This past week, a 22 year old comedienne of extraordinary talent, was brutally murdered on her way home from a gig in Melbourne. Her name was Eurydice Dixon. We cried and grieved for a woman most of us had never met nor had the privilege to see perform. We mourned her and we realized that her death holds a mirror to society and our perceived safety. Every woman I know looks behind when they hear footsteps quickening as they walk. We keep our keys in our hands in case they need to be used as a weapon in carparks and when nearing home. We scan our surroundings and check in with friends after they leave our presence or we theirs. We tend to sit in the back of an Uber or taxi, and are hyper-vigilant at all times. Eurydice certainly was vigilant, and it still wasn’t enough, because the onus was on her accused to be a decent human being and not destroy her young life. We know what she was doing out at night; walking home from her work. Nobody has asked what the hell he was doing out.
Last weekend, I opened a Sydney paper and my eyes cast to a front page story. It detailed the abuse two sisters suffered at the hands of several high-profile visitors to her parent’s home in the 70’s. The parents happened to be well-known writers. I realized that I knew one of the men mentioned in the story, and immediately wanted to vomit. He is now deceased, but was one of Australia’s foremost pop artists amongst other titles. I knew him to be quiet and unassuming, and in his later years, professed a religious leaning. I had gone to his home in the Eastern Suburbs countless times, and had numerous conversations with this fellow. I never got the ‘creep vibe’ which women count on to assist in discerning who is to be feared and who isn’t. I recall on one occasion I asked him if he would consider donating some of his art for a charity auction I was involved in. The next day a courier came with signed shirts, prints and posters. I was touched by his generosity. I never saw the lecherous side to his character, but I have no doubt it existed. Repulsed, I gathered the books I had in my library by the girl’s parents. I also gathered up the biography and prints I had from the artist. I wanted nothing to do with either their art nor them, in any capacity.
Looking back I believe that I was spared hell from this artist for the fact that I had already been through hell. My body was damaged and scarred, and I had lost my youthful naiveté by the time we met. We were also always within crowds of people at art openings and parties. I had prided myself on being able to spot a predator at ten paces, and yet in the past few years, a GP I had seen was incarcerated for rape, and I heard that others from my past had been accused of such horror. The link between them was that they all looked normal. They were all educated, charming and seemingly decent. Somehow, it makes the horror worse. They were able to have access to young people, unabated. To be honest, it turns my perceptions on whom is to be trusted upside down and inside out. I feel pressure on a daily basis to keep my daughter safe, whilst she craves liberty of movement the older she gets.
I recall when I was a little girl and would play in the park around the corner, leading onto a dead-end street. There was a vacant block next to the park, overgrown with weeds. I saw a man hiding within the tall grass and was informed by a friend that he had called out to her, beckoning her to come over. I saw him watching me, feeling his gaze before I saw his eyes. I took it upon myself to knock on every door on the street and notify the residence that there was a bad person about. The police were called and it was found that he was a sex offender, with a long history. I didn’t think for one moment that it would have been my fault if anything had happened to me. I was simply at the park for the purpose of playing with friends. As we grow, we are taught that it is up to us to be vigilant, to not take public transport nor walk at night. We must be alert and alarmed at all times. Too bad if we are without a car or need to be out for work or any other reason. The onus goes from the creep in the long grass watching us to the fault of a woman walking by with a purpose.
We start to doubt our own impressions of situations and people as we grow. We worry about making a fuss, about being impolite to the stranger attempting to strike up a conversation, for instance. You know what, girls and boys and grownups have the right to move through their lives and our streets unabated. Eurydice had the right to safely walk home from her gig. The blame is entirely with her killer. The blame lies with the parents of the girl’s whom they didn’t protect in their family home. The blame is with the artist whom I had once admired. I now can’t even bear looking at his face nor hearing his name. The blame is with the creep watching the kids from the long grass, not with the kids playing in the park. I have gathered up the artist and writer’s works; people whom I once looked up to, and have thrown them in the recycling. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the paper came back as cardboard, holding cartons of inspired work by decent men and women?