Why experts say victim blaming in dating violence is unacceptable

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LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 24: The “Grindr” and “Tinder” app logos are seen on a mobile phone screen on November 24, 2016 in London, England. Following a number of deaths linked to the use of anonymous online dating apps, the police have warned users to be aware of the risks involved, following the growth in the scale of violence and sexual assaults linked to their use. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) -The recent news of a Utah woman being killed after meeting someone off a dating app brought with it a whole new round of victim blaming, and why experts say this has to stop.

Ethan Hunsaker, 24, told police he met 25-year-old Ashlyn Black on Tinder a few hours prior to picking her up at her home and going out for drinks at a local bar. They then went to his home and he told police that they fell asleep and when he woke up, he just started choking her.

Hunsaker said he choked her for about one minute and she fought back. He then said he went to the kitchen to get a knife before stabbing her several times, documents state.

Related: Layton man admits to killing woman he’d just met on Tinder, police say

In arresting documents, Hunsaker told police the date was normal, and there had been no argument with the victim that would cause him to kill her. He also told police he has daily thoughts of suicidal and homicidal idealizations and was taking medications for diagnosed mental health issues.

Related: Neighbors react as new details emerge in Layton Tinder murder

Shortly after news broke of the murder, comments flooded in on various social media news accounts, blaming the woman for not being safer in meeting up with a man she had just met online, placing the responsibility of her death on her, instead of the perpetrator.

The comments are similar to those made after the death of Makenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old University of Utah student who was allegedly killed by a man she had met on a website that links young women looking for relationships with men – known as “sugar daddies”. 

Related: Utah Domestic Violence Coalition calls ‘victim blaming’ surrounding Mackenzie Lueck’s disappearance ‘unacceptable’

“Why does it matter that she’s on certain dating apps or she has certain preferences in her life?” Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. “The victim blaming needs to stop. Even if someone is engaging in behavior you, yourself wouldn’t engage in, it doesn’t mean that that gives someone the right to hurt them.”

In a recent interview with Oxborrow she wants to remind people about safety in using online dating, as a way to help others protect themselves from individuals like Hunsaker.

Oxborrow says you can never be too careful and it does help to improve your safety if people know where you are going, and who you are going with, especially if its someone you don’t know well.

“Definitely let someone know where you are going, what you are doing and when you should be done, and then follow up” said Oxborrow.

The UDVC says their mission is to create a state where domestic and sexual violence are intolerable and victim blaming and shaming is inappropriate and grossly unacceptable. In addition to perpetuating myths about abuse, assault, and violence, victim blaming wrongly excuses the perpetrator’s behaviors.

There is free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence, statewide, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or at udvc.org.

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