My husband is a really understanding man. He’s a listener. He’s a thinker. He’s kind and smart. He’s curious and he isn’t afraid of emotions. But there is something I can’t get him to get his head around.
My fear. My fear which, statistics and data say, is an ‘illogical’ fear.
My fear of being a victim of a random, opportunistic male act of violence.
I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a home free of violence, and then go on to create a home free of violence too.
I know a vast majority of women are hurt by people they love (horrid, but true), not by a stranger.
But at night, I always check that doors and windows are locked, because if I’m honest, my ‘illogical’ fear is that a man will crawl through the smallest opening of our home and hurt me or my children.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled the sheets away just as I’m falling to sleep and instead walked bleary eyed into one of my girls’ rooms and checked the lock on their window.
"What are you doing?" sometimes he'll ask half asleep as I sneak back into bed.
"Nothing," I say now, because he's told me so many times how safe I am.
I've also lost count of the number of times I've come home late from a night out with friends or colleagues and part way through my walk in the dark home, or my wait to find a taxi or grab an Uber, felt that same fear.
When I'm all alone in those always dark and chilly hours, wondering if the male footsteps behind me mean anything more than a man going home too.
Or when I'm all alone at night and see a man at the next corner just leaning against a shop window, or three or four men laughing and slapping backs coming toward me.
Of all the things I've been able to explain to my husband, this is one of the hardest because it makes him so sad that I always carry this fear with me. A fear of men, of whom he is one.
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I think I share this fear with a lot of women. Every woman I know is the vigilant one in a partnership about home security. Every woman I know carries her keys in her fists if she is walking by herself at night.
This is why Jill Meagher's rape and murder in Melbourne in 2012 is one we will never forget.
She is the terrifying story we have in our head come to life. Words can't adequately express how we felt for Jill and what she must have gone through.
And next to the sadness and anger and everything else we were feeling, we saw ourselves in her. A woman who was simply walking home at night. Full stop. Nothing more. A woman walking home after a night out with friends.
Jill Meagher was 450 metres from home when Adrian Bayley stood in front of her outside a dress shop in East Brunswick. On CCTV, we see a male figure in front of her. We see her legs stop. We see her take a step back. We recognise that step back. We've been that woman on her way home who has had to take a step back when a man blocks her path.
We all know that Jill never made it home. Adrian Bayley, a man with multiple convictions for rape and who was at the time on parole, raped and murdered the 29-year-old ABC employee who was just minutes from home.
I know Jill's violent death is a story I have used to try to explain my fears to my husband. I know her story is one I will remember when I am deciding whether to let someone walk me home, or wait with me for a lift late at night. I know it's one that I will think about when I wait up for my daughters to come home in years to come.
I also know Jill Meagher is more than a cautionary tale.
She is a woman who laughed and lived and loved. Just like Anita Cobby, the Sydney nurse who in 1986 was raped and murdered by five men after she was forced into their car as she walked home from the train station.
Just like the all the women we think about that make us angry and heartbroken, and help us understand or rationalise our fears.
These women, whose names we know and who we think about in our most vulnerable and fragile moments. These women, that we don't know at all.
Jill and Anita were both daughters, wives, friends and colleagues. They are so much more than a cautionary tale for me to call upon.
As the brilliant and harrowing ABC documentary Conviction said:
"It is inevitable but so wrong that Jill Meagher will be defined by those few obscene minutes from the moment her chance meeting with a monster was recorded on CCTV, until her senseless death in an East Brunswick laneway.
"She was so much more than a moment in time."
Of course. Of course. Of course.
But Jill Meagher and Anita Cobby remind us that there is a reason for our fear. They remind us that even though it is unfair, even though we should not have to change how we behave, we need to take extra precautions in our lives to feel and be safe simply because we are not men.
They remind us that we shouldn't be afraid to tell a man to "Fuck off," when he blocks our path. They remind us we don't have to be "nice."
"Jill lived a life full of family and friends and her beloved Tom," Jill's father, George McKeon, said on the steps of the courthouse after Adrian Bayley's conviction in 2013.
"Jill was brutally raped and murdered and is never coming back."
They remind us they were women full of life once too, and not just cautionary tales.
They remind us that we are never too old to be scared of monsters at night. Male monsters.
May we one day walk at night free of fearing them.