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RIP Jill Meagher: but let’s not forget the other female victims of violence

The outpouring of emotion for murdered Irish woman Jill Meagher was intense and genuine. But why don’t we see similar displays for all female victims of violence? In Melbourne, an estimated 30,000 people…

People march through Brunswick in Melbourne after the murder of Jill Meagher. AAP

The outpouring of emotion for murdered Irish woman Jill Meagher was intense and genuine. But why don’t we see similar displays for all female victims of violence?

In Melbourne, an estimated 30,000 people walked along Sydney Road Brunswick in what was presented as a “peace march” to honour the life of Jill Meagher, the victim of a horrific rape and murder. According to the organiser Philip Werner, the aim was to show support for “peace, hope, non-violence and solidarity with all women”.

While this was a remarkable event in many ways, notable for its scale, diversity and unprompted display of public grief, it was also a thoroughly depoliticised occasion, rendering ineffective any claim to genuinely challenge violence against women. It was a peace march with little reference, except in the most abstract sense, to the nature of the war it was opposing.

If violence against women is about power and domination and structural gender inequalities, then media representations of this recent murder have done a good job of disguising this fact. In a determined but understandable effort to avoid victim blaming, the social context of such crimes have been sadly overlooked. Variously depicted as “random” and an “extremely rare event”, or as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, gendered violence has been delinked from the social and cultural conditions that produce it.

To be fair, many participants on the “peace march” expressed unease about the confused messages here. Some felt that if it could happen to someone like Jill Meagher, then it could happen to them or to their daughters. Much discussion focussed on Melbourne being a very safe city for women. Yet, Victorian police statistics show a steady annual increase in reported rapes in recent years, including an 11.8 per cent increase in 2010-2011.

Melbourne is also a major international destination for women trafficked into sex slavery, according to a recent University of Queensland study. How can these legitimate personal concerns for women’s safety be reconciled with the wider social context of violence against women?

Would those marching in Melbourne on Sunday have been happy to extend their “solidarity with all women” and move to protest in front of the brothels in Richmond or South Melbourne that have been implicated in female trafficking? One assumes not, even though 30,000 people descending on these businesses could possibly have closed them down.

To others marching, this murder was interpreted as an affront to a celebrated unfettered individualism. Young women asserted their right to do anything they wanted to and to dress in any way they liked. This idea is one of the most dominant features of market individualism. The neo-liberal market promises that the self is a freely choosing agent, autonomous and unconstrained by social conditions.

Needless to say, this promise is illusory. In groups like Slutwalk which also aim to tackle the question of violence against women, this mainstream market ideology is writ large. Note for example placards at the Melbourne Slutwalk last year which read “If Madonna Can Wear It, So Can I.”

Language is important here. Yesterday, I was asked why I so strongly reject Slutwalk as a movement when I attended so many Reclaim the Night rallies in the past. The two are not the same. One taps into and celebrates the pornification of culture and the other does not. It is notable that in the “peace march” on Sunday, any reference to Slutwalk was significantly downplayed. Unlike the right to safety, the right to dress like Madonna is not in my view, a human right. Perhaps the recent ghastly events have stripped away many of our neo-liberal illusions.

We are left then with the difficult task of trying to rethink the way violence against women is represented, challenged and opposed. There used to be an overarching systemic concept that did this and it was called “patriarchy”. However, this concept is now considered somehow outmoded. Yet, threats to women’s safety are as ever-present, as they always have been. Any new conceptualisation would need to link patterns of gendered violence with so-called “random” events and also include the violence against less visible women, trafficked to cities like Melbourne.

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84 Comments sorted by

  1. Monika Merkes

    Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University

    Thank you Julie Stephens for a thoughtful article.
    In regard to increased reporting of violence against women I wonder whether this might also reflect the good work that police - and, for example, local governments here in Victoria - have done over the last decade or so, which resulted in increased reporting because victims feel now more confident to come forward and report violence to police.

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  2. Garry Claridge

    Systems Analyst

    On one hand we have such a meaningful outpouring of public concern and request for peace for women. And on the other, in Queensland this week, we see male Australian Federal Police officers using force against girls to remove them from their mother and drag them screaming onto an aeroplane.

    Very sad indeed.

