Define ‘safe’

Another woman in Australia tragically lost her life at the hands of a man this week. A young woman, Eurydice Dixon, was raped and murdered in a park as she walked home. She was nearly home, ridiculously close to home when a man decided to attack her, rape her and end her life.

In Australia, this has become an all too common storyline. As a woman in Australia, I have heard of women who have lost their lives at the hand of a man, sadly, more times than I can recall. We hear of the women, on average one a week, who have lost their lives to current or former partners. We hear of the one in five women who have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives.

This most recent incident is a tragedy that has rightfully infuriated so many. Reports suggested that women should “take care”, that people should keep themselves “safe”.

Warning people to keep safe suggests that the victim had some level of choice, but she didn’t, and no victim ever does. Rapists and murderers take that from them. Dark alleys, parks, and isolated areas are not open invitations to attack women.

So much emphasis has been placed on how women shouldn’t have to protect themselves, that they shouldn’t have to feel unsafe walking home or going for a run. Women should be able to do as they please without feeling as if they could be pounced on at any second by a man who thinks he can do as he likes to her simply because she is there and alone.

But this runs deeper.

This is more than that.

I had an extremely eye opening experience recently while watching a show with my husband in which one of the main male characters was drugged and raped by someone he knew. It was powerful drama, and it definitely had an impact on us both. At the end of the episode, my husband said he didn’t want to watch anymore. He felt sick to his stomach and was left feeling vulnerable because of the rape of a man, of a character in a show.

We exchanged looks.

“That’s how women feel all the time. Do you know how often women are raped or assaulted at the hands of a man?”

Our “aha” moments occurred at exactly the same moment.

I had never considered that kind, gentle men who respect women really had no idea how scared women feel, how vulnerable they feel.

He really didn’t understand what I meant when I said that I had to cross a street because there was no one else around except a man who was staring at me and I felt unsafe.  I had to cross the street just incase.

He didn’t understand why I’d run a PB on holiday once when I’d misjudged how isolated the walking track was and had to sprint (my version of a sprint), just incase.

I didn’t realise that men don’t have to think about keeping themselves safe the way that women do. They haven’t been taught to dress, walk, select routes, keep phones close by and take precautions to prevent possible attacks. They don’t second guess not taking that self defence class, or watching the rest of that self defence clip that appeared on YouTube when they find themselves alone waiting for a taxi late at night.

We have such different experiences. And in that moment, it became very apparent to us both that this just isn’t good enough.

Today I’ve read so many messages from women and men who are as enraged as I am that another woman’s life has ended because someone chose to end it. He chose to attack her as she walked home, as she messaged her friend to say she had nearly made it home. Some people suggested we teach our sons, our boys and men to respect women. This seems obvious, but it’s an indication of just how far we have to go.

Incidents of violence towards women remind me that sometimes I forget that I’m surrounded by kind, loving, respectful men who would never hurt a woman simply because they can. They would never hurt a woman, end of. Men are NOT the enemy, attitudes of rapists and murderers and abusers are.

I have sons, and I pray that they grow to be as respectful and kind as their Dad. But I don’t want them to treat women differently. I want them to respect them as their equal. I want them to know that they don’t have the right to treat any person badly. To scare anyone, or intimidate anyone.

I have been, and I know so many- far too many women, who have been raped, assaulted or intimidated by a man for no other reason than he chose to attack her, or intimidate her or have sex with her while she was asleep.  None of these women indicated that they wanted to be attacked. Each and every story I’ve heard from these women, so many women, has an underlying tone of guilt. “I shouldn’t have been drinking…” or “I don’t know why I went to his house…” or “we used to flirt…”.

No.

We didn’t make that choice, they did.

We have the right to feel safe. No matter where we walk. No matter what we wear or say or do.

Feeling safe means not having to worry that you are at risk.

Feel safe.

x

 

For more information about violence against women, visit https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/

 

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