I’m pretty tall. I’m also fairly physically fit and I like to think that if chased I would have a chance of outrunning any potential attackers. I could maybe stand a chance of fighting someone off. Maybe with enough eye-gouging and groin-kicking. Maybe.
I don’t really walk anywhere at night, anymore. I have small kids and hey, I live in Wollongong, not really known for its night life. The last time I walked through city streets after dark was in Paris a few months ago. I was with two female friends and we would go out to a bar or restaurant in the evenings and walk back to our apartment afterward, like people without children do. (What larks!) Maybe it was because we were staying in the gay-district (I have a sort of reverse homophobia where I assume that all gay men are lovely, friendly folk with excellent hair.) but I felt totally safe, even in heels and a pencil skirt which really only allowed for movement below the knees.
A few years ago I lived in inner Sydney and like so many other women, would often walk home alone from the train station at night. The possibility that I could be attacked by a lurking stranger would flit about my mind, but I would tell myself I was physically strong enough to fight someone off. Plus my bestie who lived in Redfern showed me this great way of carrying ones keys so they poked out between ones fingers when held in a fist. I would walk quickly and hold myself with what I imagined to be confident posture.
As if that would make a difference.
Last night, at the same time I was making dinner for my kids, another thirty year old woman was standing on a bus stop in Hunters Hill. Hunters Hill is gentrified suburb on Sydney’s lower North Shore. Probably the safest place you could imagine standing on a bus stop at six in the evening. Cate Blanchett lives there, for effs sake. Yet this woman was attacked: bashed and stabbed while her attacker tried to take off her clothes and rape her. This happened on the same day Adrian Bayley was sentenced for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher. She was attacked walking home at night. I don’t know if she carried herself in a confident manner. She probably did.
As far as last night’s attack goes, there is the small consolation that neighbours and passers-by came to help the victim. One guy in particular was driving past at the time and pulled over to help. He may well have saved the woman’s life.
I do know that tonight, after darkness has fallen, many thousands of women will make their way home from work or study. They will catch trains and buses. They will walk quickly through dark streets.
I don’t know if many will do it with confidence. And I hate that. I hate that women are the victims of these crimes because of the very fact that they are women. I hate that many will feel unsafe tonight because of their gender.