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Garry Claridge

      As someone else said, the mother is the perpetrator here, not the victim. Personally I think she should have been locked up so she couldn't upset the girls while they were leaving and cause such scenes. She is obviously more concerned about herself than the welfare of her children.

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    2. Garry Claridge

      Systems Analyst

      In reply to account deleted

      You missed the point!

      It is about the METHOD used. It was a clear display of force/violence against females by men. And, this was by representatives of our Government.

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    3. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Garry Claridge

      Their gender wasn't important. The police would have behaved the same if the children were boys. The only difference is that the feminist media wouldn't care.

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    4. Sylvia Robinson

      Archaeologist

      In reply to account deleted

      That's a very strange statement. You're asserting a hypothetical entity will definitely respond in a certain way to a hypothetical situation. Why bother writing such a thing? Personally, I have found the responses to this sad case staggeringly callous to the feelings of the children. Watching them struggle and fight on the news, and knowing of their fight of many months to stay in Australia, I wondered what thinking adult would be so steadfast on getting his way that he would be willing to put young people through this.

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    5. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sylvia Robinson

      I'm saying the police had a job to do and they dd it. It was only necessary because the children's mother decided to go venue-shopping for her dispute with the father, which is against the law. It is interesting that she though she could get away with it. If it wasn't for the Hague Convention, she probably would have, because our Family Law Act tends to prioritise the mother when it comes to residency of the children, even when the mother has behaved abominably as in this case. Her final dramatic efforts to induce hysteria and fear in her children were disgraceful and if you condone them you hold disgraceful views.

      The father had his girls kidnapped! How on earth can you twist him into being the villain of the piece?

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  3. Martin Hills

    Web developer

    The Slutwalkers are trying to get across the idea that the problem is NOT with them or what they wear, but with the people who commit the crimes of rape and assault. So many rape victims are blamed for their predicament, often citing that what they wore meant that they were 'asking for it'. That is obviously ridiculous - it's the perpetrators who are at fault.

    Has there been a proven link between the so-called 'pornification' of society and an increase in sexual assaults? I don't know. I don't think it matters. Women (and men) should have the right to walk naked through the world if they want to - it is not a valid excuse for anyone to attack them. Some factors of behaviour may make an attack more likely (such as walking down a dark alley alone), but that does make it the victims 'fault'.

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Martin Hills

      Tell me if I wore a T shirt which might be offensive to some aborigines and went through Redfern or some other aboriginal area and was assaulted would you have an sympathy and hold me blameless?

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    2. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Hills

      The link only exists in the minds of certain anti-sex campaigners. Nothing to do with feminism.

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    3. Garry Claridge

      Systems Analyst

      In reply to John Coochey

      John,

      Whether you use a megaphone, hold a sign or wear the message, is of little difference. It is the "message" you are exclaiming that people may react to. Not your clothes.

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    4. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Garry Claridge

      I am sorry but what is your point?

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    5. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Martin Hills

      All wonderful sentiments, but not very useful.

      Prudent self-protective measures would have saved Jill Meagher. Bad things do happen to good people and no amount of ideological hand-wringing will change that.

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    6. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      I wish people would not comment unless they can make a coherent point,

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    7. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to John Coochey

      "It is the message you are exclaiming that people may react to".
      I thought you would've picked that up.
      "Message". Body language".
      Coherent enough?

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    8. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Martin Hills

      Martin, Ted Bundy says there is, remember him?
      He began with soft porn, then that wasn't enough, graduating to hard porn, finally being executed for horrific sex related murders.
      Rights come with responabilities..

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  4. Jeff Poole

    logged in via Facebook

    Slutwalk is inclusive - as a gay man I can take part, be accepted for who I am and walk in solidarity with other people who are attacked for the 'crime' of daring to be different...

    No hope of doing that with the 'All Men Are Rapists' sexists who run Reclaim the Night... Or have they gotten off their high horses of politically useful victimhood in the last couple of years?

    So there's our first point of difference.

    Then you give away your true political agenda by talking about 'pornification…

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    1. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      Just to hammer the point home...

      Google news search for Ahmed Ghoniem - 8 results

      Same for Jill Meagher - about 58,000

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    2. Julie Stephens

      Associate Professor, College of Arts at Victoria University

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      Jeff, a chilling and powerful comparison. Originally, my title for the article was about contradictions in the way this crime has been represented and troubling inconsistencies in the public response. Drawing our attention to the way Ahmed Ghoniem has been ignored raises questions about who is seen as deserving or undeserving of public sympathy and of course, it highlights the pervasiveness of homophobia.

