When news of a murdered woman hits the headlines in Australia, people sit up and take notice. Unless that woman happens to be a sex worker.
Invisible Women tells the stories of several murdered Australian sex workers, all of whom are somebody's mother, daughter, wife or sister, whose identities have been erased. Contemporary society places a relative value on women's lives; why do we see some lives as less valuable than others, and what price do we all pay for this shocking lack of care? Invisible Women seeks to uncover the real lives of high risk women, humanise them, and show that all lives are equally valuable.
Drawn from interviews with the families and friends of victims, police, investigators and outreach support services, as well as consulting court transcripts, coroner's autopsy reports, police interviews and media reports, these stories of incredible women are both deeply moving and shocking in their insight and clarity.
Invisible Women is a book that's long overdue.
Kylie Fox is a writer, editor, transcriptionist and mother of five. Her short crime fiction stories have won awards, including the Dorothy Porter Award, and the 2015 crime with a political punch category, in Sisters In Crime's annual Scarlett Stiletto Awards, and are published in anthologies. Kylie is currently studying a degree in criminal justice and is based in Melbourne.
Ruth Wykes is a writer, editor, feminist and a passionate human rights activist. Ruth's interest in justice and concern for the most vulnerable people in society grew from her work with a community-based organisation which brought her into contact with many marginalised groups in society: prisoners, sex workers, drug users and other people whose lives fell through the cracks. Ruth's previous book, Women Who Kill (co-authored with Lindy Cameron) was published by Five Mile Press in 2011. Ruth lives and works in the Mornington Peninsula.
Authors: Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes
Question: What inspired you to write Invisible Women?
Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes: When Tracey Connelly was murdered in St Kilda, we were disappointed in the way the public reacted. It was only a year after the highly publicised disappearance and murder of Jill Meagher, a beautiful young woman whose death touched and angered thousands of people. Tracey was another beautiful woman from Melbourne, yet there was little public outcry.
The seed for Invisible Women was planted in conversations about why one woman's life seemed more important than another's, and it grew from there.
Question: What do you hope to achieve from Invisible Women?
Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes: The simple answer is that we want to make these women's lives more visible. We want to challenge the way people think about sex workers, and to show that every murdered woman we wrote about was much more than her job. It's a cop-out to say she was a drug-addicted street-based sex worker, and her high-risk life made her more vulnerable to violence. Those are labels that we attach to people to make ourselves feel safer, to push the uncomfortable truth away and to convince ourselves it will never happen to us.
We hope people will talk about Invisible Women, and challenge their own thinking about the more vulnerable people in society.
Question: Can you talk about the research involved in writing Invisible Women?
Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes: Research was, at times, a nightmare. We could have written several volumes about the perpetrators of the crimes, but trying to learn about the victims and their loved ones was incredibly difficult. Writing Invisible Women meant confronting some of society's taboos, and dealing with highly-charged emotional issues.
We spent more than a year on research, and there were times we questioned how we were ever going to fill pages.
It was difficult at times to discover the depths of prejudice that many levels of society have against sex workers: government, judicial system, police, media and service providers have all historically imposed their own values on sex workers.
Question: Why would you say Invisible Women is long overdue?
Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes: Violence against women is finally part of the broad community discussion, yet sex workers are not included in that. They are especially not written about in true crime books, except as high-risk victims. We felt it was high time to remind people that sex work is a job, it is not the complete identity of women who have met violence. We also feel that it is a community debate that needs to happen.
Question: What was it like working with a co-author?
Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes: It was brilliant. Invisible Women was emotionally difficult to write, and it was great to have someone to share it with. The other major benefit is that two minds bring a lot more to the table, and bring different insight and perspective to a story.
Interview by Brooke Hunter