The murder of a 22-year-old Australian comedian has ignited a debate in the country about the safety of women and the right to be able to walk home at night without fear of attack.
Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed as she walked home from a performance Tuesday night through a popular park in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Carlton North.
The attack stunned the community not only because it happened in what’s considered a relatively safe city, but because of the police advice that followed.
After informing residents there would be 24-hour patrols at Princes Park where Dixon’s body was found, Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton advised residents to “take responsibility for your own safety.”
Some interpreted his words as victim-blaming, that Dixon was somehow at fault for walking home by herself at night.
A 19-year-old-man was charged with her rape and murder Thursday.
Among tributes to the young comedian there was growing outcry on social media who called for the blame to be placed squarely on her attacker.
“When I was a 22-year-old comedian, I constantly walked home from gigs along in the middle of the night because I couldn’t afford the tram fare, let alone taxis,” broadcaster Meshel Laurie said on Twitter. “Should we allow murderous rapists and poverty to ensure we’re locked inside our entire lives?”
Bernard Keane, a leading political writer based in Canberra said the “victim blaming” from police was “garbage.”
“Men don’t let women be safe anywhere,” he tweeted.
Influential Australian feminist writer Clementine Ford said it wasn’t a lack of “situational awareness” that ended the life of Dixon. “It was a person who made a conscious decision to exercise extreme violence against her,” she said.
Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville addressed the outcry in a news conference Friday, saying the role of the police was to ensure people are aware of the risks around them.
“Just as it’s touched and hurt our community and the family it also touches our police as well, that’s why they want to make sure women understand the risks while we fight to ensure we have safety within our communities and our homes,” she said.
For two days local residents have been laying flowers at Princes Park, where Dixon’s body was found.
Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews said a public vigil would be held at the park on Monday at 5.40 p.m. local time, and those taking part would recognize that Dixon wasn’t to blame.
“They will do so in firm knowledge that Eurydice died because of her attacker’s decisions - not because of her own. They’re right. And we need to accept that fact too. We will never change a thing until we do,” he tweeted.
Jaymes Todd, a 19-year-old man from the north-western suburb of Broadmeadows has been charged with Dixon’s rape and murder
He was arrested on Wednesday night after handing himself into authorities after police released images of a man they wanted to speak to about Dixon’s death.
Todd appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court Thursday where it was heard Dixon was killed between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday and 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.
John Riordan, a Victoria Legal Aid lawyer, told court it was Todd’s first time in custody and that he was highly vulnerable due to his young age and autism disorder.
The lawyer successfully argued that images of Todd should not be published until more information on his condition was examined. Todd did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody to reappear on October 3, the ABC reported.
Dixon’s death and public reaction strongly echoes the horrific rape and murder of Gill Meagher, a 29-year-old Irish woman living in Melbourne who was killed when walking home in the early hours of September 22, 2012.
Vigils were held in her honor for many months following her death.
It emerged her killer Adrian Ernest Bayley had raped multiple women and had been out of prison on parole.