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  5. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    Like many, I found the abduction, rape and murder abhorrent.

    I also found it quite off-putting when I saw a young woman walking through a shopping center with the words “F***K Yeah, I’ll Do It” printed on her T shirt, and that T Shirt barely covered her breasts, and her bottom was mostly hanging out of her shorts.

    As for “gendered violence”, studies into lesbian violence have now made the feminist's theory of ”men’s violence against women” totally outdated.

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    1. Jamie White

      Dilettante

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, your eyes must have lingered for quite some time to provide such a detailed 360 degree visual analysis of this outrageous strumpet. I'm sorry you had to suffer those long seconds of fevered agony (and of course the subsequent and necessary mortifications) to bring this matter to our attention.

      May I suggest the application of mechanical or chemical irritants to the inner surfaces of your undergarments as a prophylaxis when undertaking your observations - I have found that a combination of attar of pine and the spines of the agave provides an environment of sufficient hostility that a close study of these devilish temptresses can be made without fear of reason-compromising tumescence.

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  6. Sarah Joseph
    Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

    The right to dress like Madonna, at least in one's private time (ie not at work) is a human right. One's self expression through clothing is in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The right to safety aka "security of the person" is also a human right. And the right to security of the person WHILE dressing like Madonna is also a human right.

    Interesting article, btw.

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah, rights are nice concepts, but personal responsibility means they can be exercised safely.

      Walking home late at night through an inner-city area is not a smart move for anyone, no matter how they're dressed. There is a good chance it will end in tears. Encouraging women to do so as of right is irresponsible, it seems to me.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah Joseph

      If there is a human right to “self-expression”, others have a human right to find whatever is being done unacceptable.

      The situation of many women’s dress (or lack of) is fast becoming unacceptable. Their dress is specifically designed to send out sexual signals, and that is being done in an unacceptable manner.

      Men have a right to walk along a street or walk through shops without various women hitting them with a barrage of sexual signals.

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    3. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to account deleted

      I'm not encouraging anyone to do anything. I'm just saying what is or isn't a human right. People get shot in Syria for protesting. But they still have a human right to do so. A breach of human rights is a breach: it doesn't negate the human right.

      It may not be smart at times. But sometimes it's necessary. And I certainly would never hold a victim to be "responsible", even partially, for any lack of safety -that is the sole responsibility of the perpetrator else we descend to wretched arguments like "she was asking for it".

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    4. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      I think the focus on such rights does form an encouragement. Certainly the "slutwalk"people seem to be advocating such a thing.

      In saying that we need to be aware of our own safety and take steps to ensure it I'm not in any way "blaming the victim", any more than I blame the victim of a shark attack.

      Human sharks exist. We can't wish them away.

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    5. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah Joseph
      So you seem to be suggesting that men do not have a right to walk along a street or walk through shops without various women hitting them with a barrage of sexual signals.

      Oh, yes they do.

      Nature has designed it that men find certain things sexually stimulating, and if they didn't, there would be no reproduction or babies.

      Now various women want to contort that by teasing men with sexual signals. They are carrying out a form of ego massage by teasing men with those sexual signals, and it is their contorted form of “power and control” over men.

      So much for feminism’s rhetoric of “power and control”

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    6. Julie Stephens

      Associate Professor, College of Arts at Victoria University

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Thanks for this Sarah, I'll need to look at article 19. The Syria example is also an important one. I think I am trying to say something about an ideology of freedom and autonomy and the extent to which we 'buy' the illusion that we are unconstrained by the social and cultural. Over the last week, when any suggestion was raised about women needing to take steps to guard their personal safety, there was a knee-jerk rejection of the notion, by otherwise astute female commentators. Yet, if any of us visited Afghanistan we would be only too ready and willing to recognize that we would be in danger, if we dressed or behaved in certain ways. Why is this fact so invisible here? I don't think this is to do with feminism, but neo-liberalism and the pervasiveness of marketized ideas of the self. Uncritical acceptance of these ideas make both women and men vulnerable and blind to violent aspects of the wider culture.

