A very sad week in Australia with the death of Jill Meagher. Some things to think about

I just wanted to comment on the death of the lovely Jill Meagher. Ohhhh, what to say? Where to start? Perhaps the first part of hearing that she’d been out, having drinks after work with friends. Which we all do. Apparently leaving a bar, refusing a friendly escort home? Which we’ve all done.

Thinking you’re wandering along a street, maybe slightly drunk, but not feeling that it was a really seedy area, so you’ll be ok? Which we’ve all felt. But we all got home.

We all woke up the next day perhaps questioning if it was really the best move to have gone that road alone? Should we have cared for ourselves a little more? We’ve all questioned such stuff.

No one EVER thinks they’ll become that person on the news that’s gone missing? Why would you? Few of us know anyone that has met that fate. And we do live in a country that is in our perception anyway, is not as bad as many others in terms of violence. In terms of genuine danger. Are we wrong?

And then we all, some of us, many of us…. get lead along the judgment path. “Oh it must be the husband.” Even before they go looking as they did in their flat, many us then jump to conclusions that maybe the husband knocked her off.

Staring intensely at his photo, searching for that intuition that he’s got a dark secret. Because sadly we know that often that has been the case, so we look to join familiar, morbid dots.

But this time… we….some of us, were wrong. We stared in the face of a stranger going through sheer hell, and wondered ‘are you a monster?’ When we should have stared and thought ‘my god, what must you be going through?’ A sad part of our human experience of wanting to be in control. And the control being what we’ve often seen so at least we feel like we might know.

There’s also a part of us that almost prays that perhaps she was an unhappy wife that chose a very cowardly plan of how to get out. A situation that feels better to judge as a questionable choice, rather than the worst-case scenario of this woman, this husband, this family, this related friend group, having NO choice. The last thing anyone wants to know is that one human, a stranger had the power to end all that was happening and hopeful to another person’s life. They had the power to shut it all down.

Because it could happen to us. To someone WE love. Some scumbag makes that choice…for us.

So today we woke to find that the latter was the case. That it was as simple and gruesome as this woman leaving a standard Friday night with friends, walking herself a short walk home, along a seemingly safe route, past a lit up shop, and meeting her murderer. The man that would end all dreams, her right to life and everything with her, for those that loved her.

Its kind of boogieman stuff. “Be careful darling walking on your own at night!” But don’t we just think that applies to taking lonely dark streets? Not lit up, busy streets? And even then?

Jill’s family is now grieving because the worst-case scenario has so quickly become true. Almost a situation that many others with loved ones that have disappeared would almost envy because perhaps they still don’t know their fate.

And for the rest of us, I hear on radio talk shows of bringing back the death penalty, like playing god will stop these rare atrocities from happening. It won’t. If you have murder and rape in your head, the fear of death is surely not going to stop you. Your demons have taken control. There’s hardly anything rational in taking another person’s life?

If we now fear that we aren’t safe anywhere, then we have chosen to rob ourselves of all parts of what’s generally good in the world. Yes as women we should be more careful with ourselves, and as such perhaps should take the gallant gesture of a man walking us home to be just what it is.

For men that have been shaken by this, I hope you realise that when you offer a safe passage home to a female you just leave it at that. For the reason we say no, is sometimes less out of wanting to prove independence, and more about ‘will he leave it at that?’ A tiny awkward moment is often what we’re avoiding.

(I mean that with no suggestion to the lovely man who asked to walk Jill home, who was apparently a friend. Just as a generalization to situations when a man and a woman who don’t know each other well, and he might offer to walk her home, is met with hesitation of new people not understanding each other’s purpose or boundaries)

The whole thing is tragic. And with tragedy always poses a time to reflect on how we view things and how we can improve attitudes to each other to keep us all safe.

29 thoughts on “A very sad week in Australia with the death of Jill Meagher. Some things to think about

  1. This was such a massive tragedy, it really threw us all out. I live in Melbourne and regularly spend nights out on Sydney Rd. Chatting with girlfriends earlier this week, we all admitted to thinking ‘that could have been me,’ because it’s true, we’ve all woken the following morning to realise we probably shouldn’t have walked alone. I think it’s a wake up call for all, women and men. Though we all have the right to walk the streets safely, the reality is that this doesn’t always happen. That said, we shouldn’t live in fear.

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this utter tragedy and trying to understand it. But, predictably, I can’t so I am left with a feeling of upmost sympathy for the grieving husband and family who are left to pick up the pieces. And I have consider the alledged perpertrator of this horrible crime. What drove him to act in the way that he did – kniwing surely that he would be throwing his life away. A senseless, useless act thst has destroyed him too.

  3. I agree Kate the whole ‘it could have been me thing is still ringing in so many Melbourne women’s ears, and also I don’t believe Sydney Rd is a dangerous place – I do just think sometimes when there’s monsters roaming the streets it’s about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I guess it just means that we have to take stock of where we can improve our decision making and that end of the night part of ‘I should let someone get me home, or safely into a cab’ etc. We all have a tendancy to be too independant at times and as women we need to trust that we’re not going to go rampaging back into the 1950’s if we accept the odd escort home. I don’t mean that as a reflection to Jill of course, Jill unfortunately was just another woman doing what we all are used to doing but because of her tragedy, we’re now forced to re-think it. And the same for blokes. I think this has hit alot of blokes really hard too. Stay safe x

  4. Message Body:
    Hi Amber,
    I am a 47 year old Adelaide woman who has, like so many of us, been rocked by the Jill Meagher tragedy.
    I am now pretty much past the point where I am out late but, again like so many of us, have spent a lot of time pondering the “What ifs” and “It could have been me”.
    I had an idea but I am not sure if it is a good one. I thought if someone could make a sticker with Jill’s picture on it and the words “Remembering Jill. Stay Safe.” it could be put into the ladies rooms of pubs/restaurants/clubs etc. If I had too much to drink or some sense that I was 10 ft tall and bullet proof this might just prompt me to take the safer option.
    I have no idea what the family would think of this but if it were me I think I would be happy if the memory of Jill saved even one woman from danger.
    What do you think? And if you think it would be a good idea how would one go about implementing it?
    Helen Wheldrake

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