opinion

An Australian woman was killed this week on a suburban footpath. It hardly made the news.

This week, a 40-year-old Victorian woman was killed.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was stabbed inside her Seaford home on Tuesday afternoon, before running onto the footpath and crying for help.

The Age reports that three young children witnessed the stabbing, and a man, alleged to be her ex-partner, was arrested at the scene. He has since been charged with one count of murder.

You might have seen this story buried in the odd daily newspaper, or momentarily surfacing on homepages before it quickly disappeared. An image was published of a blood stained suburban footpath. “She was just yelling my name,” a neighbour told reporters. “Mick, call the cops.”

Watch: Women and violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues below. 

And while a street in Victoria mourns the loss of a young woman taken decades too soon, the rest of the country rapidly turns the page. It is not enough to capture our attention, because what happened on Tuesday is the rule not the exception. Every week a woman will be killed. Most by a man who was once meant to love them.

But if that man who allegedly killed her had been a stranger, this story would be sitting on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

There would be vigils and tributes. Marches and statements from our political leaders. She would be a woman that Australia wouldn’t ever forget.

You are not meant to be killed by a stranger. It’s an awful, senseless tragedy. After the abhorrent murders of Eurydice Dixon in 2018 and Aiia Maasarwe last year, both about an hour or so from where this mother of three was killed, we used the word ‘innocent’ a lot. And justifiably so. Neither were ever described as just ‘young women’ but always as ‘innocent young women’, who fell victim to two separate horrific and random crimes.

But when you’re killed by a current or previous partner, the word ‘innocent’ disappears. We no longer talk about ‘violence’. We refer to ‘domestic violence’. As though the particularities of violence are any different when it’s perpetrated by someone you know. As though anyone is more or less dead, depending on who killed them.

When a crime features the word ‘domestic’, question marks appear and it all gets a bit complicated so we shake our heads and move on with our lives. It’s common and it’s personal and we place an imaginary wedge between them and us. “That couldn’t have been me,” we dare to think, even though the reality often is that it could’ve.

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And then there’s just our own sanity. The sheer number of these women – 61 killed in 2019 according to research by Destroy the Joint – is too much for any of us to take on. It’s a problem that feels like it has no solution and an epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down.

But who have we become if we barely bat an eyelid when a man kills his own wife? Or ex wife? Why is it so much more horrific when a man kills someone else’s wife?

We’re still wedded to this archaic idea that ‘domestic violence’ belongs in private. It’s none of our business. Do what you like behind closed doors, but behave yourself in the public square.

A community, though, rots from inside family homes. That’s where it all begins. And then the rot grows and it poisons and it imprints itself on children, turning everything bad.

Is this the standard – the violent deaths of dozens of women every year – we accept?

We are 38 days into 2020, and already six women are dead. That’s more than one woman a week. It is a story so many of us don’t want to write anymore – because it’s horrific and distressing and painfully inevitable.

But we must maintain the outrage.

If the woman in Victoria this week had be killed by a stranger, we would know what to do. Our outrage would be loud and unabating.

If six people had died as a result of terrorism or war or natural disaster or an accident, we would pay attention.

We cannot let women killed by their partners or ex partners die quietly.

They deserve to be at the centre of our cultural conversations, just the same as a woman murdered by someone she never knew.

Just because a story happens often, does not mean the consequences are any less tragic. In fact, the opposite is true.

A family is grieving the loss of an innocent woman, killed in an act of profound violence.

Australia ought to be grieving with them.

Mamamia acknowledges the important work of the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers at Destroy The Joint who are committed to the reporting of violence against women in Australia. 

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

Nicole Lee speaks to Mia Freedman about the abuse she endured at the hands of her partner. Post continues below. 

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