17 June 2019
Eggshell Skull - Bri Lee
“The more I learned about the huge ‘blind’ justice system, the more I learned that it was just as human and fallible as everything and everyone that created and preceded it.”
On the surface, Eggshell Skull is a memoir about a young woman’s determination to take the man who molested her as a child to court for his crime. Yet it also functions as an urgent indictment of the human fallibility and biases of the justice system, and as a consciousness-raising text for this era of feminism.
After graduating with a law degree in Queensland, Bri Lee became a judge’s associate. This role exposed her to case after case involving male sexual violence against women and girls, giving her a detailed, eye-witness knowledge of how the law works for survivors of such crimes. She perceived that it often fails to deliver justice to victims, and deters them from trying to seek it in the first place.
The beginning of the memoir focuses on how Lee, in her role as a judge’s associate, built up the gradual conviction to hold her own perpetrator to account. It then spans out to document how agonisingly slowly the wheels of justice turned for her, and how her story illustrates a pattern of systemic injustice. Throughout the process she observes archaic laws and insidious victim-blaming attitudes that work to silence victims and help perpetrators’ cases (in fact Lee has gone on to campaign against loopholes in consent laws, such as QLD’s ‘mistake of fact’ defence). Lee is incredibly candid about how this process affected her, especially in how her personal and professional lives intersected.
This is a powerful book that reaches beyond being a mere memoir. With righteous and rightful anger, sadness, and compassion, it examines and evaluates how the Australian justice system handles (or mishandles) the cases of victims of male sexual violence. Bri Lee displays tremendous courage and determination in writing (and continuing to talk about) this very necessary book. Confronting, intense, emboldening and cathartic in equal measure – this is an invaluable contribution to what’s become known as the #MeToo era.