The implication that “situational awareness” could have stopped what happened to Eurydice Dixon is not only an insult to Eurydice, but to every woman.
The comments from the police following the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne’s north urging people to be “mindful of their surroundings” highlight a gross misunderstanding of the female experience. The assumption that all women, including Eurydice, don’t have safeguards in place every time they are out after dark is ludicrous.
Every woman has experienced the sinking feeling when someone is a couple of steps behind them, even on a well-lit street. Every woman has felt relief when they realise it’s just another woman. Every woman texts a friend their taxi driver ID or carries their keys in their hand, or texts a friend when they are almost home. Just like Eurydice did.
It is instilled in us from a young age that we shouldn’t wear our hair in a ponytail when we are walking alone and that we should cross to the other side of the street if a man is coming in the other direction. There is so much self-efficacy that goes into functioning as a woman in our society. Hundreds of conscious, calculated decisions we make every day to try and ensure our safety.
To any woman, this is common knowledge.
The reality is that even with these safeguards, women are harassed in non-dangerous settings every day.
When the news broke that Eurydice Dixon body was found in Melbourne’s Prince’s Park, anyone who lived in the area called their loved ones to check in, to make sure they were safe and importantly that they answered their phone.
When one of my close friends saw the news, the first thing she did was message me:
Did you see what happened in Prince’s Park? I think you need to report what happened to you on Monday at the laundromat. I’ll come with you if you want.
What had happened to me was frightening, but not unheard of. While I was doing my washing, a man came in and started harassing me. Not the usual low level of harassment you deal with every day. This was different. This man cornered me and started banging on the walls of the laundromat and asking if anyone could hear him scream, he then started taking his clothes off until he was down to his underwear while continuing to yell.
He got distracted for a moment, just long enough for me to duck under his arm and run away. As I ran, he laughed. This was at 4pm; this was in broad daylight. This was the day before Eurydice was murdered.
I hadn’t reported it to police because there is a level of harassment and fear we become accustomed to as women. That we normalise. A universally lived fear that we accept because predatory behaviour occurs day and night, in public and in private, in nightclubs and in laundromats.
Eurydice did nothing wrong. She had her phone on her, she stayed in contact with friends on her walk, she was only a couple of hundred of metres from her home. This isn’t a case of incompetent self-efficacy; it’s a case of an opportunistic murderer and rapist. And that’s how this case needs to be spoken about.
The words we use are powerful. Even if inadvertently, telling women to “take responsibility for their personal security” sounds like an excuse. It sounds like a shift in blame. We can’t let insidious rhetoric like this permeate anymore.
Every woman I know is shaken by Eurydice’s death. Not because we knew her, or because it happened in the streets we walk every day, but because we all know it could have easily been one of us. Because every woman has had close calls, felt unsafe or been victims and it has nothing to do with a lack of “situational awareness”.
Cover by Davide Pietralunga