The 1%

We’re terrified because what happened to Jill Meagher could have happened to any of us.

It’s a statistic so tiny and improbable it’s almost not worth taking into consideration. If someone told you not to do something based on a 1% chance of something bad happening, you’d probably laugh and decide to take your chances. I know I would.

What’s scary is when you hear stories about that unlucky 1% of people, doing perfectly normal low-risk things you’ve done a thousand times yourself. How do you react? Do you make any changes to what you do already, or do you recognise them more the isolated incidents that they are and pray it never happens to you or anyone you know?

For the past few days, I’ve been following the Jill Meagher story, reading news updates and tweets and one thing I’ve noticed is that women are ‘rattled’, as Mia Freedman put it.Of course, there have been just as many men expressing sympathy and horror at what’s happened but it seems to be women that are really thrown by this.We’re all mentally running through all those times we’ve been in similar situations, those five-minute walks home late at night when we may have felt bad asking for/accepting lifts and thinking about how easily it could have been one of us. I think what’s probably shaking us the most is that there’s very little room for thinking ‘that can’t happen to me because I would’ve done this differently’ in this case. Even the worst victim-blamers would have very little to work with.

It may also have a lot to do with the fact that recently, anti-rape campaigns are placing the focus more on the far more statistically probable crime of sexual assault by people you know- only 1% of women report being raped by a stranger, and over a third report being assaulted by someone who was their partner, or someone who wasn’t their partner but was known to them and trusted to some degree (and this is only the ones that get reported). So statistically speaking, walking home by yourself rather than accepting a lift from a male friend is less of a risk. I do think it’s great that things like SlutWalk are challenging that whole idea that a woman can be ‘asking for it’ by what she wears or how she acts because not only is it retarded and misogynistic but really, it’s possible to do everything ‘right’ and still be vulnerable.

It’s something all women can relate to- it’s drummed into us from such a young age, this constant and very real threat of violence. For instance,  back in school we had this ex-cop come talk to us about self-defence and teach us some basic moves and I still run through them in my head if I’m ever alone at night, muttering ‘Eyes,foot, groin, BACK OFF!!’ to myself and possibly looking a little crazy. Minor instances of creepy unwanted attention are just a fact of life for us. In Catherine Deveny’s column on the subject, she mentions one of her commenters saying something similar:

‘This from Bek “How sad that each of us probably has dozens of these unreported incidents (the boy who touched me on the way up the waterside ladder at the local pool, the man who pinched my bottom as I walked between Myer stores in the city, the piano examiner who touched my breast while I played for my piano exam in Year 10, etc, etc…). If all this stopped, we might have less trouble spotting the really dangerous guys.”

If women reported every drunk, creep, loony or fuckwit who hassled them the cops would have to multiply their numbers by a thousand and still be flat out.’

We all have our own little things that we do that make us feel a little safer, like sticking our keys in between our knuckles or talking on our phones so they know someone would realise straight away if anything happened. Even if we’re one of the lucky ones who don’t experience violence, or haven’t yet, we still live with this fear that it’s almost inevitable simply based on the fact that we’re female and when it really comes down to it, no amount of pepper spray or rape whistles or self-defence classes is ever going to change that.

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