opinion

'Why no-one is marching in the streets about Nicole Cartwright's murder.'

There is a killer on the loose in suburban Sydney.

A person capable of binding a young woman’s hands, beating her severely, and leaving her body carelessly covered with leaves in a public park.

You might have heard the name of that woman who was killed sometime between Sunday, September 30 and Tuesday, October 2. She was called Nicole Cartwright. Nicole was 32. She lived with her parents in Sydney’s Lansville, and she loved dogs.

But you are less likely to have heard of Nicole than of some other women who met an equally horrific end. Names we all know. Eurydice Dixon. Jill Meagher.

Those names are rightly burned into Australian women’s minds and memories, synonymous with lost potential, crushing loss and our very worst fears. A city marched in protest about what happened to those women six years apart, crowds shocked from their homes by the random brutality of their deaths.

But, so far, no-one is marching for Nicole. The person who murdered her is still at large, the police investigation is ongoing and her friends and family are scared and angry. They are also upset about the way she’s being portrayed in the media, with news reports detailing her use of websites that connect people for sex and dating, and apparently, sado-masochistic acts.

“They’re focusing on that stuff,” Nicole’s friend ‘Joe’ told Fairfax reporter Lucy Cormack. “But there was a lot more to her and her life.”

No matter. Nicole does not fit the perfect image of a murder victim. Her death won’t mobilise a mob, or spark a call for a change in the law.

She was living between her parents’ place and various others. She travelled the city by train. She looks a little eccentric in her last photos, taken at a train station wearing a choker and carrying her clothes in a Coles shopping bag. It’s hard to say what she did for a living. She was on those websites.

Image: NSW Police

Nicole's is not a neat enough narrative to shock a nation into grief.  For that, we need what we deem to be a true innocent and a random attack by a complete stranger. A lightening strike.

And Nicole's not the only 'imperfect' victim.

Have you heard the name of Erana Nahu, who was stabbed to death in Sydney's Glenfield on October 11? Her partner, the father of her children, has been charged.

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Or of Jacqueline Francis, 50, stabbed in the neck on October 6 in Rockingham, WA. A man is being held in a psychiatric ward, awaiting charges.

Dannyll Goodsell's body was discovered after a fire at her house in Ballarat, Victoria on October 6. Police say she did not die in the fire, and have charged a 35-year-old man with her murder.

You may have heard of Kristie Powell, the crime that took her life was so very shocking. Kristie was beaten to death metres away from her five-month-old baby son in Wollongong, NSW on October 4.

There's Gayle Potter, mown down by a car in Traralgon, Victoria on October 2. Her ex-partner has been charged with her death.

Look at those dates. So many lives lost, so many others ruined, in such a short time.

They are not even the only ones. We don't know the names of a further two women killed so far in October.

They are the faceless members of a terrible toll. We have now lost 55 women to violent men in 2018, according to the campaigners who keep count, Destroy The Joint's Counting Dead Women. We are in the 42nd week of the year, and we have lost 55 women. These numbers are not falling. They are rising. At this point last year, that despicable number stood at 39.

And yet the streets are silent. The front pages - yes, including Mamamia's - are focusing on Meghan's baby belly, on multi-million-dollar horse-races and reality TV. It's much easier not to face a problem we can't solve.

When Eurydice Dixon was found murdered in a Melbourne park in June, my co-hosts and I recorded a special episode of our flagship podcast, Mamamia Out Loud. Like the nation, we were reeling at a young woman dying in a random attack on her way home from work. We discussed how a crime likes this played to the worst fear of every woman, whatever age, how it tapped our certain knowledge that we walk among predators. Predators we are helpless to defend ourselves against when push comes to shove in a quiet park.

We have not done that for Nicole Cartwright's death. Nor has any other media outlet. There has been no march, no protest, no thousands-strong vigil.  It's difficult to maintain the rage, the shock and the horror as the deaths keep coming.

It's also uncomfortable to hold the thought that many of these women knew their predators. Loved them. Had children with them.

We don't yet know whether that's the truth of Nicole Cartwright's death. The police are doing their work.

The killer who left her in that park, her body scattered with bark and leaves, was just one of eight men who ended a woman's life in Australia within two weeks.

Eight men whose violence has destroyed the lives of so many more. For the people who loved these women, they have lost everything. A daughter, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a mother.

And for all of us, a loss of hope. Hope that the glare of attention on violence against women might actually save lives. Change things.

It's unreasonable to expect a perfect victim. It's unthinkable to get accustomed to this level of loss.

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