It has always been ingrained in me from a young age – and I’m sure the same goes for many young girls and women – to constantly be aware of my surroundings, make sure I was always in the company of friends and have my phone on me at all times.
It was all in the name of “staying safe”.
The same message was given in a statement by Victorian Police after the murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne last month.
Local Superintendent David Clayton encouraged everyone to have “situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings”.
“If you’ve got a mobile phone carry it and if you’ve got any concerns, call police,” he added.
But was it really targeted at “people” or more specifically for women?
Many on social media at the time the statement was given thought so.
Ladies, groundbreaking statement from @VictoriaPolice after the brutal rape & murder of a young Melbourne woman: take responsibility for your safety & carry a mobile phone. (No tips for men on not raping & murdering innocent women.)#EurydiceDixon #ssdgm #women #ToxicMasculinity pic.twitter.com/Qys64zwhdX
— Nicole (@nicolewashere84) June 14, 2018
When young men are tragically killed in one punch attacks an entire city has it's nightlife shut down indefinitely. When a young woman is brutally raped and murdered women are told to 'take responsibility for their own safety'.
— Elly Baxter (@ellybaxterpr) June 14, 2018
Now Lisa Wilkinson has admitted she carries a whistle on her key chain, which she has on her at all times, due to feeling “unsafe often”.
“You want to know you have everything in place to defend yourself,” she told Confidential.
The sentiment behind Lisa’s statement is totally justified, and I definitely agree you’ve got to do anything to make yourself feel safe.
However, Lisa’s statement also outlines a major problem.
The problem is women are made to feel that staying safe is their responsibility.
Just like in the statement from the Victorian police and just like how it was engrained in me for a young age, it’s my responsibility.
I need to make sure I don’t walk in the wrong places at night. I need to make sure I avoid that specific route home after a night out. I need to make sure I have my keys and phone at the ready in case anything should happen. I need to carry a whistle, or alarm button or pepper spray.
But where does the male role enter this responsibility realm?
Just as Lisa stated on The Project a few week ago, where does the teaching “our boys not to rape” girls come into play?
I don’t recall my younger brother having the same treatment as I did by my parents in terms of “staying safe”.
My parents didn’t think twice about my brother going to certain parties in certain areas when he was 16, but it was a whole different kettle of fish for me.
Because by the time my brother was 16 he was around the 6ft 3 mark and, let’s not beat around the bush here, a lad.
It’s no wrongdoing on any one individual for sending these messages to women, it’s just the way our society has been conditioned for decades.
I, myself, do it.
Sometimes when I’m walking at any time of day, I’m making sure I’m, as the Victorian Police puts it, aware of my surroundings.
I’ll make sure my keys are in my hand, ready to enter my apartment building as soon as possible and my music is turned down if I’m in a so-called “dodgy” area.
However, it really shouldn’t be about being aware in case of a random attack.
According to a report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, of the 92% of women who were physically assaulted, it was by a male who they knew and it’s women aged between 18 and 35 who are more likely to experience violence overall.
So, no Victoria Police, it’s not about “being aware of your surroundings”.
It’s about the fundamental beliefs embedded in our current society.
Where does the change begin? With statements given like the one in the wake of Eurydice Dixon’s death. Perhaps the Victorian police will take care not to put the onus on victims in future.
And hopefully in a not-so-far-off reality, Lisa Wilkinson won’t feel the need to carry a whistle to feel safe walking to her car after doing her food shop.
If you or someone you know is suffering from sexual or domestic abuse, don’t suffer in silence, call 1800 RESPECT any time of day or night or visit the 1800 Respect website.
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