Women Still Most At Risk Of Sexual And Physical Violence At Home

Gendered violence is all too common, but not often perpetrated by strangers.

Sexual and physical violence against women has always been there. Women have been attacked. Left scared. Alone. Every day, not just in the aftermath of Eurydice Dixon's death.

For the last 26 years Carolyn Worth has been on the end of the line to victims of sexual violence.  

As the manager of the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault in Victoria, she speaks to a “fairly steady” number of young women who have been assaulted or raped.

Her experience also paints a much darker picture of the vulnerability of women to acts of violence.

"We get a fairly steady number of young women who come in who have come in who have been assaulted or raped -- it is not usually stranger assaults" Worth told ten daily.

"Very rarely do they come in saying I was grabbed off the street by a stranger. Often it’s somebody they really know and they have let in."

"You're still most at risk at home".
Eurydice had messaged a friend saying she was "almost home safe" before she killed. Image: Facebook

The death of rising comedian Eurydice Dixon was just that -- a 22-year-old women allegedly raped and killed by a stranger as she walked home.

“We’ve unfortunately had several of these incidents in the past five or six years -- very public ones which I think have stayed in people’s minds,” Worth said.

Before Eurydice, there was Masa Vukotic, a 17-year-old schoolgirl who was fatally stabbed in a Doncaster Park in a random attack while on an evening walk. Jill Meagher was raped and murdered as she walked home in 2012.

Years prior, in 1998, Janine Balding suffered a similar fate, aged 20. And young Australian nurse Anita Cobby’s life was too cut short two years earlier.

Jillian Meagher, 29, was murdered in 2012 in Melbourne. Image: Facebook

“Even though it’s not statistically what is most likely to happen to us, I think it’s one of our worst fears -- and that throws us,” Worth said.

Are sexual offences on the rise?

In the same week Eurydice Dixon was found dead in Carlton’s Princes Park, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted at an inner Melbourne train station.

Victoria Police said it was investigating whether Eurydice's male attacker was linked to the sexual assault of another young woman in nearby Parkville in March -- though this has since been ruled this out.

In New South Wales, a 47-year-old man allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in Newcastle, while another man was on Sunday charged over alleged ‘upskirting’ in Sydney.

Police are seen patrolling a growing makeshift memorial for Eurydice Dixon. Image: AAP

Sexual violence against women is common -- and on the rise, according to seasonal data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The latest Personal Safety Survey of 21,242 people across the country showed the proportion of women experiencing sexual violence in 2016 increased from 1.2 percent to 1.8 percent since the last survey was conducted in 2012.

In New South Wales, there has been an upward trend in both sexual assault and indecent assaults over the last two years until this March, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Recorded sexual assault offences were up 7.2 percent, and indecent assault offences rose by 6.3 percent.

Similarly, Victoria has seen a 12 percent rise in offences over the last year, Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Friday.

But what can we draw from these statistics?

Thousands gathered to remember Eurydice Dixon at the Reclaim Princes Park Vigil in Melbourne. Image: AAP
More victims coming forward

For Worth, the Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault has always been busy; the number of clients “steady”.

She agreed with Commissioner Crisp’s claims a rise in offences meant more people were coming forward.

“We used to be comfortably busy and now we’re exceedingly busy,” she said.  

“It’s certainly an increase in reporting, because we know for a fact most people don’t report. We can estimate from ABS data, but we actually have no idea about the real rate of sexual assaults.

“I think this increase in reporting is a positive sign that people are feeling comfortable about coming forward.'

Commissioner Crisp pointed to recently introduced offences including laws covering revenge pornography, which he said accounted for a significant proportion of the overall sex crimes rise.

Worth agreed. “We have a lot more issues with online dating -- there is an age group that are much more comfortable online and the law has had to catch up,” she said.

Mourners remembered Dixon and all victims of gendered violence. Image: AAP

But she said about 80 percent of clients were reporting historical abuse.

“We’ve had the parliamentary inquiry into Responses into Institutional Child Abuse and the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Then we moved into the #metoo movement,” she said.

“I think that constant publicity has made a difference.”

But one statistic remains unchanged: While Eurydice Dixon’s story may play to our “worst fears”, in Australia, the most dangerous place for women is at home.

“We’re still mostly at risk at home from people -- men -- with whom we have some knowledge of. And that hasn’t changed,” Worth said.

As thousands gathered at vigils in Melbourne and across the country on Monday night to remember the rising comedian, they too remembered  Qi Yu, a 28-year-old allegedly murdered by her 19-year-old flatmate in south-west Sydney last week and all victims of gendered violence.