The nation has been horrified by the death of Eurydice Dixon at the hands of a stranger. Eurydice Dixon's memory illuminated at candlelight vigils
The nation has been horrified by the death of Eurydice Dixon at the hands of a stranger. Eurydice Dixon's memory illuminated at candlelight vigils

What our grief over Eurydice ignores

LAST night, tens of thousands of people gathered to remember a 22-year-old woman most of us had never met. Her name was Eurydice Dixon and she was raped and murdered in a Melbourne park, allegedly at the hands of a complete stranger.

But for many who stood there, coming together to mourn a woman lost to violence would have been a familiar grief. Last month, on May 2, thousands of women, men and children gathered at candlelit vigils all over Australia, paying quiet tribute to the women and children lost every week to family violence.

They stood in Federation Square in Melbourne, holding candles and crying shattered tears. They gathered outside Parliament House in Sydney, clutching each other's hands and shaking with broken grief. They were family members. Police officers. Domestic violence support workers. Ordinary people who care. They came together in the Northern Territory, the ACT, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and countless regional centres. Because Eurydice is just one name, another woman who we've lost.

Last month people from all over Australia paused to remember victims of violence across Australia. We need to keep remembering them. Picture: Emma Brasier / AAP
Last month people from all over Australia paused to remember victims of violence across Australia. We need to keep remembering them. Picture: Emma Brasier / AAP

These vigils, which are the result of a joint effort by the domestic violence support services of the SafeNet network, have been happening for nearly 20 years.

On the first Wednesday in May, we remember all of them.

They are the women who stayed for years because they had nowhere else to go.

They are the women who tried to find help but no one believed them.

They are the women who neighbours and teachers and friends whispered about with concern, but didn't like to intrude.

They are the women who died trying to protect their children.

They are the women who died after they dared to leave.

They are the children whose short, violent lives ended in the cruellest possible way.

And there are so many.

They have names. Names like Mia Ayliffe-Chung, a backpacker, who was killed by a man she knew while working on a farm in North Queensland.

Mia Ayliffe-Chung was killed at a backpacker hostel in Home Hill near Townsville.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung was killed at a backpacker hostel in Home Hill near Townsville.

 

 

Names like Simone Fraser, who was found dead in a forest on the NSW/Victorian border in March. A man known to her has been charged with her death.

Names like Qi Yu, a Sydney woman who last spoke to her family on June 8 and has been missing ever since. Her housemate has been charged with her murder.

Even as I'm writing these words, yet another grim email has arrived in my inbox from NSW Police Media, with the sort of subject line that is sickening in its mundanity. "Inquiries into death of woman" it reads. An unnamed 51-year-old woman died in John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle on the NSW central coast overnight, after arriving on Friday suffering extensive injuries.

"Detectives are investigating the events leading up to her death, after an incident in her home … was reported to police," the press release reads, with bland detachment.

Here we go again.

It's just too much to bear.

We know that on average, one Australian woman is killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner.

2800 women are hospitalised every year after suffering assault from someone they know.

62 per cent of women who have experienced physical assault at the hands of a male partner had the most recent incident occur in their own home.

It's difficult to make these numbing numbers stay in our brains - grim statistics that get worse every year. It's hard to keep these women in our hearts if we didn't know them because their deaths didn't have the same horrific suddenness and the sense of "that could have been me" as that of Eurydice Dixon.

I didn't know Eurydice. But her friends and family paint a picture of her as a bold, feisty feminist, a woman with a sharp sense of justice tempered with kindness. She cared about people. "She had a real passion for women's issues and social justice," her friend and fellow comedian Nicky Barry has said. "She was a very fierce feminist."

Thousands of people gathers to remember Eurydice around Australia. And we need to remember her. But we need to talk about the other women too. Picture: Jason Edwards
Thousands of people gathers to remember Eurydice around Australia. And we need to remember her. But we need to talk about the other women too. Picture: Jason Edwards

I believe Eurydice would have wanted us to take something from her horrifying death. I believe she would have wanted us to pause, for just a short moment, and remember not just her but all those women who have died violent deaths, all over Australia and all over the world, at the hands of someone they knew.

I believe she would have wanted to take just a small minute out of our busy lives to mourn and to bear witness to what all of them endured.

We couldn't save Eurydice. We couldn't save any of these women. But we can learn who they were and learn who loved them. We can remember their lives not just on the first Wednesday in May, but in our quiet moments, in those times when we think of the women and children in our own lives that we love so much. We can vow to watch out for the warning signs, to reach out to people who may not be able to help themselves, to push for change with our votes, supporting anyone who will channel more resources towards keeping women and children safe.

We owe Eurydice that. We owe all of them that.

• If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT national helpline: 1800 737 732, Women's Crisis Line: 1800 811 811, Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491 or Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114. In an emergency, always call 000.