Earlier this week, a 17-year-old girl was found dead in a park in Doncaster in Melbourne.
Masa Vutokic was found in an enclave of the park at about 6.50pm on Tuesday evening after having suffered multiple stabwounds. Paramedics attempted to revive her, but she died at the scene.
Around midday on Thursday, her murdered handed himself in to the police.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Detective Inspector Mick Hughes caused controversy when he made comments suggesting women should change their behaviour to avoid being victims of violent crime.
“I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn’t be alone in parks,” he said on ABC Radio.
“I’m sorry to say that is the case.”
“We just need to a be little bit more careful, a little bit more security conscious and we, as a public, need to look after each other,” he said.
He then mentioned that Vutokic was listening to headphones when she was attacked, but said that this should not be considered a dangerous thing to do.
“People should be allowed to do that,” he said, referring to the use of headphones while out and about.
“I don’t think we can live our life in fear. We really just need to look after each other.”
The contrast here is clear – the implication is that her headphones didn’t make her vulnerable; her gender did.
While Hughes has denied there was a problem with this comments, the danger of his words is clear. A woman has lost her life as a result of men’s violence. And yet again, we are told that it is women who must change her behaviour in order to stop these tragedies from occurring.
Let’s be clear about this: Men’s violence against women would not become less prevalent if women stopped walking alone in parks. The only people who have the power to prevent men’s violence against women is the men who commit it and, more generally, the society that permits it.
Not the victims.
Victims of random violent attacks cannot be told to behave differently in order to avoiding becoming targets. If we, as women, were to heed every piece of advice we are given following an attack – don’t wear this, don’t walk home alone, don’t walk anywhere at all, always clasp your keys in your hand like a weapon, don’t drink this, don’t say this – we would be paralysed. We would never leave the house.
And this brings me to the most pertinent point – even if we did decide to never leave the house based on all these directives we are given about how to avoid violence, the violence would still not stop. Why? Because men’s violence against women does not respect circumstance. It follows women everywhere we go.
The majority of violence against women is committed by men they know; often by men whom they do – or have – shared a home with. Even locking themselves up at home would not make them safe.
The idea that victims should change their behaviour to avoid violence is conclusively negated by the fact that while the epidemic of men’s violence against women persists, nowhere is wholly safe for women. Not even their homes.
The violence women are subject to is not dependent on circumstance, but on the men who chose to commit it.
Men who choose to commit violence against women will not stop just because women become so afraid that we no longer walk alone in parks. They will only stop when we as a society choose to take decisive action combat the problem.
Hughes’ suggestion to women is victim-blaming and illogical. Changing women’s behaviour is not the solution, because the reality is that men’s violence follows women everywhere we go.