We have all been shocked and devastated with the heartbreaking news that missing woman Jill Meagher’s body has been found in a shallow grave outside Melbourne.
Most of us have seen the CCTV footage of Jill’s last known sighting, walking home alone in the early hours of the morning, talking to a man in a blue hoodie on a busy street in Brunswick, Melbourne. She was only a few hundred metres from home.
Jill Meagher’s disappearance, alleged abduction and murder has sparked the issue of womens safety with many women admitting similar attempted attacks or incidents of being followed in the same area, without reporting it.
About a month ago, I took my daughter to a new playgroup in an area I hadn’t been to before. We arrived early and my toddler started to become unsettled, so I got out of the car and was leaning into the backseat when I was approached by two men. Immediately I became terrified, the men looked drunk and I really didn’t like the way one of them was looking at me. I became even more concerned when they asked me where the nearest pub was. It was 9am. I was in a quiet street and there was no one around.
Luckily they continued walking by and I jumped into the car and locked the doors, shaking and scared. I immediately contacted my Aunty who is a Police Officer who told me to call the Police Assistance line on 131 444, which I did. I reported everything I could and the police sent a patrol car out to the area I was in.
How many of us have had similar experiences where our safety has been compromised? How many times have we walked short distances alone late at night? From a restaurant to a car that’s ‘parked just around the corner’ or from a bar onto a busy street to hail down a taxi?
Not anymore girls.
Here are five ways we need to take better care of ourselves and each other.
1) Save the Police Assistance number 131 444 into your phone under favourites RIGHT NOW. If you see or hear anything suspicious, call this number immediately. It goes without saying that in an emergency, dial 000.
2) If you go out with friends, especially at night, you have to insist on that no one leaves alone. Drop each other home or to parked cars, however close they might be. Make sure that your friends are actually in their car or front door before driving off.
3) ALWAYS drive with your car locked. If you are sitting in your parked car, make sure it’s locked. Always.
4) Never EVER sit in the front of a taxi if you are by yourself. Someone told me this while I was living in Dubai and since then I have always sat in the back of taxis. There have been numerous incidents recently of taxi drivers being inappropriate. It’s more difficult for them to do this if you are sitting in the back. Take a photo of their ID (which is found in the front of the car) and text it to your hubby, boyfriend, mum, dad, flat mate – whoever! If the taxi driver is even thinking about any funny business, this will make them think twice.
5) Be situationally aware, look around you to see what’s happening. I’ve had people catch me by surprise by approaching me for money while I’ve been loading groceries into the car – we need to stop and take notice of who and what is happening around us.
Most of all, we need to make sure we continue to live our lives as we usually do. We can’t live in fear because of what has happened to Jill. We just need to be much more careful and cautious.
My deepest sympathy goes out to Jill Meagher’s husband, friends and colleagues in Melbourne, her parents and brother in Perth and her family back in Ireland.
Farewell to the beautiful, smiling Irish girl.