tesco Bus stop. Bridge. tesco Bus stop. Bridge. These are the messages I send out like flares when I’m walking home from the gym.
As the biting autumn chill robs us of the evening light, darkness has imposed a women’s curfew. Somehow I forget every year that we have to behave like little hedgehogs in the colder season and hibernate for our own good.
At this time of year we have a little less freedom. Like many women, I often only find time to exercise at the very end of the day, when the demands of my family and job and home have been dealt with and dealt with. But from October this means walking the short distance home in the dark.
There’s such a dichotomy between who I am in the gym — someone who is strong and getting stronger — and who I become when I step outside, which is left utterly vulnerable by the angle and orbit of the earth is.
Because it’s dark outside, I stand in front of the gym and text my boyfriend that I’m leaving. Then I send a second message when I make it to Tesco and another when I make it to the bus stop and a final signal when I reach the bridge near our house. Because of the regularity of this dark custom, I spend much of my walk home pondering what these lyrics actually mean. The strategic details we share on our way home are based on the risk of not making it.
The brutality of deadly male violence can invade our lives at any time
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the death of Jill Meagher — the 29-year-old Irish woman who was raped and murdered in 2012 while walking a short distance between a bar and her home in Brunswick, Melbourne, while I’m about the horrific attack on Meagher and the devastating effect it had on Australia and Ireland, I also read about the deaths of Aya Maasarwe and Eurydice Dixon. Maasarwe was raped and murdered on her way home from a night out in Melbourne in 2019. She had just got off a tram and was on a video call with her sister when she was attacked. Dixon was raped and murdered while walking home from a night out in Melbourne in 2018. She had texted her boyfriend: “I’m almost home. HBU?”
The details of Dixon’s text to her boyfriend and Maasarwe’s video call would gripe any woman who has ever tried to fight back against the night’s threat. The reason we fixate on the things we can do, car keys in our fists and dropped pins on our partners cell phones, is because it’s too depressing to think about how little control we have over our own have fate. The brutality of deadly male violence can invade our lives at any time.
And so I find myself hugging the pools of yellow light that gather under streetlights, wondering if the passing cars are going too fast to stop when I have to sprint onto the road. What seemed harmless on the way to the gym looks ominous on the way home, like the thick grass lining the path. Men often follow me with their hoods pulled up – many of them are straight out of the gym themselves. I’m sure I would be more upset if my anger wasn’t overshadowed by envy. It must be wonderful not to see the threat of an 8pm walk home along a busy, well-lit road. It often feels like we’re going home in two different worlds.
It hurts me to say this, but all these strategies are useless. As we know, nothing can be expected of individual women to reduce the threat of male violence.
The darkness does not increase the threat of violence women face, it only reminds us of it. It conjures up specters of monsters that are a myth. We know statistically that many women face their greatest threats in warm and well-lit homes. This was confirmed in a recent report by gardaí, which showed that women who were victims of serious and violent crime were more likely to have experienced it in their own homes. The scourge of violence against women, and the fact that those who perpetrate it are often a victim’s current or former partner, still proves to be a somewhat uncomfortable subject.
We talk so much — either to ourselves or to those who hold their phones waiting for us to say we got home safe — about the risks women take when we exist at night. But the source of this threat is never questioned unless we consider the reasons why so many women are at risk in broad daylight within their own homes. This is the real monster hiding in the dark.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/why-do-we-fear-the-walk-home-at-night-when-the-reality-is-women-are-most-at-risk-at-home-in-broad-daylight-42068532.html Why do we dread walking home at night when the reality is that women are most at risk at home in broad daylight?