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    7. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah Joseph
      "descend to wretched arguments like "she was asking for it"."

      I think it is progressing towards the stage of not being able to tell a woman anything, even for their own good.

      I can remember recently attempting to convince a woman to wear gloves so as to avoid sunburn. She wouldn’t do it, (because she didn’t like the smell of the gloves), so by the end of the day, the tops of her hands were red.

      I knew this would happen, but next time I probably won’t bother telling her anything, and that would save me the useless effort of arguing with her.

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    8. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to account deleted

      “Human sharks exist. We can't wish them away.”
      100% agree.
      I cannot ever claim to understand what it is like to be a woman. To know that I have every right to dress in the manner I wish, walk where I wish, be as intoxicated as I wish. All of this, at whatever time I wish. Yet know, at the same time, there are people out there that respect none of these values, and will take advantage of circumstances if they feel they can get away with it. It is a sad state of affairs.

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    9. Michelle Lam

      Student

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I believe that anyone should have the right to walk in any street, anywhere, at anytime, wearing anything they choose. Without being accosted, raped, vilified, or murdered. Freedom and choice is the ultimate act of respect, human dignity, rights and equality that every person is entitled to regardless of gender, sexuality, religion or race. There is no arguement that can be ever be positioned here that can ever justify the act of one taking power and ultimate control over another through imagined (or theorised) sexual advances by perceived attire/language/thoughts/imagings. Language, ideologies and values are very powerful things, ask yourself would you be saying the same things here if this was your daughter, sister or mother ?

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    10. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Julie Stephens

      Yes I'm just putting the "human rights" perspective.

      I agree people would understand not to dress that way in Afghanistan. It's a highly illiberal society.

      Why neoliberalism & not just idealistic liberalism? After all Slutwalk was a response to cop telling women not to dress a certain way, rather than Madonna or an ad campaign telling them they should. Sure marketing can make "the look" seem more desirable but one could say that about any fashionable look. Was punk neoliberalism?

      I'm not sure we'd call a campaign to promote the ability of people of one race to walk around safely in a particular neighbourhood "neoliberalism". And that's quite relevant in the US if not Australia. (Eg Trayvon Martin killing)

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    11. Daniel Kinsman

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Your "barrage of sexual signals" comments are hilarious. I'm imagining the scene from monty python's the life of brian, where a man is being chased to his death by a mob of vivacious women.

      There are cultures where the women are mostly topless, and those societies function perfectly well. Naked women do not always equate to sex. "Sexual signals" are in the eye of the beholder - you are the one responsible for imagining them. Think of a male doctor seeing his female patient naked. Most people don't have a problem with that scenario, because there is nothing sexual about it. Imagine a group of people having dinner at a nudist colony. The women aren't "teasing the men" - they're just eating their dinner.

      I'm truly worried by your comments and I strongly urge you to seek counseling.

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    12. Daniel Kinsman

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to account deleted

      And you think that by dressing conservatively, these "human sharks" will simply stop? You think rapists will stop being rapists if women wear longer skirts?

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    13. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Daniel Kinsman

      Daniel Kinsman
      So it seems you don’t receive any sexual signals from women.

      You should be the one seeking counseling.

      The dress I have seen being worn by an increasing number of women has not the slightest regard to weather or conditions (e.g. the shortest possible shorts being worn in cold weather, while the woman also has on a large jumper).

      They are wearing that type of dress as a sexual tease, to somehow boost their own ego.

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    14. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Daniel Kinsman

      No. Do you think that by dressing "sluttily" they will?

      You've got the wrong end of the stick, I'm afraid.Clothing is not the issue, it's recognsing that people alone in circumstances that are likely to be conducive to runnng into the human sharks are at risk - men or women - and that it behooves us all to take note of that fact and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen to us.

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    15. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Adam Richards

      I'm afraid our society has given young women a false sense of their own agency. They don't seem to grasp that they have that right to do things as they please because others go along with it, not because it is a Law like newtons Laws of Motion.

      The concentration on rights and the constant downplaying of responsblity is not a good combination. One is dangerous without the other.

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    16. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Michelle Lam

      Michelle, the argument was "positioned" by the person who abducted Jill Meagher. There's nothing theoretical in what happened to her.

      The rights and wrongs are obvious and they don't require affirmations of commitment to wishy-washy concepts of rights.

