As a nineteen- year old girl it is my responsibility to look out for my safety. It is my responsibility to either catch an Uber with a friend or take certain precautions if I am unable to do so; sit in the back-seat diagonal from the driver, let a friend know when I arrive home safely, pretend to be on a call if I feel uncomfortable. It is my responsibility to make sure I don’t go out alone if it is too early in the morning or late at night. To make sure I always have someone with me, my phone on me, and that I am constantly aware of my surroundings. It is my responsibility to protect myself from males who believe they have the right to force themselves on my body.
Until recently I accepted this responsibility. I did not question, challenge, or think twice about it because it seemed to be an evident social norm. Since I was a little girl every adult in my life, from the police to family members, have reinforced the notion that it is up to us as females to look out for our own safety.
However, this all changed for me with the tragic and horrific death of Eurydice Dixon. Whilst Dixon was not the first woman to be brutally killed by a man on the streets of Melbourne, this event was significant for me as it symbolised society’s continual failure to address female safety. The young 22-year-old’s death aroused a multitude of emotions across the country, particularly, anger, fear, and utter sadness. Notably, the largest and most emphatic response has been from women. Women who recognise that they could have been in Eurydice Dixon’s unfortunate position. Women who realise the reality that they are never truly safe. Women who are deeply saddened and disappointed that they do not have the right to move freely without repercussions.
These strong and powerful responses to this tragedy have affected me immensely. I now realise that I should not have to passively accept that women’s safety is solely a female issue. I should not have to accept that I live in a world where the police can’t prevent men from raping people, so it is left to the women to take precaution. Lisa Wilkinson perfectly encapsulated the outcries of Australian women with her statement: “The best way to prevent this crime and keep all women safe isn’t by changing the behaviour of women, but by changing the behaviour of men.”
Indeed, I recognise the enormous challenge that Wilkinson’s proposal entails. Changing the culture, and behaviour of a society can certainly not happen overnight. No one can provide a quick fix to the issue of violence against women. However, the first step is having a conversation, speaking up, and letting society know that a solution to the problem also involves addressing the other half of the population: men. Secondly, the police and other authorities must change their approach when addressing the public about such crimes. The police continually tell us to “take responsibility” for our own safety. Yes women – and men – should be aware of their surroundings. However, it is certainly not the “responsibility” of women to accept that males may be excessively violent and constantly modify their behaviour to deal with this. It is time we address the bigger picture.