Another week, another headline. This time, a 24-year-old woman. She was walking her dog on a nearby beach in Cairns when she was attacked and murdered. Her body was found the next morning, naked in the dunes. There is no confirmed cause of death. Toyah Cordingley has become another casualty, another statistic in Australia’s growing violence towards women epidemic.
Despite the #MeToo movement, which is proving to have continuous growth and affects around the world, the number of women murdered in Australia hasn’t slowed. The number of murdered women in 2017 was 61, according to the ABS. In the same report, over 20,000 women were classified as victims of sexual assault. As of today, this year’s murder toll is 66. The fact is that violence against women is on the rise.
We as women are urged to protect and look out for ourselves so nothing like this happens to us. But how can we be responsible for other people’s actions towards us?
I feel lucky that I haven’t been assaulted, hit, stalked or raped. And that is almost laughable. I feel lucky that one of my fundamental human rights hasn’t been violated. But the fact that I do infuriates me, because essentially that means that I should be expecting that. And I do. Because that I will become the one in three women who are sexually assaulted or harassed. And domestic violence in this country is as prevalent as it’s ever been.
This map from The Red Heart Campaign you an idea of just how prevalent the violent deaths of women are:
So of course I’m angry – what woman isn’t? We are living in a time where women are rising up and we are doing the best we can to achieve equality and eradicate violence towards ourselves, but we are constantly seeing horrific acts committed against our sisters despite our efforts. All I can think is what the f*ck is it going to take to get the point across?
I am always disheartened when I read social media comments on articles that talk about violence against women. It’s usually a barrage of “NOT ALL MEN”, and the issue at hand gets lost. And this is infuriating, because we KNOW that not every man has raped, assaulted, harassed or murdered a woman – that’s just common sense. But the fact is that many of them have. This hashtag has become a kind of crutch for many especially on social media. And its seriously one of the worst justifications I’ve ever heard. Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first one to understand that I don’t need to be worried about all men, because I have some of the most amazing men in my life in the form of my father and my boyfriend. But the fact remains that many men are guilty of contributing to the degradation and oppression of women, whether that be in the way of laughing at a sexist joke, making unwanted advances, or in the most extreme cases, assaulting or killing a women just to exercise their perception of power.
I’m sick of being scared. I’m tired of worrying about whether my pink mini dress might translate to “I’M ASKING YOU TO HAVE SEX WITH ME AGAINST MY WILL” in some kind of code that is only decipherable to the worst kind of people. It’s heartbreaking to know that my loved ones have endured horrifying assault, and they too have become a statistic lost in the masses. And yet we still think ourselves lucky that we aren’t one of the Australian women who is killed every week.
With each step forward in our quest for equality, we are faced with something that pulls us back an inch or two. And sometimes I feel like it’s impossible, that our task is worthless. But then I remember that decades, centuries, millenniums even, of sexist oppression and mistreatment isn’t going to fade away at the typing of a hashtag. While it may take a little while, we will achieve equality. Oppression as we know it will cease to exist. It’s the little things that make it all worth the while, and seeing the positive aspects of the hard work, sacrifice and resilience of women past and present lights our path to equality with the brightest sparks of determination.