      And yes, I would say the same if it was my daughter. I hope she has enough sense to take better care of her own safety.

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    17. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Daniel Kinsman

      Daniel, our culture is not mostly topless and in our culture, exposing breasts is regarded as erotic. Some men pay good money to watch it done.

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    18. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to account deleted

      Many years ago, I lived on some of the outer islands of Tahiti.

      There were many bare-breasted women, but the Tahitian women had a lot more dignity, class and natural beauty than the feminist inspired slutwalkers now parading on the streets and in the shopping centers, making the place look like a feminist zoo.

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    19. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      I believe mother's have a roll to play here.
      I always reminded my daughters to dress modestly and not put themselves in vulnerable situations or places geographically they could be disadvantaged..
      Sexist? Maybe, but I always felt a little safer: for them.
      Phil Cleary has been a wonderful advocate for non-violence against women.

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    20. James Yates

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I'm not sure you've noticed that you're comparing ultraviolet rays to sexual assailants. One of these is a natural, agent-less, physical feature of the environment. The other is a person with responsibility for their actions. Hope this helps.

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    21. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to James Yates

      So I can “attempt” to warn a female worker about dressing properly, but cannot warn a woman about dressing with most of her breasts and bottom hanging out.

      I think it is close to the time when men cannot warn or even talk to a woman about anything.

      But I wonder when feminists will be writing about this.

      “A 14-year-old girl has been charged with attempted murder following an alleged poisoning incident in Brisbane's south-west.”

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-08/brisbane-girl-charged-with-attempted-murder/4300664

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    22. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne

      How a woman is dressed has no bearing at all on whether or not she will wind up a rape victim.

      How to explain the elderly women raped in their own homes?

      In Muslim countries, women clothed from head to foot are still raped.

      Rape is about control and power.

      Having walked home at night alone, and yes was approached by curb crawlers but managed to get away (not giving away how), I believe in being alert to my surroundings just as any man walking by himself late at night should be.

      What happened to Jill is still upsetting - I used to live in Brunswick, I know exactly where she was abducted. However, Brunswick is no more dangerous than any other Melbourne suburb. Putting blame on people as to how they dress is not solving the issue that people do get raped and most often by someone they know.

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    23. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      There will always be a minority in everything.
      Educating our children, male and female begins in the home and so many these days don't have the enviorment to be their full potential, including what is and isn't acceptable.

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    24. James Yates

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Yeah I'm not sure that any feminists believe that women never commit crimes. Then again I'm not sure you actually know any feminists - you seem to have taken the Reddit Men's Rights Activist crash course in feminism.

      Anyway, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your right to tell random women how to dress based on how they make you feel. Life's tough. Maybe you should find another site on which to talk about such tragedies.

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    25. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to James Yates

      Yes, I am waiting to find out what feminists will say about the recent case where a girl (female) tried to poison two boys (male).

      I predict nothing will be said by feminists.

      As for your personalised remarks, I try not to make personalised remarks on forums, as I find that type of thing too feminist, weak and sissy.

      But it appears what you are saying is that men could tell women how to dress and act, but only in certain circumstances, and at all other times, men cannot tell women anything.

      I think the times men cannot tell women anything is just about all the time.

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    26. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      I'm not sure by "educating our children" you are referring to a dress code or whether you mean teaching children to respect each other and themselves. Teaching respect requires good male and female role models both at home and in society in general.

      Somehow, I doubt that the man who abducted, raped and murdered Jill Meagher particularly respected women.

      And I wonder at the education of that sad teenage girl who tried to poison a couple of young boys in Queensland - not a lot about empathy for others there either. Perhaps the boys were wearing the "wrong" clothes?

      As for a "minority in everything" - do you believe that mostly only attractive women are assaulted? How does a potential rapist tell in the Middle East whether his victim is attractive? How do you explain paedophiles? They target children simply because they are children, not because of what the child may be wearing.

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    27. Emily Smith

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      I am honestly tired by this "responsible exercise of human rights" argument.

      Yes, safety is a nice thing. But that does not change the fact that this is about SEXISM.

      Women in Arabic countries cover almost everything. They do that so they can get rid of the women's status as sexual objects, so persistent in human history. But who they protect themselves from? Men.

