Don’t look for justice: Bri Lee’s “Eggshell Skull” shows us who’s boss


I don’t really know quite where to start with this one. I’m sitting here with “Eggshell Skull” in my lap; it’s beautiful pastel pink cover, which stares up at me with seemingly unsuspecting innocence, still draws me in for what was once a casual flick through it’s pages. Only now, this action is impregnated with a weight, a solemn respect, knowing what those pages contain.

This memoir has awoken so much in me and has so successfully triumphed in giving me access to a portion of the world which I formerly knew nothing about. I didn’t know that I needed to read this book, but of course, I was unaware of how naive I was before I did.

Book cover porn at its finest

“Eggshell Skull” is one woman’s story told from perhaps the most niche of perspectives. For her first year after graduating law school Bri Lee worked as a Judge’s associate for the District Court. Predominantly, the cases she saw were sex crime trials. Predominantly, the defendants were given the benefit of the doubt and were acquitted of all charges. Predominately, the complainants were assumed to be lying.

Throughout this year of seeing the injustice of the justice system played out before her, Lee’s own buried and unresolved trauma emerges and activates a seperate, deeply personal internal battle. In these trials (that she is agonisingly required to look out onto sans emotion) she sees her own case of childhood sexual assault. Outrage is sparked and a fire is lit. After a year of being the voyeur, Lee takes her own matter to court. Courage and unyielding grit are to follow. Her writing style is also stunning to boot.

Bri Lee in all her power and glory

This book has allowed me to comprehend the immeasurable vastness and disturbing frequency of violence against women. I already knew it was a gargantuan issue, but I am embarrassed to say that I hadn’t yet fully grasped how commonplace it is. And I thought I was paying attention. Intimate partner violence is the number one health risk factor for women. 1 in 6 (1.6 million) women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since age 15. These are 2018 statistics for Australia alone. The word ‘epidemic’ comes to mind and it is festering behind closed doors. We are at a point of crisis. After this book, I can’t help but see it everywhere. My eyes are open.

Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018

Not only is this issue so distressingly omnipresent, but the odds are also staunchly stacked against any woman who dare venture from her home on a quest for justice. Arguably, a jury should represent a cross section of society. With Australia being such a diverse nation, one might expect our juries to coincide. This is rarely the case. Lee states, “I lost count, throughout the year, of the number of women who excused themselves from sex crime trials because they themselves were survivors.” If that doesn’t already amply tip the scales, defence also have the right to challenge the empanelment of any jurors they think could be unfair and impartial to the case (which apparently, when it comes to sex crime trials, are almost always women). After all of the women selected for her jury were challenged, Lee was relieved to end up with four. That’s four out of twelve. And that’s considered a small win.

I feel like a child who’s just been told that global warming is not, in fact, a necessary and natural phenomenon. Perhaps I am innocent in my new found discoveries, but things shouldn’t be like this. My shock and anger are rightly placed. We should all be really pissed off, don’t you think?

If we stop talking about the violence against women and girls, it ceases to be an issue that urgently needs to be dealt with. Keep the discussion going. Ask the women in your life about their own experiences. Show that you give a shit. Lee’s policeman father advises her, “Don’t look for justice.” Instead, let’s look for change. We can start with ourselves. We can start at home; because that’s where it’s happening.


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