THIS month marks the one-year anniversary of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. Following reportage by New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the former film doyen has become a byword for abuse of power and sexual misconduct, eventually becoming the bedrock on which the #MeToo movement has grown.
Tonight, Hunter women are expected to take to Newcastle’s streets with a simple message: we have every right to walk here, the centre of the city we live in, under cover of darkness without the need to be conscious of the threat of violence.
It seems difficult to argue that this represents a radical position, yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics finds that one in two women has experienced sexual harassment in her lifetime and 20 per cent have suffered sexual violence since the age of 15.
Evidently, the threat of violence or sexual approach is one that rarely abates for many women when they are on their own. It is also one that, in the past year alone, burned itself into the public perception through the tragic death of aspiring comedian Eurydice Dixon.
A man is before the courts charged with her murder. Another has publicly admitted to vandalising a memorial to Ms Dixon as the nation grieved. Newcastle Domestic Violence Committee chairperson Colleen Mullins, who has organised Newcastle’s Reclaim the Night march to Customs House, says that anger over the status quo is palpable. “It’s the most natural and likely emotion to feel after a violation,” she said earlier this week.
“We hold keys so they can be used as a potential weapon, walk on lit streets, have the phone ready and talk to someone or use it as a barrier to being approached … a lot of things men would not even consider.”
Reclaim the Night began in Germany in 1977. In 2015, Nicole Molyneux wrote in the Newcastle Herald that “this is beyond simply respecting women; this is about creating a culture that does not abuse women and where men no longer feel entitled to abuse women”.
The events of the past year offer little comfort that this end has been achieved.
For another year, women in the Hunter are doing their part to reclaim the night. Perhaps it is time more was done by those who have already claimed it from them in order to start relinquishing it.
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