Women, it's not your fault – not if you're alone, not if it's night. Never

That a man has been charged so quickly for allegedly bashing 25-year-old Courtney Herron to death in what police describe as a "horrendous" act of extreme violence is some, small comfort in a city in which so many women have fallen victim to violence – so much so that both the lord mayor and the Police Minister say they are afraid alone at night.

Four women in less than 12 months have been found dead in public places; such a shocking toll that even hardened homicide police say they are angry.

On Saturday, after Ms Herron's "horrifically" assaulted body was found in Royal Park by dog walkers, Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, took the unprecedented – and highly significant – step of fronting a press conference and naming what killed her.

"Men's behaviour."

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As the ripple effect of yet another woman found slaughtered radiated though a city where women want to feel safe, but are continually shown evidence that we can't, Mr Cornelius got in fast with a message we absolutely needed to hear.


Women, it is not your fault that you are victims of violent crime. Not if you are out alone. Not if it's night.  Not if you are homeless, as Ms Herron is said to have been in recent times. Never. At last, we heard it from the top.

"There have been instances in our recent past where women have been attacked and they have been attacked by men," he said. "The key point is [that] this is about men's behaviour, it's not about women's behaviour."

He went further: "Every time I hear about a woman being attacked – for me as a man – it gives me some pause for reflection about what it is in our community that makes men think it's OK to attack women, or take what they want from women."

This represents a quantum leap in how senior law enforcers discuss women's safety in real time; it reinforces the unconditional right of women to feel and be safe, and sets a new standard of honesty in how we discuss the root causes of a wave of killings that continue to rock the city.

It comes just one month after 33-year-old Geelong woman, Natalina Angok’s body was found in a laneway in Chinatown, four months after 21 year-old international exchange student, Aiia Maasarwe was found (allegedly raped and murdered) in Bundoora and less than a year after 22 year-old Euridyce Dixon was discovered (raped and murdered) in Princes Park.

Previous police remarks made after "horrendous crimes" against women (as this one was dubbed at the scene on Saturday by the homicide squad's Andrew Stamper), still sting, and rightly.

They implied the victim may somehow have been partly culpable for the heinous violence done to her, and by extension that the responsibility for women not being killed is on women.

When 17-year-old school girl Masa Vukotic was stabbed 49 times while jogging in a Doncaster park near her home in 2015, the advice of Detective Inspector Mick Hughes shocked many.

“I suggest to people, particularly females, [that] they shouldn’t be alone in parks,” Detective Inspector Hughes told ABC radio.


Masa Vukotic was killed in broad daylight doing her usual exercise routine, yet somehow the message here was she shouldn't have been. Though of course no policeman sets out to implicate a woman in her own demise, and those who have been seen to have no doubt suffered from the backlash, on hearing this, many women and no doubt plenty of men were appalled.

Incredibly, something similar happened after the death of 22-year-old Ms Dixon, who was killed not far from the location of Ms Herron's body. She was murdered while walking home from a comedy gig where she had performed.

Superintendent David Clayton remarked at the time that given the park was an area of "high community activity", women needed to be wary.


“Just make sure you have situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings,” he said. “If you’ve got a mobile phone carry it and if you’ve got any concerns, call police.” At the time police suspected another assault in the area could have been perpetrated by the then-unknown killer of Ms Dixon.

As Premier Daniel Andrews pointed out, Ms Dixon did have a phone, and was using it: “She was keeping an eye on her surroundings. Looking out for herself. Being responsible. Doing everything we expect."

His Facebook post after Mr Clayton's unfortunate comments harked back to remarks by many who simply refuse to get it that it is perpetrators, not victims, who are solely to blame for murder, made on social media after the brutal rape and murder of Jill Meagher. They asked, "Why was she out at night alone?" Answer, why shouldn't she be? Men are, all the time.

To state the blindingly obvious, it is devastating that it took yet another killing of a woman to bring out the strongest, spontaneous language yet from the most powerful law enforcers around what causes violence against women, and what doesn't.

As we struggle to absorb the violent death of one more woman who should have been safe, hearing Mr Cornelius name something which has previously been padded around offers a tiny glimmer of light.

When we find an answer to his question, what is it in our community "that makes men think it's OK to attack women, or take what they want from women", perhaps this horrific toll will decline.