Over the weekend another woman died in Melbourne. Laa Chol, a young law student of Sudanese background, was stabbed after being caught up in a fight at a party. Just as they did after the murders of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon, the usual array of fingerpointing and virtue signalling has begun. From Facebook –
Male violence is a major “law and order problem” but we never hear Dutton mention that
From an acquaintance of mine –
WE as men need to remind ourselves in everything we do, every step along the journey, that we should not sexually assault or rape women.
When one looks at the pictures of the victims I have mentioned, something in particular stands out:
All young. All pretty. All plausibly middle-class. Now let’s consider the death of Samantha Kelly in 2016. Kelly was not young. She wasn’t pretty. She was an intellectually disabled woman living a down-at-heel existence in regional Victoria when a housemate caved her head in with a hammer*. Remember the outpouring of community grief? Neither do I.
Does anyone remember Margaret Maher? Maher was a 40 year old drug-addicted prostitute in northern Melbourne. Her diet was poor and left her at permanent risk of heart failure. In 1997 she encountered serial killer Peter Dupas. As Kaye J afterwards said in his sentencing remarks** –
After you murdered her, you then mutilated the deceased’s body … and left it by the side of a road, in a desolate place, as a disgusting display of loathing for the deceased and contempt for her dignity. Not content with what you had done to her in life, you robbed her of her dignity in death. Those actions are, I consider, an eloquent insight into the unmitigated evil which actuated you to kill Margaret Maher and to behave as you did.
I can’t remember Maher’s death rating a headline until Dupas faced a charge of murder.
Nor has there been much public reaction to the death of another 40 year old working girl, Tracy Connelly, in whose death the Victorian Coroner recently issued a finding***. Connelly sometimes conducted business in a van owned by her and her partner. And on the night of 21 July 2013 she died in that van, stabbed repeatedly until the knife passed through her left eye and into her brain. Her killer has not been located.
May I suggest that the difference in response has much – perhaps everything – to do with class and appearance? It appears much easier for those of us who are articulate and in control of our lives to care for the pretty, the popular, and those from our own class. No doubt people will say that of course the lives of the working class and underclass matter greatly. But the difference in responses will remain the same, and so will the doubt about motivation. Facta non verba.
Some people get bent out of shape at the idea of accusing all men of being violent. I don’t. The response is too narrow. Our society has decided some lives deserve less mourning because the victims were faceless or voiceless? If so, then the hell with all of us.
* He is now serving 22 years for murder: R v Arthur (2018) Bendigo Advertiser, 28 February 2018.
*** In the Death of Tracy Anne Connelly (Coroners Court of Victoria, Hinchey C, 16 July 2018, unreported)