Sarah Ristevski’s mother was killed by her father, now she’s being victim blamed

Sarah Ristevski’s mother was killed by her father, now she’s being victim blamed

Sarah Ristevski
There was something unsettling about Sarah Ristevski’s exclusive interview on 60 Minutes last night – but not for the most obvious reason.

24-year-old Sarah remains in contact with and supports her father, Borce Ristevski, the man convicted of killing her mother, Karen Ristevski on June 29, 2016. Until now she has remained silent, presenting a somewhat united front with her father.

The 60 Minutes interview on Sunday evening was the first time Sarah has spoken publicly about the traumatising months after her mother’s disappearance.

“I felt like we were just zombies, just not sleeping, not eating, we just paused in that day,” she told reporter Liz Hayes. “It just felt like we were trapped in a nightmare.”

She told the reporter she still loves her father and visits him regularly – even though he lied to her for years — and that he still “misses her [Karen] every day”.

Despite pleading guilty, the convicted man proclaims his innocence to his daughter behind prison walls. From an outside observer, it presents as emotional manipulation.

But, instead of pitying Sarah’s situation, she has received a tirade of abuse on social media that either questioned her respect for her mother or went as far as alleging she might be responsible for the murder.

The tweets are an abhorrent example of the victim blaming of women.

“Just going to ring my Dad and see if he’d happy with the answers,” one Twitter user wrote.

British psychologist and criminal behavioural analyst, Laura Richards, told 60 Minutes that Sarah’s response is typical of someone who has experienced emotional manipulation by a family member. Sarah has lost one parent and is not ready to lose another one.

Richards, who has worked with the FBI and Scotland Yard and has followed the case for years, says Borce most likely had what she calls “coercive control” over Karen, and now he has it over Sarah.

“It just shows how anaesthetised she is and how well she has compartmentalised this, either for her own self-preservation or preservation of the relationship and preservation of what that relationship symbolises to her,” she said.

Recent examples of the impact of toxic online abuse and the need for compassion, not judgement, should be taken into account in this case. Just one month ago the death of a young man who had led a protest at a Brisbane library, who was condemned widely on social media, raised the question of the impact of cancel culture and online abuse. As did the death of UK presenter Caroline Flack.

Some of the Tweets in response to Sarah’s interview were too violent and explicit to publish. Surely, with some understanding and compassion, things could have a much better outcome.

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