FOLLOWING the murder of school teacher Ashling Murphy, the conversation should not focus on what women can do to stay safe, but on the issue of male violence against women.
Such is the sentiments of Breda Murphy Project Coordinator of Waterford Women’s Centre & Childcare Service on Manor Street in Waterford city.
As a women’s organisation they were very saddened to hear of the senseless killing of the 23-year-old teacher on Wednesday afternoon while on a run along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore in County Offaly.
“It is a shocking thing to happen in a local community. People are stunned that something like that happened,” Breda said, while expressing her deepest sympathy to Ashling’s family.
As a woman it made Breda think about walking alone, but feels it shouldn’t leave women frightened to do what they want. “There’s a lot of talk about how to keep yourself safe, but it really isn’t the issue at all. The issue is male violence,” she said, “It is only when tragedy like this happens that it is brought home to everybody that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”
According to figures by Women’s Aid 244 women have died violently between 1996-2022.
On the notion of women needing to have a means to protect themselves against possible attack, Breda said, “It becomes the responsibility of women to stop something happening when women are not the perpetrators. It is almost like asking the victim to take responsibility for men’s behaviour.”
Breda asked, “Why shouldn’t we be able to go about freely and do what we want.”
“On the radio a man said he wouldn’t cross the street if he saw two women coming towards him. That is an experience that every woman has had in that she felt fear seeing a couple of men coming towards her or she heard someone walking behind her and didn’t know who it was.”
The reality is no woman or indeed man asks for violence or abuse, but Breda said, “I don’t think men understand the fear that women experience even with someone shouting or screaming, a fight breaking out on the street or someone drunk coming towards you.
“Of course we know that the vast majority of men are not violent or aggressive towards women, and there’s only a small group that would be capable of something like what happened.”
However, the fact of the matter remains that the majority of violence against women, and indeed men, is perpetrated by men.