I will not stop walking alone at night, if that is what is most convenient for me, or even if I just bloody feel like it.
I will not put my head down and try and make myself look smaller and less of a target. I will hold my head up, and I will meet your gaze, and you will take me on my own terms.
I will not be afraid of walking on a street that I pay taxes to pave and light, if you do not have to do the same, just because I am a woman.
I will not be afraid of every man I see in case he is a rapist, in case he is a murderer. I will fight the instincts bred into me that make that not just a possibility, but a certainty. I will believe that the vast majority of men are decent, and I will treat each man as if he is, until I have reason to believe otherwise. I will speak up when I see inappropriate behaviour.
I will not condemn every man by the actions of the few.
I will not allow society to get away with making every woman a victim of violence by insisting they must be accompanied by a man at all times or they are fair game, somehow culpable for the attacks of the few crazies out there.
I will not allow any person in my hearing to blame a victim of violence for being a victim of violence simply because they live their life in a manner no man would ever be blamed for. I will tell parents who think we should raise our daughters to fear rape and violence to think about instead raising our sons to be men who stand against rape and violence and will never excuse it.
I will not be afraid because others are afraid. And I recognize that this means my family and my husband and my friends may fear for my safety, but I cannot live my life as if it is okay to limit what a woman can do, should do, because it’s easier to wonder why a woman would walk home alone at night than wonder how we are raising and excusing and aiding and abetting rapists and violent offenders.
I hear people say that Jill Meaghers should have called her husband, should have called a taxi, should have let her friend escort her home.
The only should have we should accept is that she should have lived. She should have been able to walk home without being raped and murdered. She should have been safe.
We cannot be less than equal citizens of this world so society can sleep better at night. If we are, we acknowledge that we have an obligation to limit ourselves so men can be violent. I will not accept that, and neither should you, or anyone else.
I may be assaulted, and I may be raped or murdered because I will not be less than I am – someone who loves the smell of the night air, a night owl, a person who is equal to men – more than just a potential victim. But I will not regret refusing to have the same rights to walk a street at night and alone as a bloody rapist and murderer does. I will not give up my freedom so people can blame women when they become the victims of violence.
If you want women to be safe, we have to stop the violence where it lives. Most women who are assaulted are assaulted by someone they know. And you’re friends with them, you work with them, you play soccer with them on a Tuesday night. By and large they are “normal” men who we have taught can make excuses for their violence against women. So stop it THERE. Don’t stop me from walking on a street you’d walk on so you don’t have to have hard conversations with the men in your life. The conversations we have with people who exhibit inappropriate behaviour are the important conversations to have. They let people know that violence against women in never okay. They set the tone, draw the boundaries, let people know what is acceptable and what is not.
I will not be less than I am so you can sleep better at night. And I will not stop supporting every woman who wants to do the same.