This is not going to be a feel good email but it's important

I usually don’t write about the news. I’m here to write stories that inspire and connect. Yet, this week is a little different...

My heart sank when I heard the news, I was taken back to feelings of sadness, anguish and despair.

Eurydice Dixon. A life taken too soon, in a most horrendous way. An extraordinary woman that was living her dream, working her craft and spreading joy.

Almost 4 years ago, on June 28 2014 at 5:26 AM, Renea Lau was assaulted, raped and brutally murdered at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. Renea was one of the kindest souls, so sweet and hard working. She always got to work on time. We would laugh when we baked cupcakes together in the morning. She was one of my very first pastry chefs in my business and was with us for a year before she moved onto a promising career in patisserie with another establishment.

The excruciating pain I felt when I heard the news of her passing was overwhelming. How is it so unfair that women can get their freedom taken away like this? How can such unfathomable evil exist in this world? This is fucked.

And again that pain struck when I heard of Eurydice.

There is no doubt that as females we feel a sense of insecurity when we walk late at night or in the dark. Is it fair that we need to? No fucking way. But is it a reality? Yes.

Being very independent and often doing activities on my own outside in public, I used to be so carefree and in some ways, naive. My mother’s protest of nags to safe would be met with my shrugs of “Whatever, Mum, you’re too paranoid. I’ll be fine”. 

It was only when Renea was heinously killed did I wake up to the harsh reality of this world. I also realised that I had a duty of care to all my pastry chefs that worked in the early mornings. I remember having meetings with all the chefs and asking them how they got to work and if they walked alone is there a way they could take public transport or walk in bright lights. We made them aware that it was safer to always keep their head up and be mindful of their surroundings and listen out for others on their path. A small change such as walking without headphones in, can make a difference.

This pre-emptive behaviour did serve a purpose. We’ve had two incidents in the past where our chefs were heckled and chased on the way into work. Luckily, they were physically unharmed. 

My purpose of sharing this is not to breed fear nor blame. It is about awareness on what we can do to preserve ourselves, our safety and our lives. Let me reiterate, just in case some might read this and feel that this is victim blaming. Fuck no, it’s not fair that females need to do this. It’s not fair that people need to this at all. We should be able to walk freely on the streets at any time of day and feel safe but sadly this is not utopia. Yeah, we can blame society how they raised men or how the legal system has failed us but it will not instantly change what is happening right this momentBlame will not serve us but action can and will.

Several years ago, I was lucky to have a male friend that encouraged me to do self-defence classes. I was a bit iffy at first and thought, is this really necessary? But, let me tell you, it was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself.

I learnt small techniques on how to stay alert. How to make eye contact. To put my hand up and yell loudly “STOP” if a stranger or threat would walk towards me. I learnt how to manoeuvre my wrist if they were to grab on to it. I learnt how to shift my hips to the side and smack them in the balls if they bear-hug grab me.

The scariest thing he said to me was this: “If you ever get attacked, do anything in your power to get away from the attacker. If they abduct and kidnap you into their territory, it is 99% certain that you won’t end up alive”. This is not an easy thing to do if your attacker is twice your size but there are techniques you can learn to give you more of a chance.

These days, I put away my pride when a friend offers to walk me back to my car late at night. I always make an effort to see my friend off safely when they get into an Uber. I don’t wear headphones when I walk alone in the dark. I look over my shoulder when I hear someone walking. Some may call it paranoia, I believe it’s being smart.

I would love to see ways we could offer free self-defence workshops to women that are interested. Additionally, with the longterm lens on, we can also run workshops for all genders to participate in awareness on how to stop this from ever occurring again. 

If you can help run these workshops in your city or have the ability to assist, please get in touch by emailing me back. I don't have all the answers but I'm determined to turn this anger, sadness and despair into positive action that can prevent sexual assaults and murders. The way I look at it is that every bit counts and if you feel compelled to, join me in making a difference.

Let’s remember all the extraordinary women that have lost their lives too soon. Eurydice Dixon, Renau Lau, Jill Meagher and the many others that were unjustly taken away. RIP beautiful souls, you're remembered.

Thank you for reading, it means a lot.

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Sheryl Thai, CEO
League of Extraordinary Women

 
Sheryl Thai