      I am tired of being afraid to go home by myself in the night just because I am a woman. I am tired of being afraid to wear what I want just because I am a woman. What is next? Will we be advised to cover our hair and breasts, so horny men would not spot our "sexual" features?

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    28. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah Joseph: "There's no human right not to be offended."

      Apparently our Attorney-General (and for some reason the Finance Minister's in on the Act as well) disagrees.

      http://www.ag.gov.au/Consultations/Documents/ConsolidationofCommonwealthanti-discriminationlaws/Human%20Rights%20and%20Anti-Discrimination%20Bill%202012%20-%20Exposure%20Draft%20.pdf

      Para 49(1)(b)

      b) a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the other person…

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  7. account deleted

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I'd just like to point out, on the subject of rape offence stats, that Victoria Police's LEAP database shows that whilst number of offences reported rose by some 11.8%, around 25% of those were cleared as either "complaint withdrawn", or "no offence detected". Only about 25% of the reports were cleared as "offender processed".

    http://www.police.vic.gov.au/retrievemedia.asp?Media_ID=72176

    That link works, while the one in the story doesn't.

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to account deleted

      The same source shows that only around 1/10 of the reports were about incidents on the street or other open spaces, whilst over half were reported as taking place in residential premises.

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    2. Paul Atkinson

      Social Worker

      In reply to account deleted

      while we're talking stats... an increase of reported offences doesn't necessarily mean an increase in offences. It might mean (and I am pretty sure this is the case) that we are more sensitive to offences and more likely to report them. This is, presumably, a good thing. The increase in reported rapes by 11.8% is more likely to indicate progress in relation to sexual violence against women than the opposite. It is, for example, a pretty uncontroversial position that there are more assault charges these days but we are a far less violent society than we were 50 or 100 years ago. I don't want to down play violence against women but don't misinterpret police statistics.

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    3. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Atkinson

      Hi Paul, I was going to point that out, but i was somewhat loathe to do so for fear of the howls of outrage that normally follow my efforts to do so. I hoped that the figures would speak for themselves.

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    4. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Julie Stephens

      You're most welcome. I would have liked to go further into the stats, but they're not very detailed as the Police present them.

      Suffice to say that there is actually not a huge threat to women presented by the occasional psychopath or drunkard and that when it comes to street violence it's largely a male problem, although violent young women are dong their best to catch up.

      I don't think there is much enlightenment to be had from the Meagher case. It's an extreme outlier, not predictive.

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    5. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to account deleted

      Emily, far be it from me to interfere with your right to be paranoid about men, but I'll just point out that you'd be in much more danger on the street if you were male. Around 4-5 times more danger.

      You'll also be comforted to know that just being a man also means I'm a bit more than half as likely to go to uni as one of my female peers, I'll have to work for around twice as many years in total doing work that is much more arduous than she does, while she'll be entitled to retire earlier than I must in order to qualify for any kind of retirement benefit and I'll probably die several years before her even if I don't get depressed and top myself when I'm still young.

      http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~Jul%202012~Media%20Release~Men%20fare%20worse%20than%20women%20in%20education,%20health%20and%20crime%20%28Media%20Release%29~6152

      Still, at least I'm a man and not a whinging, whining little girl looking for attention.

      Carry on.

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    6. Emily Smith

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to account deleted

      Craig,
      if this answer is for me, then I do not understand why you try to offend me. I like men. But you just cannot deny that women have been hurt by men for so long (and of course, this is a societal problem, not a problem of a single men). I have a hard life as a woman. I do not say that you do not have; but I, personally, truly feel handicapped by my gender.
      In my country, women are more likely to go to uni, cannot retire earlier (and I agree with this; why should they?), and regarding amount of work and dying earlier--that is partially your choice; you are not forced to do that.

      (sorry for the double post, I did not manage to reply directly to the comment)

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  8. Adam Richards

    Teacher

    "move to protest in front of the brothels in Richmond or South Melbourne that have been implicated in female trafficking?"

    Are you suggesting that it is correct and right to close down businesses because it is assumed they are doing something illegal? I find any notion of human trafficking abhorrent, but I also find the notion that a business or person could be considered guilty before they are found so in a court of law equally abhorrent.

