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Sad reality Aussie women face amid Samantha Murphy tragedy

The 51-year-old disappeared while out for a jog, and Aussie women admit they're scared.

Five weeks after news broke of Samantha Murphy's disappearance, women across Australia admit they're feeling scared. They're scared to go running alone regardless of the time of day, even in familiar neighbourhoods where they'd normally feel safe.

The 51-year-old left her house in Ballarat, Victoria at 7am on 4 February to go for jog on a track she knew well. This week, a 22-year-old man, believed to have had no connection to her, has been charged with her alleged murder, and there's still no trace of her.

The devastating news has renewed safety concerns among women across the country, particularly runners who say they've been left shocked and shaken.

Left: Missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy. Right: Samantha Murphy in driveway at her home.
Samantha Murphy, 51, disappeared while going for a jog in Ballarat last month.

Woman's shock realisation while out running

One woman named Georgia shared her thoughts on social media while going for a run last week. She admitted it's "incredibly unfair" to have to think about "taking precautions" every time women leave the house alone.

The realisation hit her while running down her "regular paved route" before she was presented with an alternate path.

"I went to turn the other direction and it was a quite wooded, dark, non-visible path I was like, 'I've run that way so many times, why don't I turn right here and run the other way'," she said in a video posted on Tiktok.

"But I thought that doesn't feel like the safest option right now," she added saying these thoughts are "automatic" for most women. Georgia said she lives in a "really beautiful suburb", but did not disclose where. "Yet the 51-year-old missing mum who went out for a Sunday run is on my mind," she said.

"Men don't have to make those decisions unless they're running in a really dangerous area. But it's something we have to do every day to have this level of protection of ourselves, especially when we're on our own early in the morning when there's not that many people around."

'Really scary' reality most women face

Georgia said it's a "really scary" thought to have but an "important one" that's required to "keep ourselves safe — and she's not alone in her feelings with dozens more admitting they too are scared.

"I’m with you! We saw a lady running alone down through a forest yesterday and I thought 'is she crazy'," one replied in the comments. "Haven’t felt safe to do my usual walk in Ballarat," another said.

A third questioned, "when are women ever going to be/feel safe?". Meanwhile, another woman said, "this is exactly why I run without headphones"

One woman who lives in a rural area and walks alone with her dog on dirt roads said "the scenery is beautiful and it’s so peaceful but every car or truck I see gives me a sinking feeling and I’m constantly planning".

Female runner Georgia wearing black hat and top while outside for a run.
Female runner Georgia shared her safety fears about running alone on TikTok. Source: TikTok

Female runners taking precautions to feel safe

Speaking in the wake of the Samantha Murphy tragedy, City of Ballarat councillor and avid runner Samantha McIntosh said it had been a "really challenging" time for many locals.

"It's very hard for our community to not be thinking and talking of Samantha Murphy and her family," she told the ABC. "That ability to go for a jog or run, whether it be with friends or on your own, is a really important and healthy thing to do."

But the mother's disappearance means she, like many others, no longer feels safe going out alone. Running in pairs and always having a mobile phone handy is what women feel they must do just to make it back home unharmed.

Others shared with the publication the precautions they take to help them feel safe while running. Michelle Harris from Inverloch, Victoria said she wears a headlight while others say they often change their running paths depending on the time day.

"It makes me feel really sad, because there's so many barriers for women and girls to be active," she said."[Women] have the right to use public spaces, to get out there and be active."

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