The murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne last week is a tragedy, as is every murder of an innocent person. The randomness of this attack makes it all the more haunting and my heart goes out to her family, friends, and fans.
We’ve seen this before. The murder of Jill Meagher bears gut wrenching similarity both in the crime, and in the reaction. The randomness of the attack, the rape and murder, the public outcry, the marches and vigils.
But we’re making the same mistake we did after the Jill Meagher murder, and every other random murder of an innocent woman: We’re ‘fixing’ the wrong problem, and that leaves the REAL problem un-fixed.
The mistakes are many, but let me articulate the ones that undermine our efforts to actually protect women:
A: We’ve made this a ‘group’ issue, but all violence is committed by an individual, against an individual. We keep calling this ‘gendered violence’ and calling for ‘men to take a good hard look at themselves’. Not only is this insulting to the entire male population; the vast majority of which would never lift a hand against a woman, much less rape or kill one; But it also stops us from dealing with the true problem: The fact that there are individuals among us capable of horrific evil, and they can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Vague accusations such as how men ‘perpetuate the patriarchy’ or ‘create a culture of violence’ pretty much just by existing only exacerbate the issue where we are blaming groups of innocents rather than holding guilty individuals accountable. Every ounce of energy wasted on this group-shaming is energy that is distracting from the real issue and making it harder to fix the real problem.
B: By blaming a group, we’re allowing individuals to get off easy. The alleged murderers’ criminal history, if he has one, hasn’t been revealed at this time (he’s 19 years old and so any history is likely to have been dealt with in juvenile courts) but it’s unusual for someone to go straight to rape and murder without committing other violent crimes first. I don’t know, but I expect in due course we may hear more about this. We do know that in the Jill Meagher case, the Masa Vukotic murder, and many others that haven’t attracted the same headlines, the perpetrator is a known violent criminal who has been previously captured, prosecuted, found guilty, then released early or released on bail, only to offend again.
Right now on the streets of Melbourne we have known violent and sexual criminals walking the streets on bail, in some cases having been bailed AGAIN after committing violent crimes whilst on a previous bail – sometimes as many as 6 times! This is insane!
So whilst many people in their grief and rage are blaming millions of men who AREN’T guilty, our criminal justice system is releasing and re-releasing men who ARE guilty of violence against women.
C: The third mistake that is stopping us from actually fixing this problem is that we keep calling for ‘solutions’ that don’t work, and can NEVER work. This is because we blame a ‘group’, so we look for ‘group’ solutions.
‘Education’ and ‘cultural change’ are going to have zero effect on people willing to commit rape and murder. They are already so far away from cultural norms and breaking so many taboos and laws, that no change in the prevailing ‘male culture’ is going to have an impact on them (even if we pretend that ‘male culture’ is part of the problem). They aren’t a part of that culture in any case, they are usually isolated (often by their own hand) and hide their true thoughts and feelings because they KNOW they’re not a part of the culture and wouldn’t be accepted by other men if they admitted the truth.
To bear this out, in my life I’ve met thousands of men. Statistically speaking there must be at least a few dozen men over the years that I’ve met who beat their wives, and even a few men who are guilty of rape. But do you know how many have admitted to me that they hit women? One. And that was because my wife and I had our suspicions and challenged him about it. He worked through some stuff, the violence stopped years ago, and he and his wife are still together today in a much happier relationship.
And do you know how many men have admitted or even alluded to being guilty of rape? Zero. Why? Because they KNOW they are outside the prevailing culture. They know that I’m not going to accept it, and if I think they’re in any way serious I’m going to report it to the cops. As will the VAST majority of men should they hear something like that.
Men who commit acts of violence against women will NOT be influenced by my opinions or ‘culture’ regarding women, nor will they give me or men like me a hint as to what they’re doing. They KNOW it’s wrong, they KNOW it’s unacceptable, and ‘male culture’ is already opposed to what they’re doing.
