Remembering Stephanie Scott

Over Easter weekend I watched The Fall, an excellent BBC crime thriller. When news came of missing Leeton woman Stephanie Scott on Sunday, I immediately thought the worst but pushed the idea away as the conversations began about what might have happened.

The stories in the media over following days speculated she may have had 'cold feet' about her marriage planned for the following weekend. Such reports used the image of a runaway bride to frame the discussion of her disappearance.

Headlines like the Courier Mail's 'Bride and Seek' have attracted attention, such as this petition, but it wasn't just the 'tabloid' press who began to characterise Scott in this way. The Australian Guardian attracted comments for similarly describing her this way. Josh Lang wrote about this on the ABC's The Drum and was criticised in the comments for taking a left-wing view of the right-wing press but this too seems a simplification of the issue.

The issue is as much about journalists needing new cliches as it is about inherent sexism. Rather than describe Scott as a teacher or a professional, she is presented as in a relationship. I understand the commercial imperative to make a story accessible to a wide audience but in doing so they are perpetuating dated gender ideas that make women appear to be the property of men.

On Facebook's I Live In Leeton page I wrote that "The best thing that could come from this is for Leeton Shire to declare that it will not tolerate any violence against women." Stephanie Scott's death has shaken the town and it's remarkable to see the number of yellow balloons, ribbons and streamers around Leeton, but the sexism in the telling of her story has shown to me that there is a way to go for equality between the genders.

Maybe this is sexist or even opportunistic but it is shameful that domestic violence is often overlooked or ignored while women are being attacked by people they know -- just as Scott would've known her own attacker. Obviously all violence should be addressed but the issue of domestic violence needs more attention to encourage people to report incidents and discourage it within our communities.

The other thing I've been thinking about this week is how the physical landscape will change in the eyes of those who live here. Hundreds of kids will return to Leeton High School knowing it was a crime scene. Now that Scott's body has been discovered, Cocoparra National Park will be haunted with the image of her grave. Keri Glastonbury reflected on this in her essay Lost Wagga Wagga, which I read this week after catching up with Brad Montgomery -- who's quoted within it.

And, finally, as much as the Scott family and her fiancee deserve condolences, my partner observed that the murderer's family have also lost someone this week and they will receive much less support.