opinion

The silent battle every parent is fighting right now.

When Victorian police told people – i.e., women – that they needed to be “aware of their own personal security” and have “situational awareness” after Eurydice Dixon’s death, I was angry.

To me, it was victim blaming.

If you’re going to make a statement after a crime as horrific as that, why not say something that will strike fear into the hearts of violent men? Why put the focus on women when Dixon didn’t do anything wrong?

It’s not like women need to be reminded, anyway.

I know that chill of walking home from the train station late at night. I always know exactly who’s getting off the train with me. I gauge whether or not they’re a threat to me and I think ahead to how I would respond to any move they might make.

I don’t go out much at night now, because I’d honestly rather just sit on the couch and eat a bowl of pasta and watch someone else’s house being renovated.

But I’m a parent. And sometime in the next decade, my daughter is going to want to go out on her own. The question is, how do I talk to her about it?

Eurydice Dixon Vigil
Mourners turned out en masse for a Melbourne vigil dedicated to Eurydice Dixon. Image: Getty
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Of course women should go out whenever they want, wherever they want, with whoever they want.

But I want my daughter to stay safe, and that’s the most important thing to me. I’ve always been a cautious parent, and I can’t see that magically stopping when my daughter becomes old enough to go out alone at night.

For years I’ve been warning her, "Don’t go off with a man at the park who offers to show you his puppy."

I’m still going to be warning her about strange men. I just need to adjust the warning slightly.

It’s a tricky thing.

I don’t want her to feel too scared to live her life freely, but I don’t want to send her out into the world unaware of the risks.

I don’t want her to feel weighed down with the responsibility of protecting herself, but I want to protect her in any way I can.

I want her to be cautious of strange men, especially if they’re in groups, especially if they’ve been drinking.

I want her to know that drinking will impair her own judgement.

I want her to look out for her friends, and to make sure that she has friends who will look out for her.

I want her to get a cab.

I want her to call me, anytime.

I want to tell her to have fun and do some (very slightly) crazy things, but to be aware.

I want her to be able to sense danger and get herself out of it.

And I want her to know that if anything does happen, it wasn’t her fault.

I don’t see this as a betrayal of feminist principles.

The thing is, I worry as much about my son as I do about my daughter. I worry about his safety when he gets old enough to go out at night on his own.

I would give him similar advice to the advice I would give my daughter.

Just as the tragedy of Eurydice Dixon makes me fear for my daughter, the tragedy of Thomas Kelly, who died from a one-punch attack in Kings Cross, makes me fear for my son.

Violent men are a real threat.

To add to parents’ fears, there was the news last week of the 11-year-old Newcastle schoolgirl being abducted as she was walking to school. A 47-year-old man has been arrested and charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault. This shocking crime makes many of us feel wary about letting kids do what kids should be able to do in perfect safety: walk to school. These fears play in our heads. Is there really any way to keep our children safe?

I loved what Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said to women after Dixon’s death: "Stay home. Or don’t. Go out with friends at night. Or don’t. Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms, because women don't need to change their behaviour. Men do."

But until men change their behaviour, I’m still going to teach my daughter – and son – to be cautious.

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