Sue Backshall

A dog is protection, and other myths we women tell ourselves


Toyah Cordingley was murdered, despite her walking her dog, something we women trust will keep us safe. Her fear is ours too.



As a woman, there are objects that we trust, things we carry as totems of protection. If our journey is to and from work, we grip our keys between fingers. If it’s for fitness, we go with someone, or we get ourselves a large dog. We put our faith in these trinkets. Whether they’ll protect us, we hope never to find out.

Sadly, this morning, that trust we all quietly cling to has been stripped away by the brutality of whoever dumped Toyah Cordingley’s body. As it stands, there are no leads, no suspects. Again, we don’t know. Theoretically, it could be anybody, which layers the horror, painting the staid mornings when we assume that today will be fine.

Now, it’s unlikely that we’ll turn the corner and meet the same person who did this, but we all live in the fear of meeting someone similar. It’s fear that simultaneously drives us, and keeps us sitting with our backs to the walls when we meet people we know. I’m not special, nor do I stand out, I’m part of the huddled, paranoid masses.

As for why this continues to happen, I’m unsure. Perhaps it continues because our macro fear goes unseen, because we smile, or break eye-contact or cross the road. We don’t make it obvious, we’re quiet about our fear. Because we fear your response, because we’re playing it safe. We’re trying to control situations that are seemingly in hand.

Now, I don’t want to bombard you with terminology, because it tends to drag you to defence and away from the issue. That’s a problem with the discussion, I believe. We want you to listen, so we use popular terms. I think that might be a mistake.

There seems to be a diffusion. Because we’re not saying anything to you when we come home, at the end of the day, there’s no problem. But the trail of names, and unfortunately bodies, of Australian women should point to a greater truth. As Bob Dylan once said, “you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” It should be more obvious. The traces of it brushing across your senses and newsfeed should be enough.

Please, speak to the women in your life, and then speak to the men in yours.


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