The passive language used in reporting to disguise domestic violence

Tara Brown, 24, was allegedly bashed by her estranged partner.

Tara Brown, 24, was allegedly bashed by her estranged partner. Photo: Facebook

I want to talk about men's violence against women. Again.

Tara Brown was a 24-year-old woman and mother whose ex-partner allegedly violently ran her off the road on Wednesday and then beat her savagely with a steel post. Shortly after being admitted to hospital, Tara's life support system was turned off and she died.

Karina Lock was shot in a Gold Coast McDonald's on Thursday morning. Her estranged husband allegedly shot her in the head before turning the gun on himself. She died in hospital a few hours later.

Karina Lock, pictured with her daughter, was gunned down in McDonald's.

Karina Lock, pictured with her daughter, was gunned down in McDonald's. Photo: Facebook

In the course of 24 hours this week, two men allegedly committed separate acts of violence against women so severe that, via reports, the public has heard those women lost their lives.

Advertisement

I use the word 'lost' deliberately, because this is the kind of passive language people are most often used to seeing and employing when it comes to men's violence against women. In newspaper headlines, articles, talkback radio discussions and conversations at the pub, the male perpetrators of gendered violence and murder are not typically said to have killed women. Instead, these women are said to have either 'lost' their lives, have 'died' or have 'fallen victim' to an unnamed and often material attack.

When I woke to the news yesterday morning that the injuries inflicted by Tara Brown's ex had resulted in her death, I was furious. Here was another woman allegedly murdered by a man she had placed her trust in, a man she had at one stage loved and with whom she had conceived, and set about raising, a now-motherless child.

Tara Brown was victimised by an abusive ex-partner. She sought help from Gold Coast police less than a week before her murder but was turned away. She was the victim of a system which still too frequently ignores domestic violence and marginalises the people (who are most often women and children) who live with it. Witnesses describe seeing her ex-partner chase her in a vehicle, run her off the road and then proceed to bash her already damaged body with a scrap of metal. This was a moment of extreme brutality and horror.

And yet, after Tara Brown died in hospital, how did news outlets and police choose to report her passing? By variously describing it as the result of a "road rage incident" or a "traffic accident" - as if she had taken the wrong turn one morning, cut the wrong person off and thus stumbled into a completely random situation of unexplainable, unpredictable violence.

Yesterday morning, as Tara Brown's life support was being switched off, Karina Lock was killed. She was shot in the head in a McDonald's on the Gold Coast by a man who then turned the gun on himself.

She is gone, now.

And how did the media and police choose to report both of these crimes? By dismissing Tara Brown's murder as a matter of "road rage" and by suggesting that the violence act which saw Karina Lock killed in McDonald's was actually a case of "a man and a woman being shot".

This passive language, while infuriating, is nothing new. The circumstances of men's violence against women and the dreadful, logical consequences of it are so frequently dismissed as a mere postscript that it's almost a wonder we recognise men's violence at all. Instead, this narrative of violence is rewritten as some kind of unfortunate, singular event that equally unfortunate women stumble into by mistake.

This is all then used as a cautionary tale to warn other women about where such thoughtlessness leads - namely, to arbitrary and random attacks brought on by things like independence, domestic unrest, driving, socialising, walking, a lack of sensible fashion codes, drinking and generally being alive but never, ever by the deliberate choices of men.

The public and legislative response to men's violence against women has not been to admit this violence is occurring at epidemic rates. Instead, it has been to instruct women in the various ways they should limit their lives and behaviour in order to avoid 'trouble'. Don't walk in parks. Don't drink alcohol. Don't wear revealing clothing. Don't be a tease. Don't provoke men's anger. Don't don't don't.

Except, both of these women were known to their assailants. They are the 61st and 62nd women to be killed in domestic or familiar attacks this year alone, the vast majority of those attacks being perpetrated by men with whom they share or have shared some form of relationship.

They will not be the last. Based on statistical likelihood, they will not even be the last women killed by men within this month.

Men's violence against women is not a passive act. It's not an unfortunate incident that women stumble into. It doesn't share the unavoidable, unpredictable nature of the weather. It is premeditated, calculated and entirely supported by a society which uses passive language to dismiss it and make it invisible.

No more.

If we want to bring an end to the shocking statistics of murdered women, we have to be willing to name the problem. It is men's violence against women. It is tangible and devastating, and it isn't something women stumble into accidentally.

Let's not allow the deaths of Tara Brown and Karina Lock to be in vain. We honour them. We remember them. And it is our responsibility as a society to work our very hardest not to repeat them - not through ignorance, not through frustration and certainly not through the passivity of indifference.