What is it that so compels us in the Jill Meagher case? People go missing all the time yet these particular set of circumstances have most of us enthralled and genuinely emotive. Why?
If you're truly unaware, Jill Meagher is a 29 year old woman from Ireland now living in Melbourne with her Irish husband. In the early hours of last Saturday morning she attempted to walk the short distance from a bar to her home but along the way she vanished. She's not been heard from since. Police released CCTV footage showing her in conversation with a man who looks alarmingly like a man other women reported harassment and abduction attempts by. Her handbag was found 2 days later in an obvious spot police had already scoured. Missed or planted?
It doesn't look like good news. It's terrifying. Makes my skin crawl. I'm not much older than her. I've gone out in that area and been drunk there. Is it the 'could easily have been me' element that grips us so? The mystery of it? The fear is genuine. I feel my stomach tense when I read about this. I feel true dread and worry for this woman I've never heard of before.
Something about it is gripping us psychologically. There is a lot if judgement at the fact she walked home alone but don't we all live by the default setting of 'it can't/won't happen to me'? I've walked streets alone at night. Intoxicated. Silently scolded myself for the risk in the light of sober day. It's just 5 minutes. I do it all the time. I'll be fine there's people around... Plenty of traffic... And yet.
Women get unwanted attention from men a lot. Being approached on the street at that hour by a man wouldn't be unusual. And Jill is a pretty woman. I don't want to speculate but chances are she was rolling her eyes and just hoping he would give it up and she could go on her way. Not initially suspecting real danger. Using her phone to prevent him further engaging her. Who knows though? Only Jill.
Perhaps that's what gets to us here. That many of us have had unwanted encounters that maybe leave us feeling a bit unsafe but we rack it up to part of life and go on with it. Except Jill can't. Where is she?
I don't want to allow something like this to change how I conduct a night out or how I feel about walking unaccompanied at night or anytime. But it does. I feel less safe. I feel far more cautious and fearful. It infuriates me that I've been made feel this way by some bastard who has done this. Remember those 'reclaim the night' women's marches? No way. Not reclaimed. Taken further away.
I hope the police get a breakthrough in this case soon. I hope Jill is found alive. I hope this increases our awareness of what's going on around us - to us or others in our vicinity. I hope this feeling of mass fear and intimidation doesn't last. I hope that we don't lose hope.
Crimestoppers 1800 333 000