By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the horrific murder of 17 year old Masa Vukotic just a short distance from her home while walking in a park in the evening. Like everyone that heard about it, I felt absolutely sick to the stomach just thinking about it and heartbroken for her family and friends.
Then I felt a tired, familiar rage come over me as I read what the homicide squad boss Detective Inspector Hughes, from the Victorian Police, had to say. His message was that women are not safe in parks. I don’t think Detective Inspector Hughes is intentionally meaning to blame the victim here. I think he’s probably at a loss.
All too often, we hear of violent criminals committing terrible crimes and soon after it comes to light that they were on bail or had a string of offenses behind them.
Our legal system is letting us down. Our legal system is not keeping us safe. And it is from within one echelon of this system that Detective Inspector Hughes is speaking. They do find and charge criminals but they are just one part of the legal machine. They are tasked with keeping our streets safe but the revolving doors of this legal system lets them out again.
Criminals with histories of violence and sexual violence are walking the streets, free to commit more violent crimes. Look at Adrian Bayley, convicted of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, with a long history of rape and violence behind him. The man responsible for the Lindt Cafe siege, Man Haron Monis, was on bail after being charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex wife and also had been charged with more than 40 counts of sexual assault. That’s just two examples of many.
I’m sure we all remember the massive changes implemented as a measure against king hit attacks, renamed “coward punches” by the media. These attacks have taken just over 90 lives since the year 2000. In response, there have been changes to laws including 8 year minimum mandatory sentences and huge changes to laws around licensed premises and drinking in Sydney.
Women, however, are still dying and at an increasing rate. Domestic or intimate partner violence rates are now closer to 2 women, every week being killed by a partner or former partner. Sexual assaults against Australian women by perpetrators who are not partners is almost at double the global average rate. Destroy the Joint is again counting dead women- women killed by violence- and has 2015’s total at 24 to date. 24 women in less than three months. In 2014 that total was 84 women. In comparison, “coward punches” claimed 91 lives in over 10 years.
When will women stop being blamed, even inadvertently, for their attacks?
Because even if he didn’t mean to, that’s what Detective Inspector Hughes has done. “Women are not safe in parks.” So a woman who dares walk through the park is placing herself in harms way? Just one of the problems with that mindset is the fact that women are statistically most at risk in their own homes from their own partners or ex partners. Which is it? Don’t go outside, you risk being attacked? Or is it Don’t stay home, you risk being attacked?
For the record, if someone assaults you, in any way, shape or form- it is not your fault. Not one fucking bit. Your clothes aren’t the cause of assault. What you drink or where you walk is not the cause of assault. None of that crap they pin on victims of violent crimes is real- it’s a smokescreen. What causes violence against women is a toxic culture around the way women are viewed and objectified and disadvantaged and dehumanised in so many aspects of our society.
The whole situation is utterly fucked. Our whole culture needs to shift. Our lawmakers and legal system need to be able to properly address what is already happening as a part of that cultural shift. We can help address this in the way we raise our boys but it needs to go further than that. Perpetrators of violence against women deserve stronger penalties. Protection orders need to be worth more than the paper they are written on. Governments need to do more than talk and wring their hands and reinstate (and INCREASE) funding they have cut from refuges and legal services. Laws need to change. And good men need to get on board and be part of the conversation because saying nothing, frankly, is part of the problem.
I’m frustrated and angry at the lack of action. When Thomas Kelly was killed in a by a random punch from a stranger, his family campaigned for a change to the laws around such attacks. His mother, Kathy Kelly, was reported to have said the following after her son’s killer was initially sentenced to a minimum of 4 years in prison:
“How many boys or how many of our children have to die before somebody does something to change these laws to make people accountable for what they do?”
I don’t disagree that something had to be done about one-punch attacks. But I admit, I’m at an absolute loss as to why nothing seems to be being done about violence against women. To paraphrase Kathy Kelly’s simple yet eloquent question:
How many women have to die before somebody does something to change these laws and make people accountable for what they do?
When will violence against women be treated as the national emergency that it is?
Linked up with Calm to Conniption for The Ultimate Rabbit Hole