By Leah Ward
September 22, 2012: Jill Meagher was raped and murdered walking home in Brunswick.
April 7, 2015: Stephanie Scott – raped and murdered leaving school to go home.
June 13, 2018: Eurydice Dixon – raped and murdered walking home in Carlton.
January 16, 2019: Aiia Maasarwe – raped and murdered walking home.
May 25, 2019: Courtney Herron - sleeping rough; brutally murdered.
I’m still trying to process what happened and I’m reconciling with my default emotion – going into nurse mode: detach and scrutinise.
These are just five examples reported on that I can think of. There are so many more, unreported, unaccounted for and hidden. My patients, my friends, and I can attest to that.
Women are preyed on and hunted. Women are violated and used to satisfy the needs of men. Women are assaulted, raped, and murdered. And if women survive? They are doubted and judged. Pulled at and prodded. Examined and humiliated.
Meanwhile rapists are coddled and treated with respect – innocent until proven guilty. False rape accusations ruin lives; he has his whole life to live; what about his career; what about his mental health – what about the fact that he violated another human being? What about the trauma he caused because his needs were put above all others? What about the fucking women living their lives in fear because they are not only the ones at risk from this behaviour, but less likely to receive justice for the crime after the fact?
The Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) uses Brett Kavanaugh as an example of why women don’t report sexual assault or rape. On July 9, 2018 the American President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford and two other women stated that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted them. Ford was widely discredited and mocked after speaking publicly. Public outcries of “Kavanaugh was not convicted!” and “This is not a trial!” attempted to dismiss and minimise the three women’s – and likely more – experiences. The senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination, 50-48.
On January 18, 2015 Brock Turner sexually assaulted a fellow student while she was unconscious. This crime was witnessed. He was sentenced to six months and served three. Judge Aaron Persky can fuck himself. The judicial system and media were so concerned about Turner’s career and how being a sexual predator would affect his life and future job prospects. Never mind the woman who was violated and assaulted.
So what about their careers? There is no impact. Literally none.
We talk about the onus needing to be on men to change, but why should they when they’re living within a system that exists to benefit them, and protects them when they violate another person’s human rights in one of the worst ways possible?
I mean, I know the answer; most people who have survived trauma and abuse know the answer, but if you have never had to sit down and think about it, why would you?
Any attempt made by women to stand up for themselves is met with contempt. We are too loud, too strong, too offensive, using bad messaging, too emotional, too cold – a lot of fucking words focusing on the wrong fucking thing, with one message behind them: keep quiet if you know what’s good for you.
The people who use this language should be focused on stopping men from raping. Stop men from killing us. From sexually assaulting us. From beating us.
I have spent years speaking to men and women who actively participate in the patriarchy about victim blaming, slut shaming, and how these things directly tie to assault and worse. How they maintain the foundations of patriarchy and rape culture. I’d like to tell you it made a difference but it was a waste of time and energy. No more.
Instead I am going to use all my strength, all my knowledge and ability to raise up women, trans folk and non-binary people. We outnumber the toxic people, and this is something we can do together.
I speak directly to the men and women affected by rape and abuse: you are stronger than you know.
Perpetrators hold us down to elevate themselves. They know they can’t appear dominant if we know our true worth and fight to preserve it. There is no right way to speak to rapists and rape apologists who are trapped in a culture with no way to acknowledge how fucked up their treatment of women is, because to acknowledge it would be to own it.
And they can’t own their shit, because they are weak.
I’m at a loss at what to say. This process will take time and a shift in power and culture many of us can’t afford, but it is required.
Until then, find your allies and breathe life into each other. Be each other’s support. Emotional, physical, and financial where possible. Give up your couch for someone to sleep on; give your dollars to women’s services; be the shoulder for someone to cry on.
We cannot trust men to help us. We must help each other.