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Karen Coleman: That night it was Jill, but is any woman ever safe?


Jill Meagher

Jill Meagher

Jill Meagher

WHEN I heard the news that Adrian Bayley had pleaded guilty to murdering Jill Meagher last September, I felt relief for her family that, at least, they had been spared the anguish of listening to the details of her horrific death in court.

Bayley's admission of murder, however, does not diminish the awful reality.

He is guilty but she is dead.

We will probably never know why this gym freak decided to kill the 29-year old Drogheda expat who had moved to Melbourne with her husband for better opportunities.

I still get a shiver down my spine when I recall that CCTV footage of Bayley turning around when Jill walked past on her high heels. He had identified a vulnerable prey during that fatal encounter on the night Jill decided to walk home alone.

When I wrote about Jill Meagher's murder last September, I commented on the depressing reality that women are vulnerable to attack because, in general, we are physically weaker than men. No amount of liberation and equality legislation will change that unless our genetic blueprint is rejigged.

Women cannot freely walk the streets late at night for fear of being attacked. That's not to say of course that men are not also vulnerable.

But they are stronger and have a better chance of defending themselves. And unfortunately, the vast majority of victims of sexual assaults are women.

And we're not exactly safe in our homes either even in the middle of the day. Just look at yesterday's story about a mother in Dublin who was attacked and sexually assaulted by a stranger who came to her home after she answered an online job ad for a cleaner.

The man, who reportedly spoke with a D4 accent, apparently walked calmly back to his car after seriously assaulting his victim.

With the benefit of hindsight you could say she was naive to allow this man enter her home when she was alone. But then she probably thought it would be a good idea to show him how clean her place was.

A good initiative in theory but a bad one in practice if a predator is the one who's knocking on the door.

Now the guards are advising women to be very vigilant about meeting people they get in contact with online.

That's got me thinking about whether I really want to advertise a fridge that I need to get rid of.

What would I do if a man answered the ad and said he'd like to check it out before buying it? That would be a very reasonable request but one that would involve a call to my house.

If I heed garda warnings, I would need to ensure family members were there during his visit.

That kind of paranoia jars greatly with my sense of independence. The notion that I would need to deploy security measures to sell a fridge seems ridiculous. Here we are in the 21st Century, calling for more women in politics and positions of power and yet we can't sell a fridge without getting jittery about our safety. But that is the reality. And violence against women is increasing in some countries.

Take India as one example where the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi last December caused global outrage.

The women died from her injuries 13 days after she was attacked. Not only was she severely beaten and raped, medical examinations indicated her rapists may have used a rusting iron rod to penetrate her vagina. According to the Daily Telegraph's South Asia Editor, Dean Nelson, gun applications by Indian women have doubled since her death. These kinds of attacks are crossing continents. Last weekend in Brazil, an American woman was gang-raped and beaten on a public bus which she had boarded with her boyfriend in Rio de Janeiro.

The gang repeatedly raped the woman while her boyfriend was handcuffed and beaten with a crowbar. And this took place in the city that will host the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016.

We really need to know why this kind of violence against women is increasing. Is it the internet? Is it television? Is it war games? Is it globalisation? Is it religion? Is it atheism?

Whatever the answers we need to take action and try to make the world a safer place for all women. Maybe then women like Jill Meagher will be able to walk home safely on their own.


Irish Independent