18 Jun Trying to make sense
It’s hard to put in to words how I feel. I was deeply horrified and distressed when I learnt that a woman had been found raped and murdered near where I live and work. To then find out that it was Eurydice Dixon, a young and talented woman who I counted as a friend, made something that seemed impossibly hard to process, even worse.
I already had an appointment with my GP on Friday (for a mental health check in and to get a repeat prescription), so I was given the pep talk about grief. She acknowledged that the emotional roller coaster I am on, is a completely natural response to what happened. It helped: a bit. However the violent, sudden and senseless nature of Eurydice’s death make this so much more than just regular grief. I am deeply sad, I am angry and I’m scared.
I was also given a pep talk about staying safe. We both had to acknowledge the horrible reality that if an attacker chooses not to target me then they will target someone else. That makes my stomach turn.
I am confused and alarmed by the conversations that we are now having to have with the wider community. Mainly men. Some of those men I thought were fairly clued up.
I have thought about the many times that I have felt threatened, the many times I have been accosted, the many times I have experienced verbal abuse, the many times I have experienced sexual assault, the many times I experienced abuse in past relationships (verbal, emotional, financial and physical). I have been reminded of the daily evidence that the patriarchy promotes misogyny. But this isn’t about me and my fears or experiences. This is about someone we knew, loved and admired.
I can’t make sense of her not being here anymore. I can’t make sense of the violent way she was ripped from us. I can’t make sense of how the police think that a valid response is to warn us to take responsibility for our safety. I can’t make sense of any of this. We have all walked somewhere in the dark. We should be able to without fear.
I am trying hard to work out what I can DO. Yes – donate to the gofundme. Yes – support my sisters and brothers in comedy through this horrible time. Yes – attend the vigil today. Yes – check in on friends as to how they are getting home. But I think my goal now is to keep this conversation going. We can’t drop it. Until men realise that the language they use and the reactions they have are victim blaming, then we have to keep reminding them. We may not ever feel 100% safe but we need the men who say “not all men” to understand why we still have to tell all men. We need to encourage men to call out the belittling of women (and any minority group). We need to create a culture where “can’t you take a joke, love?” isn’t a thing that people get to say. If you are offending a group of people or humiliating someone then you are getting it wrong. We need to remind men how to let us feel safe. We need to raise our boys to be sensitive and supportive. We need to point out to men and women when they are making assumptions or noting details that are gendered i.e. when the media feels the need to report on a woman’s appearance but not a man’s, or when the first question after a woman has been attacked is “what was she doing out and alone at that time of night?”.
We need to change the conversation.
These are some things that I have said to people on social media:
If the messaging always started by addressing men and included advice about staying safe this conversation would be so different. It could be about good men being supportive, about people looking out for each other, reminding perps that they will get caught and then… at the very end… reminding us all to DO THE THINGS WE ALREADY DO and try our very best not to get raped and murdered. However it always starts with the warning to the potential victims. Which assumes that victims are somehow to blame and could somehow have prevented it.
Someone (well intentioned) said that to me today. I was crying (as I have been a lot for the last couple of days) and explaining how helpless, sad, angry and scared I felt. She reminded me to continue to live my life, do the things I love, take comfort in my community. She also reminded me to make sure I change into my trainers before I leave a venue, so that I can run faster. She also reminded me that I have a low centre of gravity and am harder to push over. She also pointed out that if I look fit, sober and able to fight and/or run a potential perp will look for someone else.
I’m so stunned by how many men get defensive about us pointing out that “take responsibility for your safety” is victim blaming. Men who I thought were cluey. It’s just so insidious that they’re oblivious to it.
I’m not specifically talking about that specific police officer. I am talking about the general messaging. If he did say more then it is the media who are sending out this message.