New Zealand is in mourning for a young woman who, despite only being in our country for a matter of days, has had a profound effect on all of us. Grace Millane was getting ready to celebrate her twenty second birthday when she was senselessly murdered at some point during her first night out in Auckland city.
I, like the rest of us, held on to hope until the end. Perhaps her phone got stolen, an impromptu road trip, or just too busy having fun and letting time get away on her not realising she hadn’t checked in with her family for a few days. Tragically, the worst outcome was confirmed when her body was recovered by police in the Waitakere ranges. Our collective hearts sank as we watched her family’s grief unfold.
We have all been blindsided by this. New Zealand is safe right? Bad stuff doesn’t happen here like it does in “scary” overseas places. Except it does. Someone in the city I live in felt so emboldened and entitled that he took her life and there is no excuse he could give that would make what he did even close to justifiable.
There are two reasons we are so devastated about what happened to this young woman at the very beginning of her her adult life. One is our basic humanity, the other is the realisation we are all Grace. It could have happened to any one of us. Anyone that has ever travelled, anyone who has ever had a couple of drinks, anyone who has ever been on a Tinder date, that could have been your best mate, your sister, your co-worker… It could have been you. The fact of the matter is she did nothing wrong or out of the ordinary but the snap reaction was still “well she shouldn’t have/should have…” Grace is dead because someone chose to murder her. She had every right to live her best life, the fact it was taken so brutally rests with the person who took it.
We can’t totally prevent tragedies like this entirely but we can make would-be perpetrators feel less comfortable in their actions by changing some of our normalized behaviours. First of all, we really need to stop continuously jumping to victim blaming every time. Perpetrators of crime aren’t zoo animals being poked with a stick, they are responsible for their actions. “But she made me do it Miss” doesn’t fly when you’re a grown ass adult. If it’s wrong don’t do it, if you’re hurting someone else don’t do it. Take responsibility to manage your own emotions instead of expecting other people to do it for you. Care for people more vulnerable than you are rather than feeling entitled to take your frustrations and hurt out on them. When friends or family members make cruel jokes at the expense of others don’t awkwardly laugh along, tell them you don’t find it funny. It’s not that you’re uptight or have no sense of humour, they just need to actually be funny rather than relying on shock value to get approval and attention. Call out your friends when they’re behaving maliciously or aggressively, don’t go along with it because it’s easier. If we do this people like Grace’s murderer will hopefully think twice before harming someone.
We as a society need to show a little more kindness and a little more courage.