Vanessa Di Grazia
Over the weekend, Courtney Herron’s brutalised body was found in Royal Park. As the third body discovered on Melbourne’s streets this year, it’s becoming a bit of a pattern.
Assistant Police Commissioner Luke Cornelius said 'The key point is this is about men’s behaviour, not about women’s behaviour. Every time I hear about a woman being attacked - for me as a man - it gives me some pause for reflection about what it is in our community that makes men think it’s OK to attack women, or to take what they want from women.’ A vast improvement from the words of the former Police Commissioner, who after the 2015 murder of teenager Masa Vukotic said ‘I suggest to people, particularly females, [that] they shouldn’t be alone in parks. We encourage females to walk together [and take] reasonable precautions.'
A quick scroll through the comments section of any article on the murder sees an endless repetition of 'NOT ALL MEN!! MEN ARE MURDERED TOO!!'. I'm not saying these people are wrong. It definitely is not all men, and men are murdered too. In fact, these people are absolutely spot on in trying to draw a comparison between the outrage over Courtney's death and the violent deaths faced by men. Men's bodies are more likely than women's to turn up on the streets as the casualties of violent crime.
However, although these comments are designed to criticise and discredit the women's rights movement, the facts that inspire them only prove its validity. Disturbingly, women's bodies are rarely found on the streets because they are more likely to die in a supposedly safe space many men take for granted - the home.
While Courtney's was the third body to be found in Melbourne's public this year, she was the 20th woman to be killed since January.
These women are not some faraway figure you are not connected to. 1 in3 women have experienced family violence. It is prevalent across our society, in every economic and social class. These women are your friends, your cousins and the people you went to highschool with. They're people that have a favourite restaurant and songs that remind them of each other. They're your doctor, your accountant, the lady that ran the milk bar next to your old house. You know these women. You are these women.
You also know the men that perpetrate this violence. Most men are decent, morally righteous people that care deeply for the women in their life and respect their communities. However, we cannot ignore the fact that 95% of all violence is perpetrated by men. So yes, it's not all men - but it is a lot of them. There are not many men that would bash a woman they barely know to death in a park, but there are plenty that would do it to their girlfriends. Every three hours a woman is hospitalised by a partner.
Men do suffer from family violence. Tragically, it is harder for men to access support to family violence services, as the system is structured to reach out to women. Yet men that experience family violence are far more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of other men. Men experience family violence at lower rates; with women are 8x more likely to experience sexual violence, and 3x more likely to experience other kinds of family violence. Violence against men is an important issue, but if the only time it is discussed is in a bid to move the conversation away from women, it doesn't help anyone.
Most women aren't dying in parks at the hands of strangers, they're dying in their homes at the hands of someone they loved and trusted. These attacks rarely make the news - they happen too often and they are too common. But why do we find it so much more horrific when an attack is random? Isn't the fact that some men feel such entitlement over their partners or daughters that they literally end their lives much worse?
It's all good and well to cry tragedy and air our disgust on social media, but if every woman is forgotten about until the next, we are hypocrites. We must be constantly examining the societal norms that create these men that think it's okay to kill us. A recent ANROWS survey found that 43% of young men support the statement ‘I think it’s natural for a man to want to appear in control of his partner in front of his male friends’, and one in seven believe a man would be justified to force sex if the woman initiated it, but then changed her mind and pushed him away. This entitlement to women's bodies and lives forms a dangerous societal relationship between men and women. Without a general principle of mutual respect, how can we expect it not to manifest into violence?