By MAMAMIA TEAM
TRIGGER WARNING: This article deals with an accounts of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.
On Sunday, a Melbourne woman was brutally killed.
She was murdered in the van she was temporarily living in with her boyfriend of 19 years – and it was her boyfriend who discovered her body that day. Her boyfriend was initially a suspect but he has since been cleared of suspicion.
Detectives are now investigating whether one of the woman’s clients might be responsible for her death.
Tracy Connelly was a valued and appreciated member of her community, loved by her partner, and only 40-years-old. But you probably won’t recognise her name, given that these were the headlines that reported her death:
Tracy Connelly was a sex worker and it is her profession rather than the fact she was a loved and cherished person, that has dominated the column inches devoted to her murder.
The Age began their story:
Tracy Connelly had walked St Kilda’s red light district for at least a decade and knew her work was dangerous. In 2005, her minder was run over by a man who was angry that she refused to get in his car, Ms Connelly once told a court. She tried to survive without sex work, but needed the money.
Because apparently that’s the most important thing for the reader to know in a case like this. It’s not whether her killer had been apprehended. And not whether the local community should remain cautious. No, the most important facts, the ones that were put front and centre of the reporting, are how long she had been a sex worker for, and the implication of the deceased’s struggles with addiction.
It’s all a far cry from the media’s treatment of the Jill Meagher case. We knew all about beautiful, young Jill Meagher. All about her family, and the life she had ahead of her. And yet we know nothing about 40-year-old Tracy Connelly.
Because Tracy was not as a person in the eyes of the country’s media.
The fact that Tracy’s story disappeared so quickly from our newspapers also raises the difficult question of whether the public is somehow less affected by the news because of Tracy’s profession. It raises the question of whether, if a sex worker is murdered, society thinks that that it is somehow less surprising. Less shocking. More normal. Expected even.
In taking this sort of mindset, we do an injustice to sex workers and to all women. This mindset buys into the problem of ‘slut shaming’. The ridiculous notion that how a woman dresses or acts or where she goes or what she says, could in any way excuse or explain violence against her. It doesn’t.
Violence against women – against any woman – should not be normalised. We should not be any less horrified that Tracy Connelly was killed, than we were when Jill Meagher was. While questioning why there is not a public outcry about Connelly’s death, Gilmore asks: “Or do we have to wait until her killer, a la Adrian Bayley, attacks a nice, white, middle class woman for the world to remember that any murdered woman is a person?”
Let’s not forget that Bayley had been convicted of 20 rapes over 23 years – some of them sex workers. While on parole for those violent crimes, he went on to attack again.But really, that’s not the point. At least, the fact that a man who kills a female sex worker might go on to kill another woman who is not a sex worker, should not be the point. Because the first death is just as tragic as the second.
There is no difference in the pain and grief their families will be feeling. There is no scale that measures one life less worthy than another. There is no distinction. They are both women. They are both people.
And any life lost to a senseless, brutal crime is a tragedy.
And we should all remember that.