The killing of a young primary school teacher in Ireland has been described as a ‘shocking’ example of the danger posed to women by violent men.
Ashling Murphy, 23, was brutally beaten to death while she was out for a run at the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Wednesday afternoon.
Her murder has triggered calls for zero tolerance of all forms of male violence against women.
Many have also questioned how such a horrific attack could happen in broad daylight.
As with the high-profile cases of Nicole and Bibaa Henry, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, social media has been flooded with an outpouring of women’s lifelong experiences of systemic misogyny, casual sexism and abuse.
Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, argued that the focus should not be on what women ‘should’ do to avoid harm, or on the places attacks occur, but firmly on the perpetrators of violence against women.
She added: ‘The killing of women is the extreme end of a spectrum of violence and abuse that women in Ireland and across the world experience every day.
‘The appalling murder of Ashling Murphy, a young woman in Co. Offaly, yesterday is a shocking example of the dangers posed to women by violent men.
‘We are also hearing of the internalised fears many women carry no matter where they are in public places because of this.
‘We must not fall into tired tropes of examining whether areas are “safe” but consider instead the attitudes and actions of men who make women feel unsafe even in crowded and well lit areas.’
Women’s Aid, which has kept a record of the violent deaths of women in Ireland since 1996, says that 244 women have been killed since then.
The national frontline organisation working to prevent domestic violence revealed that in 87% of resolved cases, the perpetrator was a man known to the victim. In 13% of cases they were strangers.
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, also argued that focusing on what women were doing when they were killed ‘plays into this insidious narrative of the perfect victim’.
In a post on Instagram, the writer said: ‘I understand why people are posting, “She was going for a run.”
‘But it doesn’t matter what they were doing. When we say, “She was just doing this,” or “she was just doing that,” it suggests that the case wouldn’t have been quite so awful or tragic if she had been doing something else.
‘Like if she was walking down an alleyway at 2am, or going to meet her married lover or a sex work client or if she was drunk or she had taken drugs… like it would be a little bit less awful in those circumstances.
‘And it devalues women’s lives. It plays into this insidious narrative of the perfect victim who deserves our sympathy and our grief because she did absolutely everything right.’
It comes as a man arrested in connection with Ashling’s murder is ‘no longer a suspect’.
Irish police had arrested a man in his 40s within walking distance of the crime scene, who was being held in custody for further questioning.
But he was released last night and the force has renewed their appeal for witnesses to come forward.
Specifically, officers have urged anyone with information about a ‘Falcon Storm mountain bike’ with ‘straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks’ to come forward.
A statement from the Irish police said: ‘The male who was arrested and detained by An Garda Siochana investigating this fatal assault has now been released from this detention.
‘This male has been eliminated from Garda inquiries and is no longer a suspect.’
Hundreds of people attended a vigil in Ashling’s memory in Galway last night, with many bringing flowers and candles to honour her.
The London Irish Centre has also announced that it will hold a memorial for her tomorrow, starting at 4pm.
Senior Irish politicians promised that justice would be delivered for her family and loved ones, and condemned violence against women.
Irish premier Micheal Martin said the teacher, who worked at Durrow National School, ‘represented the best of modern Ireland’.
He added: ‘The entire country is devastated and shocked by the violent and barbaric killing of Ashling Murphy, a young woman in the prime of her life.
‘There is no place in our society for violence, particularly violence against women. It cannot and will not be tolerated.
‘The safety and security of women is at the core of our society’s values.’
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