Young English tourist Grace Millane was doing her big OE. On December 1 she was murdered in Auckland city and her body recovered from the Waitakere Ranges on Sunday. Times reporter Therese Henkin shares her thoughts.
There are few words to describe the utter devastation and heartbreak so many of us are feeling this week.
The horrifying end to the Grace Millane investigation is weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of every New Zealander.
And I think it’s safe to say that Grace’s death has reminded us why being a woman, even in New Zealand, is terrifying.
As someone in my early 20s, I – and so many people I know – am walking the same path as Grace, graduating from university, travelling, meeting new people and determined to create as many memories as I can.
And we all deserve to come home safely.
Instead, on the eve of her 22nd birthday, on the trip of a lifetime with her whole life ahead of her, Grace went on a night out from which she would never return.
As I’m writing this, it was reported that Grace met her (alleged) murderer via a dating app.
It’s hard to describe the sadness that comes with knowing that some people will, perhaps without even realising it, use this information as a way to make sense of why this happened to her.
They will say things like; ‘if only she hadn’t gone off alone with someone she had just met… if only she hadn’t chosen to travel alone’.
What people should be asking is, ‘Why did this 26-year-old man think it was okay to act violently towards her?’ or ‘Why did he think he had any right to take away her life?’.
Grace had every right to do whatever she wanted to do with whomever she wanted to do it with, and walk away safely with nothing but incredible memories of her time here in Auckland city.
Women who travel alone or go on dates with people they’ve never met are not the problem. Men who commit violent acts against women are.
Lizzie Marvelly wrote in a blog post on www.villainesse.com on Monday morning, “When young women are slaughtered, it reminds women that our safety is an illusion. I won’t speculate on the details of Grace’s death, but how many of us have travelled alone? How many of us have gone out on dates with people we don’t know? How many of us have dared to go out into the world and seize life?”
Lizzie warned that people would turn Grace into a cautionary tale.
I, along with so many other girls, have grown up being cautioned.
Don’t walk home alone, don’t get into a taxi alone, don’t trust people you have only just met, always keep a close eye on your drink, let someone know where you are at all times, don’t go anywhere without your phone.
These things and more have become our collective, subconscious checklist.
Over the last few days I have read stories from other women who only park their cars in well-lit car parks so they don’t have to walk back in the dark.
Women who, without realising it, lock their doors when they are sitting in their parked car on a dark street.
Women who have pulled their hoodie over their heads in an attempt to hide the fact that they are a female walking alone.
Women who wait until they see their friends walk into their home before they drive away.
Women whose goodbyes are followed with a ‘text me when you get home safe’.
Making decisions based on the anticipation of something awful happening to you or your friends is a heavy burden to bear.
When will people start realising that raising women to avoid becoming a victim of violence and death is not the answer?
As a start, we need to put more focus on raising men to know that they are equally responsible for the safety of the women around them.
That when they say derogatory things to women, when they act disrespectfully or violently towards women, they alone are responsible for the harm that this causes.
How about next time you go to tell your daughter to change her outfit to something ‘less revealing’ before a night out, instead remind your son to protect and care for the women he encounters.
When you remind your female friend not to walk home alone, why not also take the time to remind your male friend to make sure any girl he is with, even those he has just met, gets home safely.
Maybe, just maybe, by doing this we can start to change something.
Since writing this another woman has tragically lost her life in Flat Bush because of a senseless act of violence and aggression. A man has been charged with her murder.
As a country we need to do better.
Women should not have to walk around our country in fear.
Rest in Peace to both of these women. Women who had so much more living to do.