The ‘safety call’. It’s the phone call we’ve all made to a friend, parent or sibling to comfort the feeling of vulnerability we’ve had as we journeyed someplace under the cover of darkness. If it’s not a feeling of vulnerability, it’s the fastening of our breath as we hurriedly make our way to our destination, the racing of the heart as we pick up the pace. Sometimes it’s not from a conscious choice that this happens, but from all the times we’ve woken up to the news that another girl, somewhere, didn’t manage to make it home. Unfortunately for some, this reaction has become second nature.
21 year old Aiia Massarwe isn’t unlike any of us. As she made her way home from a comedy show on Wednesday night, she hopped on a tram that would drop her within walking distance of her house in Melbourne’s north. This was undoubtedly a route Aiia had taken countless times before. On this night, Aiia was brutally attacked as she walked home, her killer leaving her body behind a hedge near a supermarket entrance.
Chillingly, the attack occurred as she was on the phone to her sister in China. On the other end of the line, her sister bore witness to the entirety of the attack, forced to listen to the silence that proceeded and then the sounds of cars as they passed by.
Today I cry for you Aiia Maasarwe ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PDYbQ08Twg
— Dale KERR (@DaleKerr) January 17, 2019
It’s absolutely shocking but it’s not something we haven’t heard before. The horrible end to Aiia’s life echoes similar circumstances that surrounded 22 year old Eurydice Dixon’s death just 7 months ago as she too, attempted to walk home. Stalked for over an hour before her death, Dixon’s killer raped and strangled her, leaving her body to be found hours later. Years before this, 29 year old Jill Meagher also fell victim to a random attack as she walked home from a pub in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. She too was raped and murdered.
Despite evidence of a cap and T-shirt found at the scene, Aiia’s killer has not yet been found. In response to heightened fears in the community, Melbourne’s police announced they would ‘saturate the area’. But many are concerned that these reactionary measures are forbidding these attacks from the preventative action they call for.
‘Saturating the area’ after the fact is fine (I guess?), but what about more systemic solutions for women who can’t afford or otherwise access a taxi or Uber between public transport and our homes? Aiia Maasarwe did everything you said she should- so what comes next? https://t.co/xro9NjFzaf
— Erin Ryan (@erinryanau) January 17, 2019
There are discussions that the Government should provide us with alternative, more affordable solutions to public transport. But isn’t this too just avoiding the problem that is at hand, offering a suggestion that again addresses something other than male violence?
Aiia was a student of Melbourne’s La Trobe University, attending a campus not too far from where her attack occurred. In response to the tragedy and a number of safety concerns from students, the university’s vice chancellor has promised to increase the number of patrols on campus. But at what point will the systemic issue of male violence be addressed? It’s not just women but all of us who have a right to feel safe in all public spaces, day and night.
Following the rape and murder of Jill Meagher back in 2012 by a man on parole for a separate rape crime, the state of Victoria introduced new law reforms which would classify a breach of parole as a separate offence. This was in the hope to stop other preventable crimes from ever occurring. Whilst there is no information yet on Aiia’s killer, we hope the tragedy breathes new life into the issue of male violence and the need to address this issue as one in itself.
Action on behalf of the Government and police in coming days will certainly be an interesting insight into how this tragedy is received, and if necessary measures will be taken in order to ensure it is the last tragedy of its kind.
Image Source: Dale Kerr Twitter, Michael Idato Twitter