Trigger warning: post contains mention of the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, as well as general references to violence and sexual assault against women.
By now, a lot of Aussies would have seen the recent headlines: a young woman named Eurydice Dixon was found raped and murdered in a park (Princes Park) in Melbourne a couple of nights ago. It was an awful crime and my heart goes out to all who knew her.
This attack on an innocent woman is the stuff that plays on the minds of women daily. What happened to Eurydice Dixon is a fear we all have drummed into us from a young age. I am so sad and mad that she had to go through that. I am so sad and mad that there are women (and good men) everywhere in Australia today feeling sad and mad about this stuff too.
I cannot speak for Eurydice, because I did not know her. I only know what we are told on the news. That she was an aspiring stand up comedian coming home from a good gig. That she was 22 years old. That she was allegedly attacked and killed by a 19 year old male who is thankfully in custody.
I can speak of my personal experiences, though. I don’t think they are dissimilar to a lot of women I know.
I read that she had texted a friend that she was almost home safe. Doesn’t that break your heart?
The fact that it takes the bravery of so many women to actually walk alone at night really upsets me. We are brave. We are also blamed for being brave when something happens to us. Walking home alone should not be a brave act. It should just be a thing we do to get from Point A to Point B. Hopping in a taxi or a ride service alone should not be a brave thing to do. Living with a man or breaking up with a man should not be a big gamble a lot of women make on whether they will be safe or not. Drinking alcohol in public. Wearing a short skirt. Being pretty. Being nice. Being a woman at all. Letting your guard down in public spaces at any time.
A few weeks ago, I was alone in public for the first time in a long time (on account of being married with a 6 year old and a baby). I had caught a train into the city to meet a friend. We were going to have a bite to eat, watch our favourite AFL team play a game, then head home separately. It would be night time when I made my journey home.
The whole time I caught myself strategising. Now if this guy turns from being an obnoxious drunk on the train, into something threatening, what will I do? Now that I’m walking alone, what will I do to avoid being harassed? Join up with a big family of strangers and act like we are all together and pray they go along with it? I noted where security was. I watched the men who were intoxicated or had a weird vibe, so I knew where they were. When I got home to my local train station, I walked fast with older couples to my car. My keys were already out. I had been texting my husband. I had made promises with my friend that we would message each other as soon as we got home safe so we wouldn’t worry about each other.
What was ridiculous was that I had attended a largely family friendly event during daylight hours. It was only around 7:30pm when I got home. But being alone felt scary and I felt brave and when I got home (after messaging my friend to let her know I was OK) I felt proud of myself. For what? Catching public transport and not having an anxiety attack/getting assaulted or harassed?
I know I sound like a paranoid weirdo, but do I? As women we know that we can be attacked by the person who claims to love us. We can be attacked on a first date. We can be attacked in broad daylight, minding our own damn business. Nothing feels safe.
The other day I walked around my neighbourhood with my baby in her stroller. I kept periodically looking behind me to make sure nobody snuck up on me. When I crossed paths with a man (who was probably very nice and minding his own business), I subtly checked where he was at all times until he disappeared from my view. I worried about my baby’s safety because as much as I can be quite the fierce mama bear if I feel threatened, I didn’t know if I could overpower a man who wanted to steal her.
Now like I said, this sounds like the ramblings of a crazy, paranoid person. I promise I’m not. I get out and about. I live my life. I am not always freaking out or panicking. I just stopped and listened to my thoughts one day and realised that so much goes on in a woman’s head when she’s alone in public. We don’t even realise we’re thinking about it. It’s become our reality. Our every day.
Strategise. Take extra safety measures. At any time we might need to fight for our lives or our bodies.
The first time I was cat called I was 12 (maybe 13) years old. Some older teen boys yelling from the back of a ute. I knew even then that it feels icky to be a girl in public wearing a nice outfit. I flipped those boys the bird (haha go me) and I was told by my well intentioned mum that it was not classy or dignified. Now I wouldn’t do it because it might make them attack me and try to put me in my place. Which I know isn’t rational because men have attacked women for ignoring them too.
I’ve been targeted by disgusting old men who think Asian women are gold digging prostitutes who are fair game. They are creepy as fuck. One old creep told me openly that he had waited for my friends to go to the bathroom, so I’d be alone when he approached. I was an idiot who sat there awkwardly because I didn’t want my friends and I to lose our table at the busy pub. I am sure my friends would not have cared. See, we’re taught to be polite.
I told my husband the other night how us women do this. We think think think when we’re out alone. We are scared (and have been told by everyone from the police to the media to our own well intentioned loved ones) that if we are that girl who didn’t think about her safety that one time, we might end up raped or killed. But that’s just us taking responsibility we shouldn’t have to bear for trying not to get attacked. Who is changing the culture of toxic masculinity and victim blaming? Who is telling boys about respect and consent and not making disgusting ‘jokes’ that imply that women are pieces of meat or property to be acquired, used or discarded when men feel it suits them? Who is telling them that cat calling is wrong. Violence against any woman is wrong. Rape is actually pretty fucking bad and even though you think someone wouldn’t do it, certain jerks might just call it a ‘miscommunication’ or something they are entitled to because there was an ‘opportunity’? In some situations, women haven’t even realised that ‘icky’ thing that happened to them years ago, was even assault. We’ve been brainwashed by men for so long.
Yes, it’s responsible to take safety measures. Both men and women should be somewhat alert and aware of their surroundings at high risk times in high risk locations. It’s sadly a sign of the times. But by the same token, we need to stop sending the message that victims brought the attacks on themselves. No. A disgusting cretin made a very deplorable, inexcusable choice. These men should be told that they are not allowed to take somebody’s body without their consent, or their life. That there is literally no justification. EVER.
I dream of a day when women and girls can walk through a park at night without it being ‘super brave and extraordinary’ and “text me when you get home safe” doesn’t have to be the standard “goodbye” catch cry passed from woman to woman, as if not saying it might jinx our friend with bad luck, like being sexually assaulted or murdered. A day when women do not oppress themselves by believing/joining in with the victim blaming. A day when men are called out on their shit and instead of abusing women for speaking out (“NOT ALL MEN” sound familiar?), actually think, yeah, that’s pretty shit of us, let’s fix this and then write something reasonable and nice on Facebook about it.
I like to think that Eurydice and all of the women who met a similar fate before her did not die in vain (even though it’s fucking unfair they died at all). Women are getting angry. Women are fighting for their voices to continue to be heard louder and louder all the time.
I wondered if I should blog about this. Would I just be adding to the ‘noise’ when there are so many women out there who have articulated their thoughts on these issues so much better than I ever could? But then I realised this is one of those situations where we need to make a noise.
There is power in our voices. Just look at the #metoo movement. We must keep speaking up and we must keep pushing for an end to sexism and rape culture. We must keep speaking up for women’s safety. No amount of lighting or CCTV or pepper spray or personal alarms will change the risks we face, unless we tell men that they will actually be held accountable for violence against women, their hate speech towards them, or their complicity with others’ disgusting behaviour behind closed doors or otherwise.
I want to walk alone and feel safe. I want a different world for my daughter.
RIP Eurydice. I am so sorry this happened to you and to so many before you. To all my friends – I am always here for you and I will always listen and not judge and I will believe you and until something changes I will always be that person you can text to tell me you got home safe x