This week Steve Price labelled Van Badham ‘hysterical’. He did so, while interrupting her one of 13 times during her response to the brother of a victim of fatal domestic violence. Badham was discussing how attitudes need to change if we are to tackle domestic violence and violence against women, and as if trying to provide a perfect example of ignorant attitudes juxtaposed against her calm demeanour, Price minimised her while diminishing the affect of cultural nuances that facilitate domestic violence in this country. And now today, a violent abuser, rapist and murderer has successfully had his sentence reduced. It seems as though we have a long way to go.
Adrian Bayly’s Appeal Successful
In what can only be described as a slap in the face to each of his rape victims, Adrian Bayly has had his sentence reduced after winning an appeal against one of his rape convictions. Most Australians will remember the story of Jill Meagher’s disappearance, rape and murder. It made national news at the time and spurred marches protesting violence against women. Bayly was out on bail for a previous violent attack at the time of the murder, but what was revealed after the horrific crime was that Bayly had a long history of violence and sexual assault. A history that should have prevented him from endangering other women. A history that strongly correlates with increasing acts of aggression, and should warrant long terms of incarceration in a society that cares about the well being of its people and values women’s safety.
During his sentencing for murdering Meagher, Justice Geoffrey Nettle made mention of Bayley’s “extensive history of rape and violence”. I’ve been vocal about violence against women and sexual assault in the past – and it’s important to note that Adrian Bayly, although the poster child for violent abusive criminals, is not representative of most offenders. Most women are assaulted by people they know, and painting Adrian Bayly as a typical rapist has repercussions for every future case against predators of women. Still, a history as extensive as his is a stark reminder that we are not doing enough to dissuade the epidemic of violence against women.
Bayly is currently appealing a number of convictions for sexual assault in an attempt to reduce his sentence, despite the fact that Victorian Legal Aid has repeatedly refused to represent him. He has a long and well documented history of sexual violence, and yet he was on the streets long enough to rape and murder an innocent woman. And it leads me to question, if we can’t find a way to keep a man like Bayly in gaol for life, where does that leave us with the “mainstream” rape and sexual assault cases? You know, the ones you read about in the paper where the very first and most common comment is always -“but women lie about rape all the time! How do we know she didn’t just regret it the next morning and cry rape?” Backed up ably by “Why was she in that place/in those clothes/at that time/alone?”
Jill Meagher’s Murder and It’s Implication for Women
It is such an uphill battle to meet the level playing field. In so many ways, equality and equity are far more commonplace than they once were, but we can’t accept this as good enough. We as a society have become so accustomed to violent acts against women that we have stopped being outraged. Adrian Bayly not being behind bars for life with no chance of parole is dangerous, but more than that it sends the message to the women that he raped (but didn’t murder) that those moments they endured, excruciatingly, at the hands of their abuser are not important enough to punish. That in order to get justice for a rape victim, she has to be dead.
Yes, we have come a long way, but there is still so much to do. There are biological differences between men and women, but equality – and more important equity – are not about our differences, they are about our rights. Women have the right not to be intimidated walking alone. Not to hold their car key as a potential weapon as they venture to their car in a sparse parking lot. Not to have their clothes, their behaviours, and their words scrutinised should they be violated. Women have the right not to be afraid, and Adrian Bayly forfeited those rights when he raped several women and finally murdered one.
I absolutely do not support capital punishment, even in the most depraved of cases. But a criminal like Bayly needs to be imprisoned for life. That needs to be an absolute given unless he can prove he is not guilty on the number and magnitude of his crimes. A VicHealth study from 2013 revealed that nearly 1 in 5 people believe that if a woman is drunk she is partly responsible for her own rape, and the same proportion agree that domestic violence is partly the fault of the female (abused) partner. Worse, more than half of respondents believe that women fabricate cases of domestic violence in order to improve custody agreements and almost 2 in 5 people believe that sometimes women who say they were raped led the man on and then regretted sexual contact later.
These attitudes will not change unless our judicial system takes rape and assault far more seriously. This is not a legal argument – I understand there are legal recourses and laws that don’t support this discussion. But they absolutely should. This is a common sense discussion and it needs to happen, vociferously and promptly. Women should no more be afraid for their bodies or their lives than men are. We are a long way from achieving equality and equity on that score.