Me too

Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered last week. I confess, prior to hearing the news, I had never heard of the fledgling comic – despite her fabulous and memorable name. She was just 22 years old when the violent and fatal act was perpetrated in the wee hours of the morning in a Melbourne park. It was a truly horrific and senseless crime, and my heart goes out to all her loved ones. I cannot even imagine the depth of distress accompanying such a violent, and pointless death, only to then grieve that loss under the watchful eye of “the public”.

Eurydice was a young woman, walking alone in a park late at night. Predictably there has been media focus on whether her “behaviour” contributed to the attack. Quickly followed by discussions regarding men not taking responsibility for their actions. And I wonder – when did it come down to us and them? Are we not mature enough as a society to accept heinous crimes are unacceptable, and blame lies solely at the feet of the perpetrator?

As a natural born peace maker, I want to defend not just the women (or men) subjected to sexual crimes, but every man who never considered committing such a horror. Women should feel safe walking down the street any hour of the day or night, dressed in any manner they see fit. How they’re clothed or behave is inconsequential. Yet if I had daughters, I would caution them to be careful late at night. To never walk alone or let their friends do so. Maternal fear and cautions come into play, just as I warned my teenage sons not to walk alone late at night for fear they’d be a target of a random act of violence.

I didn’t teach my sons “not to rape”. It’s part of common decency and respect for humanity. Violence against others – particularly those unable to defend themselves against you – is never okay. I certainly hope – and believe – these basic moral standards were messages my children absorbed from all the influential adults in their lives. Of all the men I know and love (and many I know and don’t love), I can’t think of a single one who is overcome with an insatiable desire to violently force himself upon a woman, simply because she is alone and wearing a short skirt. While the vast majority of rapists are men, the vast majority of men are not rapists. And when the senseless and violent deaths of young women like Eurydice become public knowledge, it seems an easy fact to forget.

Rape is the most violent form of sexual assault against women (I know – there is sexual violence against men too, but it is far less prevalent). Sexual harassment and assault arises in many forms and to an astonishing array of degree. From the statistics on sexual harassment and crimes, the #metoo movement was born – promptly followed by #metoo backlash. Depending on your definition of sexual harassment, a huge percentage of women have experienced some degree of harassment.

I am ever so grateful to have never experienced violent crime – sexual or otherwise. But I can definitely raise my hand for the #metoo movement. Up until now I’ve barely given it any thought, but today I think I’ll share. My experience is trivial, and a lifetime ago, but the normalisation of abnormal sexualisation of women, is unacceptable. At 18, I had my first pap smear. As it was the first time I’d had to strip for a doctor, I simply accepted it was normal to strip naked and have a breast exam done at the same time. Now I would simply say no. Or report the doctor to the appropriate authority board. Or both. But at the time I was young and naive and creeped out by an old man feeling me up inside and out. On the up side – the pap smear was clear – as were my breasts. This incident was five years after a stranger reached his hand between my legs to grab at my crotch when I went to my first concert – Midnight Oil live at the Ballina RSL Club. And that grubby hand up my dress may have been the first, but was by no means the last. These days the owner of the hand would receive a cold glass of whatever was at hand promptly poured over his head.

I absolutely do not want to compare the violent rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, to my comparably minor experiences as a teenager. But I think as a society – and perhaps if you’re a man in a male-dominated culture and have never experienced the normality of being sexually judged – we forget the smallest acts of sexual subjugation can normalise sexual crime.

So what can society actually “do”? We can continue to teach young men “not to rape”. And to teach young women to stick together and “stay safe”. But perhaps we could encourage every man, woman and child, to report each and every inappropriate and uncomfortable sexual encounter. To normalise healthy behaviours and teach anyone who isn’t quite sure, exactly where the boundaries lie. We don’t need to blame victims. Or men, computer games, magazines, the internet. Let’s teach children to understand and respect personal boundaries for themselves and others. Let the children carry the message to those they live with. Let’s remember the horrific price paid by Eurydice Dixon – made famous for all the wrong reasons. Let’s turn #metoo into #wedo – we do know about personal boundaries, we do know about moral standards, we do know how to behave as a society. RIP Eurydice.

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