For Masa – by Maddy Thomas

March 19, 2015

 

I grew up in and around Doncaster. I worked at Donvale Rehabilitation Hospital with my mum in the school holidays. I smoked my first joint with my best friend Steph at her house on Amelia Crescent, while my grandparents lived around the corner on Beverley Street. My grandmother worked at the post office at Tunstall Square, and knew the names of everyone who came in. I still work at Donvale Football Club behind the bar during the season. I get the bus to and from work on Springvale Road, and if I crane my neck slightly at the bus stop I can see the Koonung Creek walking track. It was along this track that a 17 year old girl, Masa Vukotic, was stabbed to death this week. A regular young woman, out walking with her headphones in had her life taken away by an opportunistic coward with a knife.

I suppose I feel attached to this because it happened in my hood. I regularly walk home across a primary school oval with my headphones in, or come home late at night (often after a beer or 12) alone because I feel safe to do so.  It’s a quiet area with the hum of the Eastern Freeway buzzing in the background, a sound which is often my companion as I walk home from work at the football by myself late at night.

I’m heartbroken that my community is collectively shaking its head. One of our own was ripped away on a grey Tuesday evening by a faceless predator, doing what I do so often – just walking home. I got home last night to a locked front door, perhaps an unconscious reaction by my father to the evil that briefly passed by our suburb. I wish I could accurately describe in words how heavy this all makes my heart, and as I write this a lump is building in my throat. There will be no-more unlocked doors at my house.

Masa is the 23rd woman to be murdered in Australia this year, as I write this it is the 19th of March. We’re 78 days into this year and we have lost 23 mothers, sisters, wives, friends, and lovers. Of these 23, 18 were murdered by men, one was murdered by a woman and the other four remain unsolved. These statistics are just too high, and too tragic to dwell on for too long. I have sat here all morning trying to process each story, but I have my limits when it comes to human suffering. To be honest, it just made me too fucking sad.

I’m not just sad though. The longer I sit here with these statistics flying around my head, and the senseless suffering that goes hand in hand with each one, I feel my sadness give way to a boiling, pointed anger.

I’m really, really angry. I’m angry that now every time I go for a walk I have to think twice, I’ll have to think about where I go, and what time, and I’ll have to let someone know that I am going for a walk lest something happen to me. I’m angry that I have to decide whether I want to have headphones in, how loud to have my music playing, or whether I should keep them out altogether just to be safe. I’m angry that this creep decided that he had the right to murder a teenage girl going for a walk, a girl who will now never marry, or have children, or travel to far flung places. She will never fall in love, or out of love. She won’t feel the warm breeze that is blowing through Melbourne today, a last breath of summer kissing the city goodbye. She will not take one more step down the endless path of riches that life has to offer.

I’m angry that Masa was the 23rd woman to be murdered in Australia this year. THIS YEAR. It’s not okay that this is happening. Women should be loved and protected, not seen as prey.

Women are beautiful, and brave, and under our steely determination there is a perfect thread of fragility. That fragility is what makes us so wonderful, we feel so much, from the tiniest ripple to the biggest wave. Fragility is also what makes us irresistible to predators, our tiny little lives are so easily ended. No matter how robust the soul, a knife, a gun, or a fist can sever our delicate thread between being in this life, and being taken away.

As I write this hot, fat tears are hitting my keyboard. Tears of frustration, and anger, and sorrow. I want to scream at the sky and make a promise that I’ll take my headphones out, and I won’t walk home alone, and I won’t do anything but walk the straight and narrow, and I’ll fall in line if we can just please, please, please not have a 24th woman added to the tragic chorus of fallen sisters.

But I need more than a promise shouted at a silent sky, I need voices. We need to look after the women in our lives, we need to commit to being brave enough to help each other when we can, we need to ask the questions, and teach our boys how important it is to look after the women in their lives.

If you see something that doesn’t seem right, offer assistance, or if the situation seems unsafe or you feel that you cannot help, call the police. Even if you’re not sure, even if you feel a little silly doing so, you never know how much making that one short phone call can help. A few years ago, I heard thumping and screaming from the apartment next to mine. I was unsure what to do, and sure as hell didn’t want to knock on the door alone, so I phoned the police. The young Vietnamese woman who lived next door had been beaten by her partner and the police got there in time to intervene. I made the same call for the same reason several times while I was living in that apartment, and while I can’t pretend to know why she took back her violent partner, I never regretted making those calls each time. I didn’t regret it because she was a woman, and she mattered.

Masa’s life mattered, my life matters, all women’s lives matter.

Please stop killing us.

4 Comments

  1. Terri

    March 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Sometimes all it takes is a simple ‘are you alright sis?’

  2. admin

    March 19, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    So true, Terri. It is just so terribly sad that anyone has to even ask. – editor

  3. Harry

    March 21, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Your Grandparents were my next door neighbors. I grew up with the Thomas family. In fact Marie use to look after me after school. This is an awesome neighborhood with awesome people. We need to look after EVERYONE.

  4. Rellw

    March 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    This happened in my backyard, I have lived in Doncaster for 43yrs….I would still never walk with headphones for safety reasons :((

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