opinion

'No one said anything.' The familiar narrative of Kim Murphy's needless death.

Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.

Kim Murphy was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner in the Adelaide suburb of Morphett Vale last week. Kim was 35 and a mother-of-three beautiful children. So many lives have been permanently shattered in her wake. And yet like so many other women, Kim’s death could have been prevented. But it wasn’t.

Many things upset me about Kim Murphy’s needless death. There is talk that the system failed her because she had sought refuge to keep herself and her children safe. But help wasn’t available for her. That is not good enough and it is up to governments to appropriately fund a sector working for women and children experiencing abuse and violence in the home.

The fact that she was allegedly murdered by a vindictive, possessive and entitled ex-partner is a story that feels all too common. It has made me feel numb and gives me a sense of déjà vu because it is something that I can relate to since my sister Nikita was murdered by her ex-partner in 2015.

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

Video by MMC

The part that upsets me most is the fact that people could have spoken but chose not to do anything. Several news reports have detailed how neighbours of Kim Murphy heard her anguished screams and a man shouting and threatening to kill her, but did not call emergency services.

Of course, the neighbours are not to blame for the actions of a violent man. They would be hurting, too, but men’s violence against women doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a society which enables the abuse of women to go unpunished, with men who kill their families being labelled “good blokes” as we saw when Hannah Clarke was killed earlier this year.

It’s this painful reality about our society that makes me feel numb all over. Whenever there’s another woman who becomes a statistic, it’s something her family can intimately relate to: How come people did nothing, said nothing, felt seemingly nothing?

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When my sister Nikita was killed, the police told me that every neighbour in a small apartment block at the end of the quiet street in which she was killed said they didn’t hear. Then they told me that she was stabbed no fewer than 35 times and it would have made for a loud crime scene, so they were appealing for witnesses.

I asked them, “Is that normal? How come no one heard anything?”

The homicide detectives told me that “people just don’t want to get involved”.

It saddens me that when Kim was killed, people heard her pleas for help, but did not call the police. We could have done things that were safe, would not put ourselves or our families at risk and helped a woman whose death could have ultimately been prevented at any point before the final action that took her life.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast. In this episode, we discuss domestic violence and the women we must listen to after Hannah Clarke’s death. Post continues below.

We can always call 000 anonymously. And when you see a woman being disrespected or abused either in public or private, there are things you can do. As an Our Watch Ambassador, I recognise that “doing nothing, does harm”.

We all have a community-wide responsibility to address violence against women, and changing the social norms, structures and behaviours that contribute to it.

Right now, I just feel so angry, sad and numb. I feel so sorry for Kim’s family, her friends and loved ones. And ultimately, I feel most sorry for Kim. We could and should have supported her. A violent man’s actions resulted in her death. But we all failed her.

Violent men don’t exist as some kind of aberration. Until we all individually confront the thinking that “it’s just a domestic” and realise that there are ways we can help, we’ll fail countless other women, too. And that’s what makes me feel most angry.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Tarang Chawla is a campaigner and Nikita’s brother. You can follow him on Instagram @tarangchawla and on Twitter @tarang_chawla

Feature Image: Facebook @tarangchawlaonline 

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