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‘No one said anything.’ The familiar narrative of Kim Murphy’s needless death

April 27, 2020 / Tarang Chawla, Our Watch Ambassador

Kim Murphy was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner in the Adelaide suburb of Morphett Vale last week.

Portrait of Adelaide mother of three Kim Murphy

Kim was 35 and a mother of three beautiful children. So many lives have been permanently shattered in her wake. And yet like so many other women, Kim’s death could have been prevented. But it wasn’t.

Many things upset me about Kim Murphy’s needless death. There is talk that the system failed her because she had sought refuge to keep herself and her children safe. But help wasn’t available for her. That is not good enough and it is up to governments to appropriately fund a sector working for women and children experiencing abuse and violence in the home.

The fact that she was allegedly murdered by a vindictive, possessive and entitled ex-partner is a story that feels all too common. It has made me feel numb and gives me a sense of déjà vu because it is something that I can relate to since my sister Nikita was murdered by her ex-partner in 2015.

The part that upsets me most is the fact that people could have spoken but chose not to do anything. Several news reports have detailed how neighbours of Kim Murphy heard her anguished screams and a man shouting and threatening to kill her, but did not call emergency services.

Of course, the neighbours are not to blame for the actions of a violent man. They would be hurting, too, but men’s violence against women doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a society which enables the abuse of women to go unpunished, with men who kill their families being labelled “good blokes” as we saw when Hannah Clarke was killed earlier this year.

It’s this painful reality about our society that makes me feel numb all over. Whenever there’s another woman who becomes a statistic, it’s something her family can intimately relate to: How come people did nothing, said nothing, felt seemingly nothing?

When my sister Nikita was killed, the police told me that every neighbour in a small apartment block at the end of the quiet street in which she was killed said they didn’t hear. Then they told me that she was stabbed no fewer than 35 times and it would have made for a loud crime scene, so they were appealing for witnesses.

I asked them, “Is that normal? How come no one heard anything?”

The homicide detectives told me that “people just don’t want to get involved”.

It saddens me that when Kim was killed, people heard her pleas for help, but did not call the police. We could have done things that were safe, would not put ourselves or our families at risk and helped a woman whose death could have ultimately been prevented at any point before the final action that took her life.

We can always call 000 anonymously. And when you see a woman being disrespected or abused either in public or private, there are things you can do. As an Our Watch Ambassador, I recognise that “doing nothing, does harm”.

We all have a community-wide responsibility to address violence against women, and changing the social norms, structures and behaviours that contribute to it.

Right now, I just feel so angry, sad and numb. I feel so sorry for Kim’s family, her friends and loved ones. And ultimately, I feel most sorry for Kim. We could and should have supported her. A violent man’s actions resulted in her death. But we all failed her.

Violent men don’t exist as some kind of aberration. Until we all individually confront the thinking that “it’s just a domestic” and realise that there are ways we can help, we’ll fail countless other women, too. And that’s what makes me feel most angry.

This article first appeared in Mamamia on 21 April 2020. 

Pictured: Kim Murphy. Image via Mamamia.

Media contact

Saraya Musovic, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au or 0448 844 930) or media@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.

About Our Watch

Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms and structures that lead to violence against women and children.