Read Tom Meagher’s essayLocals to take stand over Sunshine killingFunding call to stop family violenceMother’s stabbing death: accused faces court
Jill Meagher’s widowed husband has broken his silence to support abused women, warning against “ingrained sexism” and the “monster myth” around men who commit appalling crimes.
Mr Meagher, in a powerful essay for the White Ribbon Campaign, recalled how hearing his wife’s killer, Adrian Bayley, speak for the first time clarified his views on men who perpetrate violence against women.
Mr Meagher writes of a courtroom confrontation with his wife’s killer. He recalls sitting with a detective and friends during a brief appearance by the rapist murderer when the man began speaking in response to the judge.
While the reply was short, Mr Meagher says the experience was disturbing.
“I froze because I’d been socialised to believe that men who rape are jabbering madmen,” he writes in the website blog post.
“It was chilling. I had formed an image that this man was not human, that he existed as a singular force of pure evil who somehow emerged from the ether.”
Mr Meagher has turned that perspective into support for the White Ribbon Campaign in his native Ireland, about one-and-a-half years since his wife was killed.
The 29-year-old Jill had been walking a short distance home from a Brunswick bar in Melbourne when she was raped, murdered and dumped out of town.
The brutal crime in September 2012 drew widespread community outrage, prompted a peace march of 30,0000 people, and led to major reforms in the justice system.
Mr Meagher says he’s been overwhelmed with messages from thousands of women who have been abused.
He says he realised he needed to finally take a stand and highlight the causes of such violence, that the random rape and murder that claimed Ms Meagher’s life can’t be treated in isolation because it feeds into a “monster myth” of men who abuse women.
“The more I felt the incredible support from the community, the more difficult it was to ignore the silent majority whose tormentors are not monsters lurking on busy streets, but their friends, acquaintances, husbands, lovers, brothers and fathers,” he writes.
“We cannot separate these cases from one another because doing so allows us to ignore the fact that all these crimes have exactly the same cause – violent men, and the silence of non-violent men.”
He says it’s only when good men take a stand that the abusive cycle will end.
It took more than a year before he stopped dreaming of hurting his wife’s killer, he writes, and realised there was a better way.
”Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for Jill’s memory, and other women affected by violence, to focus on the problems that surround our attitudes, our legal system, our silence rather than focusing on what manner we would like to torture and murder this individual?” he writes.
He also writes of how he had been avoiding the terrifying concept that violent men are socialised by ”ingrained sexism” and heard too many stories of sexual abuse from victims who felt it was ”pointless” to report it.
”If a husband batters his wife, we often unthinkingly put it down to socio-economic factors or alcohol and drugs rather than how men and boys are taught and socialised to be men and view women,” he writes.
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack praised Mr Meagher for his comments.
”This is the kind of leadership we need from men,” she said.
”It’s exactly what we need to reduce rates of violence against women. It’s about taking a stand and saying no more.”
Bayley was sentenced to life in prison last year, with no chance of parole for 35 years.