opinion

"Dear Men: Please read this."

Dear Men,

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a monster.

You’re not one of the men who beat or rape or abuse or assault or murder women – so hopefully you’re receptive to what we want to tell you. Because we really want you to understand some things.

We wish there were fewer monsters in our communities and in our lives but with one in three women experiencing assault or abuse in our lifetime, the numbers say otherwise.

This week, one of us was raped and murdered on her way home from work. Eurydice Dixon was a 22-year-old woman who lost her life and her name will now be etched in our fears along with others:

Anita Cobby, Masa Vukotic, Stephanie Scott and Jill Meagher.

None of those women should be famous for the random, brutal way they died at the hands of a stranger. But in their deaths they have become landmarks for all women as much as we wish that they weren’t.

Their faces – familiar from media reports after their deaths – loom large in our minds when we feel vulnerable and when we weigh up the risks of certain behaviours.

Like walking to our cars in a dark street. Or finding ourselves alone in a confined space with a man we don’t know. Or cutting through a park on the way home from work. These women and their tragic fates walk with us.

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We bet you didn’t know that. We bet you don’t know lots of things about the mental burdens we carry because of the monsters among you. It’s not your fault. You’re not mind-readers. We know you care for us and about us. Which is why we want to give you insight into what it’s like to be us.

So, to our brothers, our fathers, our partners, our lovers, our friends, our sons and our workmates… here’s what we want you to know.

We’re tired.

We’re tired of feeling scared and vulnerable. We’re tired of the mental load we must carry in public and in private as we try to walk a path through this epidemic of violence against women.

We’re tired of having to think about where we parked our car, how we’ll get home, whether it’s safe for us to walk in a public park or down a well-lit street.

We’re tired of having to be on alert each time we get into an Uber or a cab or open our front doors to a male tradie or go home with a guy we met at a bar or met on a dating app.

We’re tired of living with the constant level of vigilance required to avoid getting raped or murdered; a level of vigilance that seems to offer little protection because even then, it happens to the women and girls amongst us.

We’re tired of being told to be careful, be cautious, be aware of our surroundings. We do all that. And still women are killed.

We’re tired of being told to carry our phones and make sure we let someone know where we’re going to be and not to drink too much or wear provocative clothes or walk in certain areas. We’ve heard all that. And still women are killed.

Stephanie Scott was in her workplace – a primary school – in the middle of the day on a weekend when she was killed. What could she have done differently?

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And in how many ways must we modify our behaviour more than we already have, more than we already do? How much more frightened must we feel? How much more responsibility must we take for our own safety? How much more mental load must we carry as try to get shit done and live our lives in a society that seems to do so little to protect women and girls from assault?

Men and women describe the different ways they protect themselves from sexual assault. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN

Where is the push for legislation and the funding for education campaigns to help us – the kind that came almost instantly after a young man tragically died after being brutally hit in Kings Cross?

Why is the loss of our lives so inconsequential? Where are the public forums to try and work out where the hell we’re going wrong as a society and a community if so many men believe that women are theirs to abuse and rape and murder?

We’re tired. We’re tired of having to carry this mental load, the one that the men in our lives don’t have to carry and can’t even see us struggling with. We’re staggering under its burden and it’s wickedly unjust that it feels like ours alone to reckon with.

As we gather together this week, reeling over the loss of yet another woman and exchanging emotional words and texts, we share hushed stories and make promises to look out for one another – to add the safety of our sisters to our own mental load. Yet another burden we carry without you even knowing.

We are exhausted by the brutal war waged against us by some men and we need you – the others – to see what it does to us. We need you to acknowledge the injustice and futility at play when it’s women who are essentially told to stay off the streets, and in the same breath remind us that statistically, our homes are even more dangerous. Where exactly are we safe?

Men, we need your help. We need you to take up this cause as your own, to help us with the load. We need you to know how it feels to hear footsteps behind you or have your Uber driver take a wrong turn and immediately wonder, “Is this it? Is it my turn now?”

If you could feel our fear, you could never live with it. Day in, day out.

You would refuse to.

We don’t have the choice.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or needs help, please seek professional help and call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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