OPINION | How do we make the world safer for women?

A year ago, when Eurydice Dixon was murdered in a Melbourne park, there were a lot of conversations - public and private - about how women felt about their personal safety.

I remember being shocked that so many men - grown up men with wives and daughters - hadn't realised how fearful women felt out in the world. And how normalised that is by even teenage years.

We walk with our keys bunched in our hands, in the middle of the road to stay away from the bushes, doing the dash between street lights with our hearts thudding in our chests. We scan lonely places (empty roads, bushwalking tracks, train carriages) for potential threats, avoid eye contact, fake a phone conversation, ignore catcalls so as not to inspire anything further, and even carry weapons. (I know I used to sleep with a can of fly spray - FLY SPRAY! - when I was alone. I suppose I thought a blind, enraged attacker would be better than the alternative.)

Most of us find reasons never to be outside at night, even on our own property.

I know one woman who refuses to even duck out to the bin in the dark, and she lives in a quiet country town, not a rough part of the city.

Our worlds are threaded through with "safe" paths through the "unsafe" spaces, and heaven help us if we go off course.

This had apparently escaped the notice of many of the men in our lives. (Disclaimer: not my husband, he's really observant.)

I picture these men blithely going about their lives, jogging at night, bushwalking alone and never checking the back seat of their car when they get in. What a life.

Now the murder of another woman - Courtney Herron - is provoking the same sorts of conversations.

I'd like to think that more conversations might lead eventually to some kind of change in society, but if a murder has to occur first, that's probably a sign we're doing it wrong. A suggestion for doing it right is a crowd-sourced mapping project in Melbourne - the Gender Equality Map - seeking (among other things) to identify hotspots where women feel threatened. Let's hope something comes of it.

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