Grace Millane, 21, wasn't killed because of Tinder or solo travel — so let's stop victim-shaming her

Grace Millane, left, is photographed celebrating graduation in September. (Photo: Facebook, Grace Emmie Rose Millane)
Grace Millane, left, is photographed celebrating graduation in September. (Photo: Facebook, Grace Emmie Rose Millane)

Grace Millane had planned a solo backpacking trip around the world to punctuate her college graduation and mark a new chapter in her life. But the adventure took a tragic turn when the 21-year-old went missing in Auckland, New Zealand, on Dec. 1 — the night before what would have been her 22nd birthday.

A body, later confirmed to be Millane’s, was located on Dec. 9, and a 26-year-old man who was reportedly with Millane when she was last seen alive has been arrested and charged with murder, BBC reports. The suspect was identified by the Telegraph as Jesse Kempson, 26.

But instead of mourning the loss of a promising young woman, some on social media are questioning Millane’s decision to travel alone, saying she was “asking for trouble” and even going as far as to criticize her family for allowing her to go on a solo trip.

The remarks are too common and too convenient for those who refuse to recognize the real problem — that women should feel safe enough to travel by themselves, whether to a far-flung country or to another part of their own city and take public transportation home. Most importantly, it’s key to recognize that the assailants are the problem and that it is they who should be held accountable for their criminal acts, not the victims.

“Disgraceful that people are even considering victim blaming Grace Millane for travelling alone and ‘putting herself at risk,'” one supporter posted.

Plenty of others echoed her sentiment.

TV personality Urzila Carson punctuated the point on the nightly news program The Project NZ. “You get the ‘not all men’ argument,” she said. “But we’re not taking the time out to celebrate the men not murdering.”

Instead, the focus of the conversation surrounding the tragic death of Millane should be on the growing number of women who are embarking on solo trips — and what is going to be done to make the world a safer place for them. According to a 2018 survey, 65 percent of U.S. women are taking vacations without their partners. These women, the survey explained, are most likely to travel alone for the freedom and independence that comes with it.

Fear and judgment shouldn’t factor into their plans. Yet far too often women are blamed for the crimes committed against them because of their clothes, their alcohol intake, their relationship history — the list goes on.

In reality, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world, according to the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse. One in every three women experience violence from a partner in their lifetime in the country.

And the crime did not go unnoticed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“On behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologize to Grace’s family,” Ardern said during a press conference, fighting back tears in an emotional speech on Monday. “Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.”

“From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality, on our manakitanga,” Ardern explained, drawing on the Kiwi word meaning kindness, generosity and respect.

A vigil is planned for Wednesday to remember Millane’s life and all of the women affected by violence this year in New Zealand. A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up in her honor.

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