Other ‘group’ solutions such as more police only helps in the few areas where police can be present at any moment in time. More cameras may help us to identify an attacker after it’s too late for their victim, but then we just hand them over the a ‘justice’ system that is running a catch-and-release program as mentioned above. None of these solutions are actually going to help victims in their moment of need.
We have to accept that INDIVIDUALS need the means and right to protect THEMSELVES! The attackers are typically individuals, not entire demographic groups! The victims are usually lone individuals either on the streets, in a park, in their home, or in their shops. For as long as we buy in to this fallacy that this is a ‘group vs group’ issue, then ‘group’ solutions will look appealing, but continue to fail.
We MUST shift our focus to the individual. What could you, or I, or Eurydice, or the owner of a jewelry store, or anyone else, do or have with us when attacked that could turn the tables on our attacker?
In no way is this victim blaming, let me head that accusation off right now. Telling someone to lock their car doors when they park in public isn’t victim blaming, it’s common sense, because we KNOW that predators are out there looking for cars to steal. Likewise installing a fire system into an apartment building isn’t saying the occupants can’t be trusted… it’s to protect against a worst-case-scenario no matter whose fault it may be.
So saying that women should be ALLOWED BY LAW and encouraged by their loved ones to prepare and have the equipment to protect themselves in the event they are attacked by one of these individuals, isn’t saying the woman is responsible for the attack, it’s acknowledging a sad reality of the world both today and for all of history: There live among us people who are capable of horrific things, and they will attack in a moment when you are most vulnerable and usually alone.
I will finish with this: The only people who are guaranteed to be on the scene of a violent attack as it happens are the perpetrators, and the victims. Police will not be there and will take at LEAST a few minutes to arrive, if not hours in the case of a fatality like Eurydice where no one knows what’s happened. This means the only person a victim can count on being there for them in their moment of need is… them.
This is why I have argued repeatedly over a period of years for all Australian’s to be permitted to keep and carry the means of our own self-defence, up to and including guns. Yes it seems crazy to Aussies who have grown up with a fear of weapons and a worship of government, but the ONLY person who can protect you is you, and right now you are a defenceless victim BY LAW.
Would Eurydice have carried a weapon had she had the option? Who knows. Perhaps she would have hated the thought of a gun, and pepper spray or a taser would have been her choice. Or perhaps nothing at all, in which case she would have been no worse off than she was when she was attacked last week. What about Masa Vukotic? What about Jill Meagher? What would their choices have been? What about all the other women whose names we don’t know because they didn’t attract the kind of media attention that these cases did?
And how many more individuals must we add to this list before we stop blaming innocent groups of people and start dealing with the individuals responsible for the violence, and start allowing the individuals who may become future victims to protect themselves?
Less than a month ago another woman was assaulted by a man less than a kilometre from where Eurydice was murdered. Police believe it was NOT the same man. That man got away, is still free, and will likely never be caught until and unless he attacks again. What if his victim had been armed? What if she could have used pepper spray, a taser, or held him at gunpoint till police arrived? There would be one less predator on the streets today (well actually, there would be one MORE predator out on bail – but you get my point).
And what if Eurydice’s attacker had no criminal history? What if he really did go from nothing, to rape and murder in a single step? That’s a terrifying thought, because it means that even if we fix the justice system to properly and harshly deal with violent offenders, we’ll still be faced with the reality of such crimes from people with no history of violence.
No matter how you look at it, disarming victims is the worst possible way to deal with violence, including and especially violence against women.
So while we’re grieving, holding vigils, and seeking answers, don’t allow your rage to wasted on some vague anti-men crusade where millions of decent people are smeared by association simply because we share a gender. Instead, direct your rage at a justice system that routinely sets violent people free to attack again. Direct your rage at a government that forces you, me, and every woman in Australia to be defenceless. And share my rage at the way we keep making the same mistakes, and adding new names to this heartbreaking list, all the while wasting our energies on solutions what will not save a single life.
It’s time to do something that will actually make a difference to the next individual who suffers an attack.
Topher Field has a Facebook page on which this originally appeared.