The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Paulina Dembska’s murder is a wake-up call for us to deal with misogyny

Saturday, 8 January 2022, 09:50 Last update: about 8 months ago

The murder of Paulina Dembska is one which shocked the nation.

The Polish language student was found dead last week in a garden in Sliema which she used to frequent to feed the colony of cats that lives there, with an autopsy later finding that she had been raped before she was killed.

Without wanting to delve into the specifics concerning the case, as it is still on going, all indications point to this being a random attack.

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What we’ve learnt so far is that the main suspect claimed to be a “soldier of God” and to have been taken over by the devil when the murder was committed.

It’s the latest chapter in the sad tale of misogyny that women in Malta – and everywhere, really – continue to face.

If your first reaction to this heinous crime was to get all self-defensive and point out that not all men happen to be rapists, rather than see how you can help women and how you can help society change so that these things do not happen – then you’re part of the problem.

Make no mistake: what happened to Paulina Dembska could have happened to any other woman.  To your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or your daughter.

The reality is that while rape and murder is the rare extreme, women face gender-based cases of harassment and abuse on a regular basis, all of which is a by-product of misogyny.

We’ve heard cases of this very same suspect, where he would message and harass a number of women, making requests for sexual interaction and even threatening to simply show up at their homes or place of work.

The sad thing is that this is something which is common for a woman to face.

Much has obviously been said in the aftermath of this case. Many have spoken of a need to improve the education which is offered in order for such misogynistic tendencies to be eradicated.

That is something one can get behind, but it will not solve the problem.  Children aren’t taught how they should or shouldn’t treat women at school: they’re taught that at home.  They pick up these things from their parents or those around them, and based on what they say and do.

That’s why you’re part of the problem if your first reaction was to say “ah but not all men are rapists – don’t look at me.” Because by doing that you’re ignoring your own responsibility to do something small to make the situation better.

So what can you do as a man to help? On the face of it, some really simple things: don’t objectify women; call out your friends when they make sexist comments or jokes; and when women tell you about experiences of harassment and sexism, don’t ignore them or play it down – listen to them.

If there was ever a time to come together as a society and make sure that a brutal murder like that of Paulina Dembska never happens again, it’s now.

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