opinion

Today marks 9 years since Jill Meagher's murder. Since then, 666 more women have been killed.

Over the weekend, in a cabin on the NSW mid-north coast, Australia lost its 666th woman to violence since 2012. 

Her name was Dee Annear. Her partner has today been charged with her murder. 

2012 is a poignant year because it was the year we lost Jill Meagher. A name and story seared into the brains of all Australians old enough to remember what happened.

Today marks nine years since the 29-year-old was raped and murdered walking home from a pub in Melbourne. She was less than a five-minute stroll from her bed. 

We know now that her killer should never have been on the streets. He had a violent criminal history. CCTV caught Adrian Bayley's approach through a dress shop window. We, as a country, witnessed her final conversation in footage that has since been replayed by millions.

Jill Meagher was raped and murdered in the early hours of 22 September, 2012. Image: Getty.

It was the case that shocked Australians. One that saw 30,000 Melburnians march the streets in her honour, demanding more be done to keep women and girls safe in their city.

But since her murder, there have been more names. Hundreds of names. 

Some were killed by husbands, partners or ex-boyfriends. Others were killed by complete strangers, like Jill. A small minority were killed by women. 

Names like:

Preethi Reddy.

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Stephanie Scott. 

Nikita Chawla. 

Aiia Maasarwe.

Eurydice Dixon.

Hannah Clarke. 

But we only really hear about the stories that are so shocking and brazen they demand media attention; when someone is killed by a stranger, or in a public place, or in the most brutal of ways. 

For every name we remember, there's a hundred more we don't. 

The disturbing truth, as reported by Our Watch, is we lose on average one woman a week to a current or former partner. The 2018 Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network report shows men commit more than 80 per cent of murders in couples who have a history of domestic violence. In the 20 per cent of murders committed by women, over two-thirds were women killing men who abused them. 

Watch: The hidden numbers. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Violence against women remains an insidious stain on our nation, with emerging data from the COVID-19 pandemic finding that all types of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. 

It's been dubbed the 'shadow pandemic' and of the 362 domestic family violence (DFV) agencies and individuals surveyed by the Queensland University of Technology in 2020, nearly half said their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours. 

We've already lost 31 women in 2021 according to Destroy The Joint, a movement dedicated to counting dead women in Australia. 

By their count, we lost 56 in 2020. 

63 in 2019. 

72 in 2018. 

55 in 2017.

73 in 2016.

84 in 2015.

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82 in 2014.

80 in 2013.

And 70 in 2012, the year we lost Jill Meagher. 

Jill's husband, Tom Meagher, wrote for the White Ribbon blog two years on from her death, reflecting on his loss and her killer. 

"One of the most dangerous things about the media saturation of this crime was that [Adrian] Bayley is in fact the archetypal monster. Bayley feeds into a commonly held social myth that most men who commit rape are like him, violent strangers who stalk their victims and strike at the opportune moment. It gives a disproportionate focus to the rarest of rapes, ignoring the catalogue of non-consensual sex happening on a daily basis everywhere on the planet," he wrote.

The reality is women are more at risk of dying at the hands of someone they know. And if the last nine years tell us anything, a few dozen more women will lose their life before the end of 2021. Their names will be added to the most macabre of lists and their families will spend the festive season with an empty chair at the table. 

But it's a list and a loss that can be prevented. 

There are various Australian policies and practices designed to help us do this - like the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, and the recent Women's Summit held by the Prime Minister. 

But they are nowhere near achieving it.

As Ben Mathews, Professor of Law at Queensland University of Technology wrote for The Conversation this month, multiple actions are required. But perhaps the most pressing is; "we urgently need large, sustained increases in crisis intervention, support services and workforce capacity."

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A $1.1 billion dollar investment in women’s safety was announced at the most recent budget. It's been described as an improvement on previous years, but experts note it does not yet reflect the level of investment so desperately needed to address, interrupt and ultimately prevent what is a national crisis. As Professor Mathews points out by way of comparison, we spent $44 billion on defence in that same budget. 

Political will is one of the most important ingredients to real success in this fight. It's what Grace Tame is trying to tackle as she stands beside other warrior women of her generation like Brittany Higgins and Chantel Contos who are helping to keep the plight of violence against women in the Australian headlines.

When Jill Meagher died, we marched in the streets demanding change, carrying banners that read: "Enough is Enough."

Nine years later the statistics have barely budged, and we've become a broken record. Those words remain our mantra. 

When is enough truly going to be enough? 

For more from Gemma Bath, keep up to date with her articles here, or follow her on Instagram,  @gembath.

Feature image: Facebook/Mamamia/Destroy The Joint. 

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