After the body of 22-year-old comedian Eurydice Dixon was found in a Melbourne park this week, Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton issued a familiar warning for the community: “take responsibility for your safety”. “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 the police.”
This statement failed to note a couple of things. First, the fact that Dixon did have her phone on her at the time and was in fact messaging a friend about her safety. Second, the myriad ways women already “take responsibility” for their safety. Here’s a brief summary:
We spend money we don’t always have on cabs and Ubers — after running informal roundtables about which of those is safer these days.
We get in the backseat, so there’s distance between us and the driver, just in case. We text the licence plate to a friend and “joke” about whether his driver ID makes him look like a murderer.
We check Google Maps for unexpected detours. Check the locks. Google if there’s a reason they always lock the doors.
If he gets weird, we mention boyfriends. We do this often — even if we don’t have boyfriends, even if we don’t date men. If we don’t like the way a driver is acting, we lie about our address. “This is me!” We walk slowly up porches until he disappears. Fumbling for keys while he waits, we hope we don’t have to knock on the door.
If we walk, we do it with our keys in hand, sometimes clasped through fingers.
We watch our backs, and our fronts and our sides. We look around for people, and houses, and houses with lights on and think about how soundproof their walls might be. We walk on streets with lights if possible — but it’s often not. We share news stories of assaults and near assaults, and calculate routes to miss those areas if possible — but it’s often not.
When a man passes, we wait, then look behind to see if he follows. If he does, we look for other men to get close to, ones who would help.
We take out our headphones. We call a friend, or we pretend we’ve called a friend. “I’m almost home safe”. If we’re really nervous, we prep 000. If we pressed dial every time, we’d be on first name terms with the operators.
If we drive, we avoid big parking garages and laneways and side streets with no foot traffic. We wonder what the point of driving even was, when we have to park four blocks away from a busy bar anyway. We watch our backs while walking, avoid men who seem drunk or irate.
We look around before we get in again. We open the door, then check the backseat, then lock the doors. We think about everything we’ve avoided, and feel mostly safe; those of us who can afford cars in the first place.
We think about our safety again when we’re home. We lock the doors and windows. We make fuck-off funds and whisper networks and find comfort in podcasts about “not getting murdered”. We share stories and condolences and make sure everyone knows the name of that one creepy guy — the first one to look at if we went missing.
We watch our drinks at bars, and tell bartenders if something’s going wrong. We watch partners for anger or controlling behaviour or “bad sex”. We see women raped and murdered in movies and TV shows and documentaries and the news and we do everything in our power to make sure each real-life story isn’t about us next.
What the fuck is everyone else doing?
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.