Licence to murder: Narratives of convenience and victim blaming

Letters to the Editor

Licence to murder: Narratives of convenience and victim blaming

Monday, January 13, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The year began with the news of the horrific murder of a 24-year-old woman by a man with whom she apparently had an intimate relationship. More horrifying are the narratives surrounding this kind of violence that somehow lay the blame at the feet of the dead. There seems to be less shock for her murder and more concerns with her being young, a woman, and having committed the crime of wanting to end a relationship with a man who apparently 'invested' in her.

Of course, she is dead, and the dead tell no tales.

The media image of the victim being circulated also contributes to the blame being laid on her. An attractive young woman who 'fools' up the man, takes his 'things', and dares not to subject herself to him as the property he has paid for.

The type of reporting and accompanying narratives are irresponsible, and quite problematic. It puts more women at risk as we have already seen. The 'blame the victim' narrative (from both men and women) is normalising an increasingly negative attitude towards women and sends a clear and dangerous message to men that you own the women you support, and if they do not submit to you, you have the right to murder them.

It appears that the narrative surrounding these kinds of horrors have not only given men who are so inclined the licence to murder, but also provide them with a defence. The dead have been tried and found guilty and the murderer is worthy of our understanding, and even our sympathy.

It is too convenient to hop on to the individual's psychological explanations, ignoring the social and structural dynamics that impact relationships. In the reporting, the perpetrator is protected, he can go unnamed even though he is known. There are no images of him in the media. The uncritical and biased reporting I have seen says nothing about him being a married man or that he may have been her supervisor at work. What questions have been raised about the power dynamics of the relationship? Oftentimes older, more powerful men with resources exploit the vulnerabilities of [young] women. What are the implications? What was the basis of the transactional relationship a victim may have had with the perpetrator? Some women are groomed from childhood by licentious [old] men. Women whose vulnerabilities are exploited in an unbalanced power relationship.

Warning to women: Stay away from transactional relationships! It is a narrative of convenience, one that is easy to make but is superficial and presents an uncritical perspective on a much more complex issue. It is perpetuating a dangerous stereotype and justifying femicide.

As a country, when do we go beyond the headlines and the narratives of convenience to make concerted efforts to protect our women?

Dr Carolyn Graham

Wales, UK

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