RIP Jill Meagher – let’s teach our sons not to attack women

A missing poster for Jill Meagher.

Once it became public that Brunswick woman Jill Meagher was missing, several women began posting on Facebook about scary experiences they’d had in Brunswick.

One of these women was writer and social commentator Catherine Deveny, who mentioned an incident that took place in Brunswick several months ago when a man tried to pull her off her bike.

Deveny responded on Facebook to criticism that she hadn't reported the incident to the police by saying: “People wondering why women like me have not reported 'near misses' don't realise how much unwanted crap women/girls deal with all the time.”

After the tragic discovery of Meagher’s body, Radio 2GB radio hosts Steve Price and Andrew Bolt attacked Deveny as being in some way responsible for Meagher's rape and murder because she did not report her near-attack. “If she [Deveny] had gone to the police in the first place,” said Price, “this might not have happened.”

Deveny responded on Facebook: “I think I have never heard such despicable bullshit in my life ... It's not enough we blame the victim, now it's OK to blame the rapist/murderer's previous victims for his future crimes.”

Deveny published a letter from a woman called Collette, which outlined some of her many experiences of sexual harassment, starting from when she was a little girl.

Collette concluded: “I can’t imagine being taken seriously if I had reported any of these ‘incidences’, and that is part of the problem, it should all be taken seriously because it is all serious and disturbing and heartbreakingly terribly, terribly common.”

The Herald Sun has publish a couple of victim-blaming articles. One article referred to Meagher and her husband as loving “partying” and another article chastised Meagher for walking home on a dark street.

On September 24, 3AW shock jock Neil Mitchell said he hoped Meagher might have been “off partying somewhere, [because] judging from her Facebook page she likes a good party”.

Writer Clementine Ford poured ridicule on Mitchell and various internet trolls, in her column in Daily Life, for lecturing women that they bring attacks on themselves if they go out late at night drinking.

But compared with other cases of women going missing, there has been surprisingly little mainstream media criticism of Meagher for “asking for it” by being out late at night and walking home alone.

When women who are sex workers – or are promiscuous, or are not in stable relationships – go missing there is usually widespread victim-blaming in the mainstream media.

Since the terrible discovery of Meagher’s body, opposition leader Tony Abbott and the police have called for the widespread installation of CCTV cameras, given the role of CCTV footage in the identification of a suspect in the case.

However, more CCTV cameras are not the solution. The huge majority of sexual and physical assaults of women take place in the home by someone known to the victim. The underlying issue is the social acceptance of harassment and violence against women, in public or in the home.

The most public examples of this are the women who hang out with footballers and are sexually assaulted or raped. Sexual assault is widely excused if the woman is perceived as having been drunk and/or flirtatious.

The best way to protect women is to combat the social acceptance that sexual assault is OK if a woman has had a few drinks or is flirtatious.

Women in Brunswick have responded positively to the fear that has been generated by Meagher’s disappearance. They are planning to defy the fear, and assert that women have a right to feel safe to walk on the streets, with a Reclaim the Night Sydney Road march.

As one Facebook post said: “Rest in peace Jill Meagher. I hope your legacy is an Australia where we teach our sons not to attack women, not one where we teach our daughters to fear life.”

Comments

Sexual assault is the most under reported crime in Australia and there is a reason for it - the total bias of our justice system, reflecting a deep seated sexism in society. The majority of sexual assault is perpetrated by men and by somebody know to the victim. Domestic violence has driven up crime statistics in Victoria significantly but we still have a completely inadequate response to this epidemic. (http://www.fclc.org.au/cb_pages/news/family-violence-crime-stats.php)
In Victoria, violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness of women aged 15 to 44 years with one in three women experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

What does this tell us? That sexism and misogyny start at home. As long as society finds it acceptable, justifiable and excusable that husbands, boyfriends, uncles, fathers and friends assault and rape and kill their 'loved' ones, strangers will be out there doing the same.

A few years ago, I was having a late night walk around my suburb after a long day of study to clear my head. My suburb has a reputation for being a 'safe' suburb and I have often walked around late at night and early in the morning without feeling unsafe. On this particular night, I went to turn down a street on my way back home I got approached by a stranger whose car was parked awkwardly and doors were open. He approached me from behind large trees that obscured my view of him and his car. He came at me from no where with his arms out stretched, went to grab me. I had my keys in my hand and pushed at him and yelled at him to get away from me. I don't know if I hit him, but I startled him enough that he made a hasty escape, got back in his car and sped off in the opposite direction. Scared and rattled I walked back on to the main street and a couple heard the yelling and calmed me down and helped me hail a taxi to the nearest police station to report it. When I reported it to the police, I got told by the woman taking my statement that she had looked up my file and seen that I had been the victim of twelve years of abuse as a child. She also suggested that given this abuse I might have been imagining things and that also given this abuse that I "should have known better to walk around late at night on a dark street". I have never felt so gutted and humiliated in my life. I chose to report because a) it was an frightening thing to have happened, and I was not to know if this man had a habit of this horrific behaviour (i.e. that he had done it to others, or may do it again) and b) after the years of violence I experienced where I was silenced, I came to believe that it was better to speak out. I have heard many similar stories about near misses where the police have not cared less and have put the onus of responsibility back on the person reporting the incident for should have had knowing better.

"more CCTV cameras are not the solution" - Bullshit. An unknown man had assaulted my girlfriend several times while I was out. Since installing CCTV cameras at my house he hasn't dared to try it again.

Abbott thinks he can clear his name with this political stunt. He's barely human. Many people die daily and only this caught his snake instinct because of the publicity around Meagher's murder and Abbott's recent reminder that women voters don't like him. Well Abbott, as you've said before, you'll do anything to get the top job. You're despicable. No better than your mate Jones.

Spread through the last 7 or 8 comments on one of the IA articles, is info on the Claremont killings, and the cover-up that is still going on. The story indicates, among other things, just how bent some of the judiciary are – and why Victorian Police may have been reluctant to move on the myriad of attempted assaults and complaints in Brunswick.

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/business/media-2/jill-meagher-a...

I admit in the long term the elimination of misogyny is better but in the short term CCTV cameras will have to do as they can be done overnight, the former will take time. But that's not to say it shouldn't happen, it should.

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