Another woman is brutally murdered and another headline gets it wrong
66 women (at the time of writing) have been murdered this year, police have just discovered remains in their search for another missing woman, and, thanks mainly to Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women project, the fact that women are being killed at a rate of 2 a week is now firmly in the public consciousness.
It’s worth noting that the homicide rate in Australia has actually declined slightly over the last twenty years. So, despite how it appears, it’s not that more women have been murdered this year, the difference is just that now is that we know about them.
In tandem with our increased awareness of the women murdered, we are also more aware of how the media reports those murders.
It seems that every time the media reports another murder, we have to correct the words they use, they language and undertones that diminish their lives and soften the horror of their death.
Another woman murdered in Townsville this week was reported as a “selfie led to stabbing murder”.
The news.com.au article said:
She took a selfie with her new partner. And, police will allege, it is that selfie that led to a fatal stabbing.
The Queensland Police Media Unit confirmed today that there were two police statements about the murder, one stating only that it had occurred, the second confirming that murder charges had been laid against a 35 year old man.
So if news.com.au got their information from Townsville police, it was unofficial, not a direct quote. Their reporting of it was their interpretation, not what police actually said on the record.
Despite this, the article headline read:
Townsville police say selfie could have led to alleged stabbing murder
No. She wasn’t murdered by a selfie, she was murdered by a man who decided to stab her. She wasn’t murdered because she left her partner or started a new relationship, she was murdered because a man decided to stab her. It’s not relevant that a neighbour thought they were “happy together”, she was murdered because a man decided to stab her.
The reasons and circumstances that led to that decision will be determined by police and Coroner’s investigation, and until that investigation is complete, no one can be sure of what they were, but selfies do not cause murder. The decision to act causes murder.
Corrine Henderson was a woman, not a statistic, not a headline, not a salacious treat for the media to gobble down. She was a person, with a full life, infinite possibilities for her future and people in her life who loved her. Reporting her murder as if it was somehow her fault, or trivialising it with headlines about selfies is disgusting, the effect of those headlines on the people grieving for her is unimaginable.
We’ve seen this kind of reporting over and over, and over, again. It’s difficult to understand how the reporters and editors responsible are still so blind to the effects of their language that this still happens, but it seems to have something to do with subconscious gender perceptions that still colour so much of how we see the world.
More men are murdered every year in Australia than women, they are almost always murdered by other men and when men are murdered or assaulted, it is far more likely to happen to them outside their homes. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to be murdered or assaulted by men inside their homes.
Which makes it odd that no one has ever warned men to stay home at night. I have never seen or heard anyone tell men that they shouldn’t go out alone, or that they should dress prudently, or stay together, or be aware of their surroundings, or be careful who they talk to, or be cautious of how they behave when they are out. Men are not required to monitor their own safety in the way that women are, which makes no sense when men are at far greater risk of violence than women when they are outside their homes interacting with other men.
If this feels repetitive, that’s because it is. If it seems like you’ve read this article, heard this protest, seen this argument before, that’s because you have. Probably on an almost weekly basis. And you’ll almost certainly see it again next week, and the week after that and the week after that. Because we already know that more women will be murdered in the coming weeks and we can be fairly sure that the headlines will be salacious and misleading, and that women will continue to be implicitly blamed for the violence enacted against them.