In the early hours of Wednesday morning, January 17 2019, the body of 21-year-old Palestinian student Aiia Maasarwe was found next to a Bundoora shopping centre in Melbourne.
Police described her murder as “horrendous as you could get,” and refused to release further details out of respect for Ms Maasarwe, her family and friends.
Later that day, Senator Derryn Hinch posted a tweet that contained a most horrific detail, allegedly leaked to him by a “police contact.” I will not repost his tweet.
Hinch’s tweet provoked an immediate and furious backlash on social media. He responded to this reaction by doubling down, and insisting that “the stark details were included to warn women in the area what this monster, still on the loose, is capable of.”
He followed this up with:
To all the do-gooder tweeters attacking me for telling the gruesome truth about the Bundoora rape/murder. This brute is still out there. My tweet was for the memory of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon.
Hinch’s posts are deeply unsettling from a number of angles. There is the legal question of publishing details of a crime, and how that may influence subsequent prosecution. His account is also unsubstantiated: we only know that he’s been told some details of the crime by an anonymous someone else. For reasons that are not immediately apparent to me, Hinch believes himself worthy of our trust on these matters.
@HumanHeadline You are wrong to include graphic details. Why? Respect for the victim. Respect for family. Fuelling sick fantasies. The real possibility of causing psychological distress to the vulnerable. Think man.
— Steve Davies (@OZloop) January 18, 2019
Most important of all is what it must do to Ms Maasarwe’s family to see that the extreme harms inflicted on their beloved are the subject of a politician’s self-seeking tweet, dashed off in seconds, posted on a global social media platform only hours after her death. One moment spent imagining my own child ‘s suffering and death being co-opted in this way is entirely unbearable. The Maasarwe family, and friends, have to live this. It is monstrous to inflict further anguish on them by detailing the torment Aiia suffered in the form of a tweet. To do this under the pretence of protecting women, and further, to claim it honours the memory of two other brutally murdered women, is beyond belief.
Yet, this is what Hinch did, and he has continued to defend his indefensible actions.
How would Hinch feel if it was his own child and I decided to publish the most intimate details of her gruesome death on social fucking media? https://t.co/LidiegOxY4
— Stray Mutts (@StrayMutts) January 18, 2019
There’s also the effects of his posts on his accidental readers, many of whom, like myself, simply opened our Twitter feed to be confronted by horrific descriptions that I, and many other women I’ve engaged with today, have been unable to erase from our minds.
The details of the attack on Ms Maasarwe will eventually become public, in court transcripts and media coverage. It will be my choice whether to read these or not. Senator Hinch denied women this choice by posting the information on social media and I, and many others, feel violated by his act.
Hinch demonstrates that even in death a woman’s body is still property, he can do with it as he pleases to further his agenda.
— Gillian Riley Unelected doctor. (@Medical_history) January 17, 2019
Twitter is not the platform on which to reveal terrifying details police have decided to withhold. This was not an act of noble truth-telling by a courageous man whose only desire was to inform women so that we might better protect ourselves. Indeed, Hinch has demonstrated yet one more way men can provoke terror in women, by detailing the torment another man has inflicted via a platform where such information carries no trigger warning, and cannot be anticipated or avoided.
All he’s achieved is triggering me and a multitude of other women re our past assaults. A major apology and deletion of that tweet is required @HumanHeadline
— The Duchess Bailey’s Mother OAM (@MissBaileyWoof) January 18, 2019
It is not Senator Hinch’s role to decide for women that we need to be confronted by gratuitous descriptions in order to grasp the danger we are in. We are far from unaware. We understand that if police describe a woman’s murder as “horrendous as you can get” they mean what they say. Many women live on a continuum of fear, from mild apprehension to full-blown terror, pretty much every day of our lives. We can decode “horrendous as you can get.” We do not require men such as Hinch to do this for us, and in so doing, erode what little control we have over how we can best manage our lives in a world where we are at constant risk. Hinch seems to be on a grandiose, messiah-like mission to force women to face the details he decides are necessary for us to know.
In itself, this attitude absolutely violates our right to decide what we can and cannot admit into our lives. It is a dreadful thing to do to women who have already survived male violation, and denial of our autonomy.
What Hinch actually succeeded in doing was to make himself the centre of the story, not the women who were murdered, not their families and not their friends. We have become somewhat inured to politicians’ despicable behaviours over the last years. We don’t expect much decency. However, this action taken by Senator Hinch is up there with some of the worst political behaviours on record.
And the story becomes about yet another hubristic entitled white man and not about Aiia Maasarwe. My heart bleeds for her friends and family.
— Patricia Barraclough 🌺 (@PMBarraclough) January 18, 2019
Women who survive sexual assault as adults, and/or children, and the terrifying powerlessness of being overwhelmed by male violence, are, at the very least, entitled to decide how much we can afford to know about the suffering inflicted on other victims. This is the reason for trigger warnings: to give us the opportunity to decide if we want to take the risk of having our own trauma reignited by the details of the violence wrought on another. We can say no to such information. We are not obliged to absorb the details of horror. We’ve lived horror, and we’ve earned the right to choose not to allow details such as those published by Hinch into our lives. We well know what some men are capable of. We do not forget. We certainly do not need another man to forcibly remind us.
Hinch has been reported to Twitter by numerous tweeps. Many of us have asked him to delete his post. He has steadfastly refused to do this.
I asked him if now that there's been an arrest, his rationalisation for the tweet no longer applies, will he now delete it. Of course he bloody won't. He doesn't give a toss about how this affects women who have been raped.
— Margaret Morgan ✒📚 🎬🔬⚖ (@Monocotyledon) January 18, 2019
It would be appropriate for his political colleagues to school Hinch on his despicable behaviour. However, I doubt any of them will bother. Yet again, it is up to us to express our disgust and contempt for the hideous actions of an elected representative.
Vale, Aiia Maasarwe.
This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.
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