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Women must be safe everywhere

Women must be safe everywhere

By Cassandra Charlesworth

Every now and then a tragedy beyond our comprehension prompts us as a society to look in the mirror. In the past few weeks, Australia has done just that, examining our reflection in the wake of comedian Eurydice Dixon’s rape and murder in Melbourne.

It’s a reflection that is prompting us to examine Australia’s general attitude to women, and how safe women feel in our homes, in our neighbourhoods and at work.

A message from the top

Just days after Eurydice’s horrific death in a Melbourne park only metres from the safety of her home, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a message for men and the broader community.

“Women must be safe everywhere – on the street, walking through a park, in their homes, at work,” he said, calling on the public to “change the hearts of men” and foster respect for women in our boys, in our society, in our community.

“Not all lack of respect for women ends in violence, but that’s where all violence against women begins,” he reflected.

The familiar feeling of fear

Every woman understands the fear in vulnerability - the heightened awareness, the accelerated heartbeat, the clenched stomach that comes with feeling unsafe.

It’s the sixth sense that kicks in as you enter a darkened carpark, the skip of the heart when you find yourself alone, walking a quiet street. It’s the frightened awakening at the bump in the night, and for too many, it's the knot in the stomach when their partner comes home.

Every woman has experienced violence at least second-hand through the stories of loved ones or friends. These are the tales we reveal quietly to each other. For some, there are "lucky escapes", for others the violence is irrevocable and etched into who we have become or what we never had the chance to be.

A glimmer of hope

If there’s any cold comfort in the death of a young woman, in the prime of her life, walking in a place where she should have been safe, it’s been the response to the Prime Minister’s call.

A legion of men began to stand up and reveal the “little things” that may one day add up.

News Ltd noted male campaigners began holding signs on social media. “I will help my friends feel heard,” one stated. “I will step in if I see a man making a woman uncomfortable,” said another.

In The Age, journalist Konrad Marshall etched out a compelling guide for what men can do, noting small acts like leaving a safe buffer, crossing the street, or calling out bad behaviour all act to assist.

But in the end, this shouldn't just be a discussion about violence against women or acts perpetrated by men. It's about a society where allies across gender, age and race can work together to protect those who are vulnerable due to their strength, their size and their physical ability. If we can get to the heart of that issue, maybe violence against women can end.

 

Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her loungeroom floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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