[Content Note / Trigger Warning: This article discusses sexual assault]
Words || Mariah Hanna
The NSW Police Force has received some heavy backlash for a post made on Facebook urging women to look out for themselves when meeting up with strangers they’ve met on dating apps. The post parodied Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies,’ asking all the “single ladies” to put their hands up before saying, “You’ve decided to swipe, have a super like/ Now someone’s asking to meet/ Keep yourself safe (safe)/ Tell a friend your meeting place (place)/ ‘Cause it’s only worth it if you’re okay/ You can’t be playing with safety”
If you scroll through the comments section of the post, you’ll see that it’s received mixed reviews. Some commenters love it, asking who is running the NSW Police Force social media account, while others are asking why people have such a problem with the message. Is it entertaining? Sure. Does it perpetuate a culture of victim blaming? Absolutely.
Here is an explainer. The more that people – particularly government bodies or those in positions of power – put the onus on women to keep themselves from being harmed by men, instead of telling men not to harm women, the more we allow our culture to be one that fails to hold men accountable for their actions.
Earlier in the year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare compiled a report detailing the violence that women face in Australia for the first time. Among other devastating statistics, the data found that one woman a week is murdered as a result of domestic violence, 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner, 2,800 women were hospitalised between 2014-15 as the result of an assault by a partner, and 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted since the age of 15.
Only a few months ago, Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered in Melbourne while she was walking home. It was a chilling echo of another story. In 2012 Jill Meagher was raped and murdered, also in Melbourne, while she was walking home. Both of these cases caused a national uproar, with people demanding that the violence that not only these two women, but all women face, be addressed. But let’s not forget those earlier statistics, because these two stories may have garnered the most media attention. There are thousands of other victims who, just like Eurydice and Jill, were doing nothing but trying to get home, go to work, walk across the street, go out to a bar or were simply at home when they were brutally attacked and murdered by men.
And why is this still happening? Because each time something happens to a woman, someone says there is something that the woman should have done to prevent the attack, rather than telling her attacker that he should never have attacked her in the first place.
When the police tell women to look out for themselves, it’s a message that is obsolete, because we already do. We walk home with keys ready in our hands in case someone tries to attack us, we call our friends when we’re walking in dark places, we text when we get home, we avoid eye contact with men who pass by to avoid them confusing a quick glance for an invitation. We already do all of these things that men never think twice about, and still, Eurydice Dixon was found dead in the middle of a football field.
Perhaps if the message that police posted was that men have a responsibility to be decent human beings, to look out for their fellow peers, to call out other men who exhibit dangerous behaviour, then maybe we might see a different result. It’s a saying that has been going around, but it’s one that people need to remember: not all men rape, but all women fear being raped.