Almost a year on from when police found the body of a young woman, identified as 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon, yet another young woman has been found brutally murdered at the hands of violence. On May 25th, Courtney Herron became the 20th (known) woman to die from violence in Australia in 2019 alone.
That equates to one tragic death a week.
Following Dixon’s June 13 death last year, police responded by telling women to “be careful” and “mindful of their surroundings.” Detective Inspector Stamper told media at the time, “My message is that people need to be aware of their own personal security.”
What Detective Inspector Stamper failed to realise is that we, as women, are very aware of our surroundings. So much so, we have unwritten rules about how to act after the sun goes down, including everything from holding your keys between your fingers to taking the busiest and most lit route to your destination. In fact, a recent study revealed that over half of Australian women don't feel safe walking home after dark and 30 per cent agreed that “girls should not be out in public spaces after dark”.
Following the death of Courtney Herron, police openly acknowledged for the first time that these deaths were the result of violence perpetrated by men. Speaking to the media in light of Herron’s murder, Victoria’s Assistant Police Commissioner Luke Cornelius admitted that what had transpired were the actions of a man, not a woman who had “failed” at being aware of her personal security.
“This is about men’s behaviour, not about women’s. For me as a man, it gives me pause for reflection, about what is it about our community that makes men think it’s okay to attack women,” he said.
While the stories of Dixon and Herron are incredibly heartbreaking and tragic, they show only a fraction of the reality of violence against women in Australia currently. Thanks to the tireless work of Destroy The Joint, a Facebook community dedicated to gender equality in Australia, the names of those that have tragically lost their lives are remembered and honoured. Volunteer researchers Debra Smith, Pat Bradley and Sue McLeod from Counting Dead Women Australia, sift through court documents and media reports daily to make sure no woman’s story is missed.
Below, the 20 known women who have lost their lives this year at the hands of violence. You can read their full stories here.
Samah Baker, 30
Aya Maasarwe, 21
An unnamed woman, 31
Julie Rush, 49
Darshika Withana, 40s
An unnamed woman, 63
Megan Kirley, 40
Tamara Farrell, 31
Marjorie Welsh, 92
An unnamed woman, 76
Qin Wang, 57
Preethi Reddy, 32
Gabriella Thompson, 27
Caris Dann, 30
Syeda Hossain. 33
Natalina Angok, 32
An unnamed woman, 87
Gihan Kerollos, 47
Courtney Herron, 25
While groups like Destroy The Joint and Counting Dead Women Australia are bringing attention to those that have tragically lost their lives to violence, we still have so much more to do.
The sad truth is, one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. One in seven young Australians believe a man would be justified in raping a woman if she initiated sex but changed her mind, according to findings from the National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS). On top of those results, one-quarter of young men think women find it flattering to be persistently pursued, even if they are uninterested.
The recent reports, coupled with the deaths of over 20 women this year, prove that our attitudes towards women are worlds behind. We, unfortunately, have a long way to go before this country starts to acknowledge the terrifying, often hateful ways women are treated.
For all the ways you can support groups like Destroy The Joint see here.
If you are impacted by assault, domestic or family violence call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. If you need help immediately, please call 000.