Thank you to those who have celebrated the wit and vibrancy of Eurydice Dixon, the 22-year-old comedian killed in Melbourne this month.
She was an incidental target, attacked by a stranger while walking home.
The thing is, “Don’t go out independently, don’t travel alone” is rarely an option for a young woman. They have to study and work. Wages are low. And sadly, there’s even a chance there are dangers at home. Plus, carrying a fistful of keys, a torch, a bag, the sensible running shoes, and pepper spray everywhere is ever so slightly impractical.
But rattling on about the unsafety of just some areas or situations is to deny the ubiquity of the problem: The entrenched culture of sexual entitlement.
The whole situation is dire. We must get the wrongness of rape through to men.
Men and women should never have dominion over another autonomous person’s body. Never. No matter who they are.
It’s been reported that Ms Dixon’s attacker lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a good reason to continue to improve access to autism therapy but NOT an excuse for harming anyone.
I am the mother of two sons with ASD. And during the vigils held for Eurydice this week, I was with them seeing an expensive but wonderful private therapist. In a sense, I have been holding vigil for decades. I am working to raise caring, respectful males.
My sons, like many folk with high functioning variants of autism, need these therapies to help shape their awareness of the individual viewpoint and choices of others. It’s called difficulty achieving “theory of mind”.
People with intellectual disabilities can usually be taught that. So how about the “neurotypical”?
It’s a lesson I wish my attacker had learned.
I was crash tackled as a daggy, naive 17-year-old in a university library carpark (the bike, a fine weapon, was crook). I got away with only mild strangulation, broken arm, split lip and gravel rash. I got out of there because I was lucky. Context is everything, this side of death. Earlier exposure to DV didn’t help.
My screams were reported to cops. They didn’t come. They asked what I was doing out at 9pm (studying, going to the bike repair shop). They asked what I was wearing (boring neck to knee work clothes and flat shoes). Then they blamed the assault on the warmer weather. Really.
I’ve subsequently been triggered on buses, in economics tutorials with rugger types, at some workplaces and generally anywhere near all-male institutions. Relationships can be awkward. It’s quite a load to carry.
It was a long time ago. But it wasn’t okay then, and it sure as hell is intolerable now.
I am grieving for Eurydice Dixon but also for every person who has become habituated to a culture where sexual violence or abuse seems “normal”.
We have a long, long way to go.