Image Source: SMH
By Kelly Hughes | @KellyHughes96
“I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry,” Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said.
Tuesday morning, the body of a woman was found at Princes Park in Melbourne.
She had been raped and murdered on her way home from work.
Her name was Eurydice Dixon and she was 22 years old.
Like Adichie, I am angry.
I am sick and tired of hearing the social narrative that writes women as “to blame” for crimes like this.
The social narrative that paints women with that stinging brush of victimhood and culpability.
Didn’t bring your phone with you when you got assaulted? Should have had better situational awareness.
Drank too much at that party? Should have watched how much alcohol you put into your system.
Told them no repeatedly and still got assaulted? Should have made your intentions clearer.
On Tuesday, when the news broke of Eurydice Dixon’s murder, Homicide Squad Detective Andrew Stamper warned possible future victims.
“People need to be aware of their own personal security. That’s everywhere. If people have any concerns at any time, call triple-0. We would much rather have too many calls than too few,” Detective Stamper said.
North-west division Superintendent David Clayton weighed in on the incident, advising people to exercise caution.
“Make sure people know where you are, and if you’ve got a mobile phone carry it, and if you’ve got any concerns at all, call police,” Superintendent Clayton said.
But the problem is, women do call the police, ask for help, and ask cab drivers to ride those extra two blocks to their house so they don’t have to walk home alone at night.
Women are often vocal about feeling uncomfortable on public transport when a man they don’t know is acting inappropriately towards them.
They yell back at catcallers who try to objectify them on the street.
They walk with their keys in their hand, ready and armed for attack.
They take self-defence classes in their spare time so they know how to fight back.
They stop going for runs because they are scared someone will abduct them when they are trying to exercise.
They stop leaving their drinks alone at the bar because someone could have slipped a date-rape drug into it when they weren’t looking.
They ask the court for restraining orders against their abusive partners, and ask for help when they need to go to a safe house to get away from the abuse.
But despite all these extra precautions and subconscious rituals we impose in our daily lives, women are still killed.
At an alarming rate.
Statistics from the 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program in Australia found one woman is murdered by her current or former partner a week.
As Margaret Atwood famously wrote; “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
A male colleague saw my social media post about Eurydice Dixon’s death and said: “Yeah we get it, what’s happened is terrible and we should all be doing more to call that kind of behaviour out, but when you write about these issues, you come across as really angry and anti-men.”
“I am angry,” I responded.
I do not hate men, but I do hate what bad men do to women.
I am angry because whilst the police are preaching to women to exercise situational awareness, a great number of instances of male violence against women happen in the home.
I am angry because, at just a year older than myself right now, Eurydice Dixon’s life was taken from her.
I am angry because Eurydice was the same age as my friends and colleagues—and the speed and strength of youth was not able to help her.
Women are at least three times more likely to experience violence from an intimate male partner.
So how are women supposed to feel safe if they are being attacked in their own homes?
I am angry that Eurydice Dixon did what the “typical victim” is supposed to do and messaged her friend to let her know she was nearly home safe and she was still raped and killed.
She did the right thing, the same “precautionary steps” I have had repeatedly drilled into me, and it did not help her.
I am angry this rapist and murderer has the opportunity to be defended in a court of law, when no one was there to defend Eurydice Dixon in her final, terrifying last minutes on earth.
I am angry that violence against women is one of the leading causes of death in women, but is 100 per cent preventable.
I am angry that women my age, that women older than me, women older than my mother and grandmother, women younger than me and even girls all face these same situations.
I am angry that women are forced to practice and master the art of “situational awareness”, “exercising caution” and “calling for help when they need it” but it still doesn’t help them.
I am angry that men are not held accountable for their language, attitudes, behaviours and actions that inflict violence against women.
I am angry that some men experience violence against them, and get no different treatment than the pitiful sympathies women receive.
And I am angry not many people realise the overwhelming majority of violence is perpetrated by men against women.
Situational awareness is not enough: we need to solve the problem at its root, by teaching people not to rape, kill and hurt.
This is not just an issue affecting or perpetrated by women, and women should not be the only people we give solutions to; this is also a men’s issue that also needs male-centred solutions to resolve.
Education, just punishment, rehabilitation programs.
These solutions may scare government because of funding, costs, popularity or how long it will take to start seeing results, but is it worth the cost of more lives like Eurydice Dixon’s?
I do not hate men, but I do hate what bad men do to women.
But the good thing about anger is that it invokes change, and what we need more than anything else right now is to change the culture that perpetrates and protects the cycle of men’s violence against women.
Yes, I am angry—but we should all be angry.
I do not want to live in a world where a woman is raped and killed walking home from work.
Except we do live that, and that needs to change.
Eurydice Dixon did not have to die.
But her life, an important, young, ambitious woman, should not be for nothing.
Use your anger to change the climate of violence, misogyny and disrespect around you.