Last Monday night I attended the vigil held in Princes Park to commemorate the loss of Eurydice Dixon. Thousands of mourners swamped the soccer pitch; some held candles, some huddled on picnic blankets, all were in silence. In all honestly, I didn’t know what a vigil was and I was not exactly savvy as to what I would be taking part in. But I knew I wanted to contribute to reclaiming the park and the night.
The silence of over 10,000 people as they stand together in solemn respect and solidarity in a candle lit park is awe-inspiring to say the absolute least. An echo of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” traveled along the wind from the centre of the gathering and even towards the conclusion of the event people still continued to flood to the site to give their recognition.
When I first heard of the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon it was from a fellow performer in acting class. Since Eurydice was a comedian and the attack occurred as she was walking home from a gig, I could see why this was causing shock waves through our performing arts circles. What I didn’t anticipate was the national outrage.
An ever-present and oppressive weight has most certainly started to shift once again. Lisa Wilkinson felt compelled to say what people have been saying on the internet for years on prime time television. People are sharing a plethora of sexual harassment related material on Facebook and unapologetically stating their fury. Is everyone sitting up a little bit straighter and paying a bit more attention now?
I’m reminded of the Stanford Rape Case. Remember Brock Turner? You can read about it and the victim’s full impact statement here. That case was the centre of attention for quite some time and sparked a huge unavoidable uproar on social media. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to violence against women and toxic masculinity, we need people seeing red. But the very nature of an uproar is that it will die down. Hopefully the effort of higher-status faces like Lisa Wilkinson’s will make a lasting difference. It is baby steps after all, right? But aren’t we sick of baby steps? We’re all adults here.
Just as things seemed to be reaching a plateau, this Guardian story popped up. Dismally, when I read the title, I was not taken aback. When I read the article, however, I found myself grinding my teeth upon seeing that The Guardian felt compelled to describe what the victims were wearing. Yes, The Guardian, this sexual assault did happen “just four days after the comedian Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered about two kilometres away.” And do you know what else happened? You victim blamed.
Maybe we need to stop talking about the women and start a conversation about the men. Why would he rape? Why would he murder? What can be done about it? We absolutely need a better understanding of why men are raping and murdering. It doesn’t do any good to perceive perpetrators as faceless dark figures in a park, or as young, confused athletes. They’re real people who are fully capable of taking responsibility for themselves. They’re men that we know and love.
Jaymes Todd. That’s his name. Just in case you didn’t already know.
Not all men, but all women. All women have at least one story of sexual assault. So much of the last week has been about fear, anger and sadness. But to see my city come together in unity for a vigil that was both personal and political, standing collectively for women’s safety in public places, gives me hope.