Grace Millane didn’t die because she’s a young woman who went travelling on her own

This is victim blaming

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Grace Millane had just finished travelling around South America when she decided her next stop would be to travel in New Zealand – alone. The Lincoln Uni graduate had been in New Zealand for two weeks, staying at a hostel, before she went on a date with a man whom she had met on Tinder. If you’ve been travelling, you’ll know it’s common to meet new people – it’s a way to stop yourself from getting lonely, and make new friends.

However 22- year-old Grace’s night didn’t end as a fun evening out with a date. After her family filed a missing person’s report and flew out to New Zealand for the case, her body was found in the bush on the outskirts of Auckland.

Grace’s death has caused an uproar. A feminist argument has arisen on why some of the media and public have chosen to victim blame Grace for her own death, because she was seeking company whilst exploring the world on her own. It seems some people have been more interested in debating why women shouldn’t travel by themselves, rather than why someone would choose to kill a young woman.

When I was 17, I decided that I’d had enough of my village of 300 people in North Wales, and hopped on a plane to Australia to begin a four week solo trip. No one I knew was interested in going there, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to go. I wasn’t even legally an adult yet, so people were worried about me travelling on my own.

I was 17 when I went travelling on my own to Australia

Whilst I was in Brisbane, I met a boy. He was older than me by two years, and 6’6, so was definitely a lot bigger and stronger than me. He asked me out, and naturally, I said yes. He picked me up from my Auntie’s house where I was staying at the time, and we went to a viewpoint to look over the city. I got into a car at 17, at night, with a man in a foreign country. In the moment I thought nothing of it, I knew that I could trust him (I had also downloaded an app on my phone so my family could track where I was going throughout my travels), and I even made him come to the door so my Auntie could see that he wasn’t some creepy old dude. I was lucky, and I’m glad I met this guy, as I still keep in regular contact with him.

The point is, the events leading up to Grace’s death aren’t unusual for girls who have been travelling alone. But after her death the only questions people are asking are “what was she wearing”, or “why was she going to meet someone alone”. Why are we discussing what she did, rather than why someone chose to kill her? Backpacking did not kill Grace Millane. A person did.

The narrative of Grace’s death has become one of victim blaming. There’s tweet after tweet of people blaming Grace’s parents for letting her go alone. Others put the blame directly on Grace, claiming the event would not have happened if she didn’t go on Tinder or met up with a man alone whilst drinking. We’ve all heard Tinder horror stories, but if a woman is taken advantage of and murdered, it’s not going to be because she was on a dating app. There is danger for women everywhere – you’re statistically more likely to be assaulted by someone you know rather than a stranger. People should stop claiming that what happened to Grace was due to her naivety.

And then there’s the recycled argument of “why is she going to travel by herself?” Several female travellers who have travelled the world alone have responded to her story, claiming that travelling alone as a woman is liberating – you simply just need to stay aware of your surroundings and the country that you’re in, just the same as your own country.

Stop asking what she was wearing, or claiming women don’t have the capacity to take care, or that they can’t handle the big wide world by themselves. Instead ask what drove someone to kill a 22-year-old girl enjoying herself on her travels alone in a new country.

What’s happened to Grace should not be used as a warning to women for living life to the fullest. Women should be able to travel the world in the same way that men can. Travelling at 17 was the best thing I ever decided to do. It liberated me, and gave me confidence I never knew I could have. Women travelling alone know they have to take precautions, because we live in a sexist world and we can’t trust everyone – we’re not stupid. But sadly we must protect ourselves, rather than reprimand people who kill women who were being perfectly sensible and independent.