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Tom Meagher on the ‘monster myth’

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The husband of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher has appealed for an end to violence against women saying most are not killed by “monsters lurking on busy streets” but by people they know.

Tom Meagher, whose wife was killed in September 2012, has spoken out for the first time in an effort to support abused women.

In his powerful essay for White Ribbon Ireland, Mr Meagher condemns “ingrained sexism” and the “monster myth” about those who commonly attack women.

Mr Meagher says hearing Jill’s killer Adrian Bayley speak in court made him reassess how he saw a person who could be violent to women.

Jill Meagher
Jill and Tom Meagher. Photo: AAP

He says he needed to “re-imagine the social, institutional and cultural context in which a man like Adrian Bayley exists” .

“When I heard Bayley forming sentences in court, I froze because I’d been socialised to believe that men who rape are jabbering madmen, who wear tracksuit bottoms with dress shoes and knee-high socks.

“The only thing more disturbing than that paradigm is the fact that most rapists are normal guys, guys we might work beside or socialise with, our neighbours or even members of our family.”

He has turned his changed perspective into support for the White Ribbon Campaign against violence towards women, also crediting Jill for turning his attention to these issue before her death.

Jill was raped and killed when walking a short distance home from a Brunswick bar in Melbourne in September 2012.

Her death sparked widespread community outrage and support against violence towards women.

Mr Meagher says while touched he increasingly felt he needed to take a stand, hoping that the widespread vilification of Bayley could be used to highlight the social issues that surround men’s violence against women.

“The more I felt the incredible support from the community, the more difficult it was to ignore of 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 men must self-examine their own self-ingrained behaviour to stop male violence against women.

Tom Meagher (L) at Jill’s funeral. Photo: AAP

He writes that the “monster myth” perpetuates a lack of self-awareness allowing the public to see infractions on women as “minor” because the man is not a “monster like Bayley”.

Mr Meagher uses examples such as men who are verbally abusive in bars because a woman will not speak to them, men on streets shouting comments and in male peer groups where rape-jokes and disrespectful attitudes are uncontested.

“The monster myth creates the illusion that this is simply banter, and sexist horseplay.

“While most of us would never abide racist comments among a male peer-group, the trivialisation of men’s violence against women often remains a staple, invidious, and rather boring subject of mirth.”

Mr Meagher also rejects the need for more violence as retribution for crimes such as Bayley’s, with many people online saying the killer should be raped in prison.

“For people like Bayley, rape is punishment, it’s how he exerts his dominance, and exhibits his deep misogyny through sexual humiliation.

“If we, as a society then ask for Bayley to be raped as punishment, are we not cementing the validity of this mind-set?”

Mr Meagher ends his essay calling for good men to stand against this type of attitude towards women.