Did you hear that recently, a Catholic priest spoke to his congregation in Melbourne and made particular reference to the murder of Jill Meagher?
This priest said that Ms Meagher was not “faith-filled” enough and had she been, she would have been at home in her bed, not walking down Sydney Road at 3 am. Apparently, Catholic people don’t have nights out. Or have the ability to see the future and avoid trouble. Or something.
I am glad to hear that the Church has condemned this atrociously inappropriate exercise in victim blaming.What I’m not glad about is the story of yet another person who has a platform to address and influence others perpetuating the idea that a person is somehow responsible for their own attacks.
Jill Meagher committed no crime when she decided to walk home at night. Her faith had nothing to do with it and if faith prevented sexual attacks from taking place, can I just point out that the Catholic Church itself would have a much better image than it currently does!
The reason Jill Meagher was attacked, raped and murdered is because Adrian Bayley decided to attack, rape and murder her. The reason he was able to do so was not because of Jill Meagher’s faith levels, the time of night or anything else she had control over- it was because he was at liberty to do so. Bayley has over 20 rape convictions behind him and was on bail for a number of violent sexual assaults when he attacked and killed Jill Meagher. He was free to re-offend thanks to the failings of our legal system. As Clementine Ford points out, the real tragedy in Bayley’s case is how easily it could have been avoided had he been dealt with seriously by the courts. Victim blaming is as senseless in this case as it is in any other.
If it’s not walking at night, is it clothing?
How many times have you seen, heard or read some inference that a woman must dress a certain way to avoid being harassed, assaulted or attacked in some way? This idea is as ridiculous and sexist as they come and is offensive to both men and women.
For example, have you heard that a number of American schools have banned or are trying to ban the wearing of leggings? Recently, one school called them “provocative” and “too distracting” for male students and teachers. Yes, teachers- grown adults– are apparently “easily distracted” by the clothing of the children in their care. If I was a male teacher, I’d feel pretty damn offended by the inference there; that men have uncontrollable and indecent indecent urges towards females- even children! And “provocative” is just another word being used to pin responsibility to young women for someone else’s behaviour. This other school told it’s grade 6 students that wearing leggings could lead to boys touching their bottoms!
I can’t help but wonder if these schools have taken certain factors into account at all. If you address a school and tell girl students that their clothing may cause boy students to sexually assault them- this sends a message to these 11 and 12 year old girls. It initiates them into their roles as the gatekeepers of male sexuality; they must dress and act a certain way because apparently possession of a a penis equates to a total lack of self-control and no sense of right and wrong. As if that weren’t bad enough, what does this tell the boys? That they aren’t accountable for their own actions. That they are not expected to be able to control their sexual urges. That sexual assault is something caused by the victim and not the perpetrator. Way to set up a society where victim blaming becomes the norm.
(As an aside, seeing this perverse attitude to pants almost makes one understand the American blogger whose “no-leggings to prevent male lust” vow went viral!)
Clothing is no more responsible for sexual assault or violence than walking at night is. Walking in a park is not the cause of assault. Having a few drinks is not the cause of attacks. And as we all know, not leaving your house is certainly no guarantee of safety from violence- statistically, the opposite is true.
We know it’s a huge problem and we know we have many obstacles to overcome. Prevention is key, as is dealing with existing offenders in a more expedient and efficient manner. NSW has now got a dedicated minister to address this in the form of Pru Goward and she has already said her focus will be prevention- hopefully this includes preventing offenders from being able to re-offend by an overhaul of how the courts deal with these matters.
I think a long term focus must be on the dialogue we have with our kids at home and in schools. Our young men should not be taught that they aren’t responsible for their actions. Our young women should not be taught that they must manage the behaviour of men. I’ve been reading a lot about intimate partner violence, lately, and violence against women in general. I’ve written a lot of my thoughts down here and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get me down. So when I stumbled on this gem, I felt a real ray of hope for the future. I felt like someone had started something and that it might well snowball. I got the good kind of chills and a big grin. Basically, a group of 11 and 12 year old boys from Bankstown Public School have written and performed a song called “We All Say No” which is an anti-violence rap and it’s catchy as hell.
Take 5 minutes to have a look- you won’t regret it:
It’s just one song and one group of students (that I know of) but it’s a start!
Linked up with Sonia Styling for Weekend Rewind