eyes, but I am female and previously held myself to this same ridiculous standard. If some random guy grabbed my arse in a club, at the time I would put it down to the skin tight pants I was wearing. Putting it down to his disrespect for me as a person? That didn’t occur to me for a long time. But honestly, I’m done patiently explaining this concept. There’s no excuse for it any more. There is a plethora of articles online, freely available, that explain what victim blaming is. It’s a term that has been in the mainstream media many times. It’s not a fringe idea or an abstract concept that no one refers to. It’s not something that is at all difficult to find information on. If someone accuses you of victim blaming and you have never, ever heard the term, google can provide you over a million results in under a second.
It’s not my job to be a patient teacher to the Peters of the world. Nor is it anyone else’s. Peter and those like him need to take on a bit of that personal responsibility they are so fond of and indulge in a little self-reflection. Stop blaming women who are attacked and instead hold their attackers to account, because while you blame the victim, you excuse the attacker, no matter what you intend. And when you excuse the attacker, you reinforce the idea that men simply cannot help their behaviour. When you engage in victim blaming, everyone loses.
#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.