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Hannah Clarke was the loving mother of three beautiful children. Their names were Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. They were 6, 4 and 3. A photograph made public this week shows the four of them smiling while splashing in the shallows at the beach.
I don’t know much else about Hannah Clarke and her children. However, thanks to the atrocious state of the media and domestic violence reporting in this country, I have been told a fair bit about the man who murdered them.
I’ve heard he was a ‘footy star’ and ‘ex-NRL player’ who friends believed was a ‘loving and dedicated father’. I have been told he was born in Tauranga NZ and that he was a member of the President’s Selection 2005 team. For fu*ks sake, I even know that two former Brisbane Broncos players used to train at his gym.
I was told all of this entirely irrelevant nonsense alongside the only story we need to know about the man Hannah Clarke had been trying to escape; the man whose violence police were aware of, and who they had visited in regards to a family violence matter as recently as January.
On Wednesday morning, the man Hannah Clarke had been trying to escape came to the street where her parents lived, where she had brought her children to find safety from the man they were trying to escape.
Hannah Clarke was preparing to take her children to school when the man she had been trying to escape jumped into the car beside them, brandishing a jerry can of petrol he had been seen filling at a station earlier that morning.
The man Hannah Clarke had been trying to escape with the children she was trying to protect then doused the four of them with petrol before setting the car alight.
Hannah Clarke managed to escape the car that held the man she had also been trying to escape for months, the man whose violence police had known about in January but who was still free to terrorise the woman who had dared to leave him. (Bizarrely, one of the few things I know about Hannah Clarke was that she was wearing athleisure at the time of the attack, because of course the Australian media considers that detail more important than the fact she was a brave and fierce mother who was doing everything in her power to protect her children from the man she knew was a threat to them.)
Hannah Clarke died later in hospital of extensive injuries.
According to reports, the man emerged from the vehicle and tried to prevent neighbours from helping to free Hannah Clarke’s three children, the three children the man has subsequently been described as having been the ‘loving and supportive father’ to. The man then stabbed himself until he died.
But it’s not good enough. I wish he had burned alongside them and survived his injuries. I wish he could be made accountable for what he’s done. I wish he would have to spend every day for the rest of a long, long life in pain and agony, despised and vilified and locked in a cell surrounded by mirrors so he could never escape staring into the eyes of the mongrel bastard he is. I wish he could be a living reminder to us all of the pain and destruction wrought by men against women and their children, fostered and inculcated by a society that refuses to properly address sexism, misogyny and entitlement.
Because that’s what we’re dealing with here. That’s what we’re still dealing with, despite having already dealt with it before with Ann O’Neill, Rosie Batty, Tara Brown, Karina Lock, Olga Edwards, Salwa Haydar, Jackie Ohide, Nikita Chawla, Kim Hunt, the unnamed Aboriginal woman stabbed to death in Seaford only two weeks ago and the endless, absolutely endless list of women and their children who have been murdered by men who needed to prove to them who was and always would be the boss.
The man who viciously, brutally, hatefully murdered Hannah Clarke and her three children didn’t emerge from a bubble. He isn’t an outlier to an otherwise healthy society defined by gender equality and mutual respect. He and every other man like him, the men who have already been responsible for murdering eight women this year alone and who were responsible for murdering more than 50 women last year are the logical endpoint of a society that refuses to address the reality of misogyny, entitlement, patriarchy and the bubbling sewerage of sexism that keeps all of these things afloat.
A man murders his entire family and we hear about his fu*king sporting achievements for crying out loud. A man murders his entire family and other men race to blame the ‘feminist Family Court and its demonisation of men’, despite the Family Court never having been more favourable to the rights of fathers and it being a NOT ENTIRELY LUDICROUS PROSPECT to want to protect children and children from men who are reasonably deemed to be a risk to their safety - the kind of risk that might see a man douse his family in petrol and burn them alive.
This is the reality we have allowed to continue. Men kill women and children in this country at a terrifying rate. People want to blame the family courts and mental health and sadness, because naming men as the source is somehow “unfair”. Meanwhile, men keep murdering women and people keep acting shocked.
We’ve got pedophile defenders with massive platforms being given OAMs for their ‘advocacy for men’, which just involves them railing against feminism’s “domestic violence industry”. Successive govts that have defunded women’s shelters. A decrease in financial options and government support for women who are then forced to stay with violent men because money makes the world go round and men get more of it than anyone. Internet groups and fanbases allowed to indulge the worst kind of misogyny under the pretence of it being 'a joke', or men actively working together in these spaces to stoke rage and fury over their self imagined oppression.
If this latest horrendous murder isn’t enough to prompt direct action from the government, communities and society at large, I just don’t know what will be. Men’s violence has a systemic solution but solving it requires the political will of all of us. Gender equality and respect has to be instituted through education programs at a systemic level, across all age groups.
This is a nationwide problem and it requires a nationwide solution. There are men abusing women and children all over the country, from rich suburb to poor. Women and mothers today are reading the news of Hannah Clarke and her children and fearing it might be them next.
They’re right to be scared. Because for one of them, it will be.
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