Thousands of people gathered in Australia on Monday night to pay tribute to comedian Eurydice Dixon, whose rape and murder in an inner-city park triggered an emotive plea by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to “change the hearts of men”.
But just hours before a vigil in Melbourne for the 22-year-old, who was killed last week while walking home from a stand-up show, vandals painted lewd markings in the grass around a floral memorial for her in the park where she died.
"I would never have expected something so vile to happen in such a sacred place, at such an important time," Megan Bridger-Darling, who organised the vigil, told ABC News.
"I’m genuinely disgusted that this happens in our society and that we have created a culture where this is funny. It is absolutely galling."
Ms Dixon was raped and murdered last week shortly after telling her boyfriend in a text: “I’m almost home safe. HBU? (how about you?)”. Her body was later found by a passer-by at Princes Park, about a half-mile from her home.
Jaymes Todd, a 19-year-old man who apparently did not know Ms Dixon, has been charged with rape and murder.
The crime has caused a national outpouring of grief and raised concerns about the safety of women in public places.
Mr Turnbull paid tribute to Ms Dixon in parliament, saying that the “heart-breaking tragedy” highlighted the urgent need to develop a culture of respect for women.
“What we must do as we grieve is ensure that we change the hearts of men to respect women,” he said.
“Women must be safe everywhere. On the street, walking though a park, in their homes, at work.”
Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, said Ms Dixon was “just living her life” and bore no responsibility for her death.
“Walking home should not mean that you are risking your life,” he said.
“It’s about deciding as a nation that violence against women is ultimately preventable. It’s about the example that we set for our sons.”
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The murder of Ms Dixon came six years after the brutal rape and murder of Jill Meagher, a 29-year-old Irish woman who was also attacked while walking in inner-city Melbourne.
Police responded to the murder of Ms Dixon last week by calling for people to “stay safe” and were widely criticised for suggesting that women bore responsibility for the senseless attacks against them.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton admitted that officers should have been more careful with their language.
"We weren’t about victim blaming and we certainly agree absolutely that women, and men for that matter, should have the right to walk around these public spaces when they want to walk around them, and do so safely," he said.
Vigils were held across Australia on Monday night to remember Ms Dixon. Melbourne’s Town Hall was lit up in orange, the colour designated by the United Nations to promote an end to violence against women.
About 5,000 people attended a silent vigil at Prince Park, including families with young children and the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews. The floodlights were switched off for 30 minutes to allow the crowd to reflect on her death.
"I hope there is some change and I hope we can learn from this," Rebecca Noble, a mother who attended with her two-year-old daughter, told The Age.