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    1. Emily Smith

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Craig,
      if this answer is for me, then I do not understand why you try to offend me. I like men. But you just cannot deny that women have been hurt by men for so long (and of course, this is a societal problem, not a problem of a single men). I have a hard life as a woman. I do not say that you do not have; but I, personally, truly feel handicapped by my gender.
      In my country, women are more likely to go to uni, cannot retire earlier (and I agree with this; why should they?), and regarding amount of work and dying earlier--that is partially your choice; you are not forced to do that.

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    2. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Emily, my response was in the context of the Australian situation. I am Australian and this is an Australian website. If you are talking about some other country then you should specify which one, or at least make it clear that you are doing so.

      The simple point I was making is that if the biggest concern you have is about wearing a particular style of clothing, or about having to take reasonable self-protective measures in hazardous circumstances, then you lack perspective. I don't think your…

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    3. Emily Smith

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Adam Richards

      Craig,
      I am very sorry, I did not know this. I have never been to Australia.

      I can correct myself--women used to be hurt by men (and have been hurt by men only in certain countries). Now the discrimination (present in certain aspects) comes mainly from social consensus, not from men directly.

      I come from Europe and I do not feel privileged here. I see that men have their problems; I have never, never denied that. But I still envy men--they usually get better jobs, they do not have to dress…

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  9. Daniel Kinsman

    logged in via Twitter

    "Unlike the right to safety, the right to dress like Madonna is not in my view, a human right. Perhaps the recent ghastly events have stripped away many of our neo-liberal illusions"

    Free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of dress is indeed a human right. Enforcing your own conservative dress standards on others is the domain of groups like the Taliban. "Pornification of culture" is a bogeyman invoked by moral panic sufferers who are ashamed of their own bodies.

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  10. jim morris

    logged in via email @yahoo.com

    Let's not forget the other victims of violence.

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to jim morris

      Well said Jim. During all the outpourngs of sympathy for Jll Meagher, there has been a woman missing in Qld for some time, and very little media attention. I could be cynical and suggest that unlike Ms Meagher and the late Ms Baden -Clay, she didn't move in the right circles to attract the attention of the media. I have also been shaken over the past few days by the murder-suicide in Clayfield, which involved a man I worked with, who was obviously immensely troubled and I never realised.

      Then there are the men who are assaulted every Friday and Saturday night.

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  11. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    The article points out there was an 11.8 per cent increase in reported rapes in 2010-2011. That's a bleak picture. Assuming sexual violence is a product of a power imbalance between men and women, is the hundred-year-old fight for gender equality failing? What optimism can we have?

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to James Jenkin

      As I pointed out, a quarter of all reports were withdrawn or discovered to be unfounded upon investigation. The claim of rape gives a woman a enormous amount of power and it seems that some women are not averse to using that power with very little reason, according to the figures.

      If rape is about power imbalances, what is a Law that makes it legal to lie about it all about? The Family Violence Act defines violence in terms of whether the self-reported victim "felt fearful", and that is again…

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  12. Robin Bell

    Research Academic Public Health, at University of Newcastle

    An extremely sexist view of violence in Australia. What do you say to the parents of David Greene, an Irish son recently bashed and killed inAustralia. Why is his life less valuable and his death less tragic.
    I'm disgusted by the blatant misandryexpressed by this self righteous expremist group thes seems to think that only women can be victims. I'm disgusted that the Conversation is publishing such sex hate based articles.

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    1. account deleted

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Robin Bell

      Sadly Robin, the way violence is portrayed in Australia is more to do with a feminist dogmatic view than reality.

      The important thing to remember is that whatever happens to women, good or bad, it's men's doing.

      Just don't expect to get thanked for the good things and depend on being beaten up about the bad things and you'll have no trouble understanding the paradigm.

      It's all about rights, never responsibilities.

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  13. Meagan Tyler

    Lecturer in Sociology at Victoria University

    A great article Julie. The lack of political analysis around violence against women has been particularly glaring in recent media coverage.

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  14. Anna Elizabeth Beniuk

    Counsellor

    I am interested also in the community reaction to this situation and to the sad death and rape of yet another woman. There are two things that continue to confuse me in all of this outpouring of concern:

    The first is that the majority of woman who are physically psychologically or emotionally attacked experience this in their own home at the hands of a male relative, not walking alone on the streets at night, yet we focus so much attention on that aspect of female safety.

