Tragic roll call: Time for action on violence
LAST WEEK another photograph of a fresh-faced young woman, full of joy and glorious potential, joined the gallery of tragedy made up of female victims of violence in this country.
Exchange student Aiia Maasarwe was found fatally injured last Wednesday in a Melbourne suburb, and her image has made front pages worldwide for all the wrong reasons.
I was working in the newsroom of The Northern Star back in 2005, when German backpacker Simone Strobel was murdered in Lismore.
It struck me, as her smiling face filled our screens, that she would have had no idea when she posed for that photograph that it would be used for such a tragic reason. And so it would have been for Aiia Maasarwe, Eurydice Dixon, Toyah Cordingley, Masa Vukotic, Jill Meagher, Anita Cobby, Janine Balding, Virginia Morse, my own sister-in-law Valda Connell ... a lengthy roll-call of tears.
Apart from those killed by strangers, on average one woman a week is slain here in Australia by a person known to them, almost always a partner or ex-partner.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported in 2017 that Australia has a "disturbingly high rate of violence" against women (you can access the data at humanrights.gov.au - it's a sobering read).
It must not go unsaid men are also murder victims, of course - but the perpetrator will almost always be another man. And before some of the vast majority of very decent men out there start typing in protest, I know. I know that it's #notallmen. But it is, without a doubt, #toomanymen.
If the statistics reported by the AHRC were the result of terrorist attacks, literally billions of dollars would be spent by Peter Dutton and his buddies to keep Australians safe. Instead, we hear endlessly that it's every woman's right to get home safely, but nothing is done.
And since the advent of the #metoo movement, it has become apparent it has never been more difficult for men to define their role in society and work out just what actions are, and are not, acceptable. The entertainment industry has been the focus, but offensive behaviour towards women occurs everywhere.
Once upon a time, when women of my mother's generation carried hatpins on trains for protection, dealing with lewd behaviour was accepted as being a rite of passage. I don't know a woman who doesn't look over her shoulder when walking alone.
So for all the blokes who are angry, or feeling sorry for themselves that they can no longer swat a woman on the bum in a bar without copping an earful, remember this. It might be hard to be a man these days ... but it's never been easy being a woman.