The awful death of Grace Millane may, as tragedies can, lead to some happier consequences. If the strength of the public outcry is maintained, perhaps the pleas of other survivors and victims that were made so eloquently in the days following her death will be heeded.

Perhaps men will take responsibility for doing something about violence against women and all our daughters will no longer have to go out in our streets with that constant little nub of fear in the back of their minds. Although that fear is statistically unnecessary, it is psychologically unavoidable.

But it's not hard to see that things may return to normal once the initial wave of sentiment has waned, and the dedicated campaigners against domestic violence are left to go back to getting on with the job on their own.


Why such a reaction? Partly because this was not a run of the mill case of man kills woman. This was a young, pretty, aspirational, white woman from a good home, living a romantic dream of travel and adventure with the promise of her whole life before her.

And her death shocked so much, to hear many people tell it, because a man police have said Millane didn't appear to know before she disappeared has been charged with her murder. As though there's a hierarchy of male violence against women, in which some killings are more acceptable than others.

As if to drive the point home, a 34-year-old woman was allegedly murdered in Auckland's Flat Bush a couple of days later. This was allegedly a run of the mill case of man kills woman. A 33-year-old man who, in policespeak, "was known to the victim" has been charged with her murder. And there was considerably less public reaction

Not for her any poems or vigils. No flowers at shrines or international media coverage. The Sky Tower wasn't lit up to honour her in death. The Prime Minister didn't say she was sorry and that she should have been safe here.

(On the other hand – nor did her death inspire any tasteless speculation about its possible effect on our tourism industry.)

It's the same pattern we see repeated in all those other cases of women killed by their partners. And then there's children who die at the hands of parents or step parents ...

What a terrible double standard.

Grace Millane and her memory deserve every tribute, and her whānau deserve every iota of sympathy that comes their way. But so did those other victims. No matter what we say, we act as though all lives aren't created equal.


Which is absolutely true.

A presentable young white defendant appearing in court is statistically likelier to get a light sentence for a crime than a brown one would for the same offence. In just the same way, a pretty, well turned-out young woman is likelier to get more sympathy if a partner - or a man she's gone on a date with - kills her. It would be different if she were a not especially attractive member of the underclass who got wiped off the planet by a partner on P. The best the latter can hope for is a shrug and a sorry shake of the head at the way these things keep happening to these people

We'll start seeing an improvement when all deaths are created equal. Until then, domestic violence – like all those other social monitors in which Māori and other minorities figure disproportionately – will remain something that's not really a concern for "Us" because it happens to "Them".

Ironically, Grace Millane, a property developer's daughter from Britain, was much less like "Us" than "They" are.