Horrific murder of Aiia Maasarwe another reason status quo isn't enough

The horrific murder of Aiia Maasarwe is another reason the status quo isn’t good enough

Shocking. Brutal. Horrific. Appalling. Wretched. The murder of 21 year old Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne is all of this and more.

This innocent woman, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a vibrant individual brimming with kindness, potential and life, was in Australia as part of a study abroad program. She was at La Trobe University in Melbourne for six months as part of the degree she was studying at Shanghai University.

Friends and family have described her as positive, adventurous and terrific fun.

“Best decision I’ve ever made,” was the caption Aiia wrote on Instagram recently with a photo of her completing a tandem skydive.

She was less than a kilometre from home in Bundoora when she was attacked after midnight on Tuesday. She had spent the night at a comedy club with friends and was almost home. She was on the phone to her sister when the random attack began. Her sister had to endure the terror of hearing her being attacked when she dropped the phone. She then had to encounter the unfathomable horror of being on the other side of the world, unable to help.

Aiia’s body was discovered on Wednesday morning at almost the exact same time her sister had called police in Melbourne to report her concerns. She was barely alive when she was found and she died shortly afterwards.

Police sources have described the crime as “horrendous as you could get”. Regardless of precisely what Aiia suffered, the fact she was killed is as horrendous as life gets.

Her family believed Australia was safe. She believed Australia was safe. It should have been. She should have been able to reach her home safely. Everyone should.

To say Aiia’s murder has rocked the community of Bundoora is an understatement. It has rocked Melbourne, tragically reminiscent as it is of the too-recent and too-similar murders of Eurydice Dixon, of Qi Yu, of Jill Meagher. The reverberations from Aiia’s murder are not just being felt in Victoria but right around Australia.

The awful irony of a man violently ending Aiia’s life is that the backdrop to his ghastly crime was a fiery public discussion about toxic masculinity sparked by an ad for razors imploring men to be better.

The notion that encouraging men to be respectful towards women was radical or outrageous or controversial was difficult to accept even in hypothetical terms. The senseless violent murder of an innocent woman shatters any pretence of this subject being hypothetical.

There is angst and tension and a million think-pieces in #NotAllMen, in #TheBestMenCanBe, in toxic masculinity and we’ve seen it all laid bare this week.

On the other side there are women who are paying with their lives, week after week, because men are killing them. The murder of Aiia Maarsawe is another awful case in point.

If that’s not toxic, what is?

If we can’t entertain the option of seeking to do things differently now, when can we?

Drawing a line in the sand and saying we need things to be different, that we need to actively and intentionally promote respect for women as fundamental, is not the same as saying all men are murderous rapists. What it is saying is that the status quo is not good enough, because it isn’t. And it won’t change unless men and women commit to changing it.

Violence against women does not occur in a vacuum: it is lubricated and facilitated by  disrespecting women. Zero tolerance is the starting point we need to embrace and enforce.

Not raping or harming women is obviously the absolute baseline contribution a man can make in this regard but that is not enough. Actively rejecting anything and everything that dismisses and disrespects women is critical. If that is too much, the problem will never be fixed.

And women have more cause to be outraged by that than men do about a single commercial.

If you are worried about unhealthy, abusive or violent behaviour in any of your relationships, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au 

If you are in danger call 000.  

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