When sexual assaut becomes a terrorist act

To me, a terrorist act is one that attacks our way of life, that forces us to change our behaviour. I looked up the definition, and the only difference I can see anyone arguing between it, and the sexual assault that took place last Thursday is ‘political intent’. But sexual assault IS political. Sexual assault is not even about sex, it’s about power, women are overly represented in sexual assault statistics and virtually every aspect of the way women are perceived in our society is political.

Regardless of explicit political motive, the notion that any man feels it is his right to do what he did, where he did it, in a society that is fundamentally unequal, is political. He is saying to women that their choice to walk unguarded in a public area, makes them a target.

If this guy gets caught, he shouldn’t just be tried for the crime he committed against one woman, he should be tried for his act of terror on all women living in this country. He’s changed the rules, and the rules weren’t even fair in the first place.

It took this attack for me to realise how limited my life is. This is just a sentence but think about what it means: I have never experienced what it’s like to not be aware of my personal safety. So, so, many decisions are impacted by personal safety considerations, and it’s on my mind so much, I don’t even think about it any more. I’m not saying it’s a big deal, Im saying its always there. Always. It’s something women talk about as a fact of life. We are divided on whether we ‘succumb’ to the fear or whether we rebel against the fear and do it anyway. The thing is, I’m yet to meet a women who doesn’t feel the fear.

The world around us is different from the world that surrounds men. There’s so much written about what women can do to stay safe, whether the conversation should even revolve around what women can do, and even research that shows that regardless, arming women with personal safety tools works. The problem is, all of this relies on a woman’s ability to detect risky situations and act accordingly. And the reason Im so angry is that in Thursday’s rape, she did everything right.

What this monster did was take something we take for granted, and make it scary. For the foreseeable future, we have to add ‘popular walking tracks in broad daylight’ to the list of risky situations. He has forced us to change our behaviour. Yes, we may still walk, but we will no longer walk without keeping an eye out for strangers hidden in bush, without considering an escape route, without it crossing our minds that danger could be lurking.

Im so ridiculously angry, and I feel so violated that I keep stopping myself to question that maybe the fact that this is such a rare event makes my re-invigorated fears sound irrational. But then I think how long we’ve flown in aeroplanes, how many flights take off a day. And one horrific incident changed the way we travelled forever.