One of the more distressing things to come out from the initial disappearance of Jill Meagher were all the victim blaming comments, some trolling, most not.
Like how stupid was she to walk home alone, how stupid was she not to have accepted the offer from a friend to walk her home, how stupid was she to have gone out without her husband, one spectacular troll even speculated that she deserved whatever had happened to her because she was obviously a cocktease who drunk flirted with some unnamed male and didn’t put out like she was supposed to.
And all of it victim blaming, no matter that Jill had walked the 500 metres to her home from this bar many many times, that just because you walk home alone does not make you an automatic target.
What she wearing was discussed, she was wearing a shortish skirt, TARGET, she was wearing high heels, TARGET, she was slightly tipsy, TARGET, she had the audacity to decline the offer of a walk home, TARGET.
After the publicity there came many reports from other women that they too had had confrontations with an unnamed man in that same stretch of road, but they had never reported it, so now of course it was the fault of those unnamed women, if they had reported it blah blah blah, you get the drift.
Let me fill you in a few things, if every woman reported every single incidence where a male, or group of males had made her feel threatened, frightened or just plain creeped out there would not be enough police staff in the entire country to keep up with the paper work.
The police would cease to take these reports seriously and nothing would change.
I have never been what you call the average female, even when I was young, I’m not pretty, I have bad eyesight, and yet I have lost count of the number of times that I have been actively frightened by random male predatory behaviour.
The very first instance I can remember happened the year I was 10, over the Christmas holidays my boobs arrived, in a big way, I went from having no breasts at all to needing a C cup bra in the space of 3 months.
From that moment on males that I had grown up with, males that I considered to be uncles, brothers, good friends, their attitudes and behaviours all changed, I lost count of the number of times my boobs were ‘accidentally’ groped or the times when it was blatant, often accompanied by a sly grin and ‘a just checking to see if they are real’.
One day a group of grade six boys cornered me in the girls toilet and they started touching and groping at my boobs, one tried to pull my pants down and another one had his hand over my mouth and if only for the fact that Mr Prosser one of the cleaners started banging his mop bucket around out in the corridor who knows what the hell would have happened, they got scared and ran off, and these were boys that I’d known from Kindergarten.
From then on it seemed that hardly a week went by when someone, usually someone random, but sometimes someone I knew, made it their business to make suggestive comments, make me feel like I was on display and there for their fun.
On buses, in shops, on the street, no matter where I was all of a sudden I was public property to be gawked at, manhandled and made to feel scared a lot of the time, all because I had boobs.
As I got older I learned ways of coping with all the comments, learned mechanisms to deflect interest, but even then there were always the persistent ones for whom making me react was a challenge.
It didn’t matter what I was wearing, or where I was, I was there for their enjoyment and hell if I didn’t respond then obviously I was a bitch, or whore or any number of other epithets that were flung at me.
So can you see why women don’t report these things, we’d be accused of overreacting, after all it’s a bit of harmless fun isn’t it? No one gets hurt, not really. Except that you do get hurt, you get fearful, you wonder if perhaps the next time it might escalate, you worry as you walk home, if you hear footsteps or hear someone calling out for you.
And then something like this happens, and the victim blaming starts, but where do you draw the line, do you never leave your house, or never go out at night, never go anywhere alone, never even dare think of doing all the things that males take for granted, or do you go about your daily business and hope like hell that you won’t intersect with someone who has an agenda.
The fault lies not with the victim, but with society, with all those people who think that it’s just a harmless bit of fun to comment about how a woman is dressed, what she looks like, what she might be up for, and then laugh about because hey, it’s just fun, that’s what makes people who have those agenda think that it’s all right to do what they do.
I hope that all the publicity surrounding the tragic rape and murder of Jill Meagher actually makes people think about what their attitudes are, and how they might be contributing to a society where women don’t complain to the police because the sheer volume of skeevy behaviour that the average female is subjected to makes the reporting process useless.