    Secondly that so…

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Anna Elizabeth Beniuk

      Anna,

      I would draw your attention to a significant study undertaken by a professor at the ANU and reported last year in the Canberra Times. The professor reported that in the study of violent domestic relationships, it was more often the female who started the violence. The professors advice to women in these relationships was that: "if you don't want to be hit, don't hit".

      Certainly in my family my wife is more violent than I am.

      And we do not even consider emotional abuse/manipulation by women against their families.

      I only have direct experience in Australia and even then a small part of it so obviously the does no apply to other countries, However, Women are constantly being portrayed as victims when in fact they are causing just as many problems as men.

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  15. Anthony Love

    Professor of Psychology

    A fascinating article Julie,

    Thanks for providing it. The events really caught my interest and like you I was surprised at the overwhelming public response. I tried to work out why people had responded in this way to one instance of violence, but not to so many others, as you indicate early in the piece. Several factors appear to be at work, including the impact of the media exposure Jill's disappearance triggered, her close personal relationships with many media people, including her employment…

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    1. Julie Stephens

      Associate Professor, College of Arts at Victoria University

      In reply to Anthony Love

      Just lost my reply to you Tony. It went something along the lines of sharing many of your observations. It is difficult to find an adequate speaking position from which to discuss this tragedy. This is evident in some of the comments here. About the CCTV footage, I think it situated viewers in something like a detective role. We were all desperately trying to notice something that could assist in the solving of the crime and it promoted a level of emotional involvement often absent in other events like this one. However, this is both an uncomfortable position to be in but also a very familiar one, if we think of viewing television crime series and how we are often relegated a similar role. It may partly (but only partly) explain the depth and breadth of public grief.

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  16. Russell T

    IT Consultant

    I guess the question is how do we create an environment that minimises that risk that you expose yourself too and to what extent is it the state's responsibility to protect you. And what are you willing to pay for that level of security (I am not talking financial), there is always a cost and consequences for every choice. What are all of us willing to give up to ensure the safety of our daughters, wives, and mothers. Or does our society provide an optimal level of safety and freedom?

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  17. Melinda McPherson

    Consultant

    Thanks for this article Julie. It is a very important point, and well made. Violeta Politoff has made a similar argument in New Matilda about how commentators have emphasised women's 'personal safety' issues over the critical topic of 'violence against women' in the wake of Jill Meagher's death. In the case of 'personal safety', we are encouraged to adjust our dress, our public behaviours, and our safety skills to 'avoid' rape and murder. In the latter, women question social and institutional acceptance…

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    1. Julie Stephens

      Associate Professor, College of Arts at Victoria University

      In reply to Melinda McPherson

      Thanks for your comments Melinda and your link to such a thoughtful article in the New Matilda. The points you make to define patriarchy are really pertinent, particularly the comparison between skin colour and privilege in racist societies. Stressing the question of who benefits is always illuminating. However, are there forms of violence against men (usually men outside the dominant culture) that can also be considered a characteristic of patriarchy? It is a question I have trouble knowing how to answer.

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  18. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    An extremely successful example of media exploitation of mass voyeurism. An old smelly tramp who suffered the same fate would be held by two fingers for as briefly as possible by the media. A young, attractive woman's violence death, with added overtones of the audience being able to act out Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, does wonders for the ratings.

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  19. Cheryl Howard

    writer

    Good article. Because this victim had someone who loved her looking for her, because she was like so many other young women - happy, attractive, married, and employed - this case received public sympathy. When a prostitute is found dead in a back lane, there is not the same response. I am glad that this article has raised this important point. Who do we care about and who do we not care about? The media is terribly powerful in deciding for us who is worthy of our attention and who is not. The public grief aroused and the march, could have achieved much more if the media did not keep narrowing the focus. There are women in Melbourne suffering unheard, who are the victims of a global commerce in women's bodies.

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  20. Philip Werner

    logged in via Facebook

    Dear Julie,

    Philip Werner here, organiser of what your quotation marks suggest you can't accept to have been a peace march.

    If 30,000 people marching peacefully, and marching because they believe in peace over violence, is not a peace march, then I don't know what is.

    And this statement of your baffles me:
    "...it was also a thoroughly depoliticised occasion, rendering ineffective any claim to genuinely challenge violence against women."

    So you believe one can only claim to genuinely…

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