Bleats

It’s About Time Men Understood How Damn Scared Women Are

Women don't need to be reminded to "stay safe". Men need to grasp just how much energy already goes into trying, and into accepting that our best efforts are still sometimes not enough.

Early Wednesday morning, Eurydice Dixon was walking home after a stand up comedy gig in the centre of Melbourne. She texted her friend “I’m almost home safe, hbu [how about you]?”.

At 2:40am, her body was found on a soccer field.

The man who turned himself into police is a 19-year-old who didn’t know Eurydice. She’d become a victim of the nightmare that every woman on the planet has had: snatched off the street, to be raped and murdered by a complete stranger.

The police trotted out a response we’ve heard a thousand times over.

“The message we would provide to all members of the community is to take responsibility for your safety,” said Superintendent David Clayton. “If you’ve got a mobile phone carry it and if you’ve got any concerns, call police.”

I could almost hear the collective scream of women across Australia, myself included. Carry a mobile phone? Take responsibility for your safety? Have you MET a woman?

Dixon’s death happened minutes from her home. She did everything she was “supposed” to.

I really believe men are beginning to understand that women take a lot more precautions regarding their safety than they do, but I think the sheer extent as to which this is true evades a lot of people – not just tone-deaf police spokespeople.

I remember the first time I walked home late at night with my boyfriend, and insisted that I walk on the side of the footpath furthest away from the rows of parked cars along the street. I had to explain that “I don’t want to get murdered”.

I remember a male friend laughing at me when he noticed me give his car a once-over for strange people that might be hiding in the backseat. “I don’t want to get murdered”.

Just today, talking to a colleague about Eurydice Dixon, I told him about the time a group of men pulled up beside me while I was walking home, and demanded I get into the car.

“Holy shit, that actually happens? What did you do?”

“I ran for my life. I didn’t want to get murdered.”

I remember nights walking home in the dark, with my mum on the phone. She almost began crying once, when she asked where I was and I told her I was crossing the soccer field by my apartment: “I’m sorry, Tess, I just don’t want you to get murdered.”

I wonder how many times she’s told my brother the same thing.

The ‘Right To The Night’ Report was released by Plan International in 2016, and managed to put some statistics to our fear. Of the surveyed women – who were aged 15 to 19 – an entire third of them agreed to the statement “girls should not be out in public places after dark”.

Almost as many – 23% – agreed with “girls should not travel alone on public transport”, and 67% disagreed with the statement “it’s not a big deal if guys cat-call girls on the street”. Throw that statistic out there next time a guy on the internet tells you to ‘take it as a compliment’.

I wish I had a silver bullet solution that would stop violent men killing women simply because they saw an opportunity to do so. But the fact is, I don’t. 

The Right To The Night Report had a few suggestions: tougher penalties for violent men, girls feeling able to report violence without being afraid, and improving lighting in public areas.

They’re fine places to start, but they’re going to take time, and the ultimate solution – getting men to stop hurting us – seems to have been accepted as impossible. And what the hell do we do in the meantime?

My mum has had to watch me grow up and learn to be scared of strange men in the dark. Her mum had to watch her learn the same thing. I’m not a mother, but the little girls I babysat when I was a teenager know that fear now, and that hurts. I know that one day they’ll be crying to me about how unfair it all is, just like I cried to the women I trusted. 

Until we see concrete evidence that things are changing, we’re just going to have to continue living in the hope that our lives are spared for one more night.

Vale, Eurydice Dixon. You deserved better.

If any part of this story brings up issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 131114 or call 1800 RESPECT. Both are free and available 24/7.

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