The heartbreaking news of Grace Millane being murdered while she was travelling in New Zealand has affected all of us. Those of us who travel alone, particularly so. All she wanted was to travel because she wanted to travel the world by herself, anyone should be entitled to do so.
Grace Millane, from Essex, went missing a day before her 22nd birthday and was last spotted at 9.41pm on December 1st, at the Citylife Hotel, where she was seen with a “male companion”.
A week later, on December 8, police said they were treating the case as a homicide investigation and a day later a body was found in the Waitakere Ranges. After the CCTV footage was reviewed by the police, l a shovel was found “in the central West Auckland area”. A 26-year-old man, who’s identity cannot be revealed has been charged with Miss Millane’s murder. He will appear in court next month.
Should Grace have been travelling alone?
This case has probed people to talk about their experiences of travelling alone and how they’ve managed to not let negative situations stop them from pursuing their passion of travel.
Winnie M Li has been exploring the world and when she was 19 she backpacked around Germany and wrote about it for a travel guide series. Ten years later at the age of 29 she was hiking in a park near Belfast, she was later approach by a teenage boy and had a brief chat with him. She later found herself in a remote area and the 15-year-old boy had followed her and approached more aggressively. Winnie was completely helpless, she was choked, beaten and raped. She suffered 39 separate injuries.
Her perpetrator was sentenced to eight years in jail but only served four.
She said “Yes of course there are dangers if you are a woman travelling alone. But there are also dangers to men travelling alone, and probably just as many dangers to women when they’re in their hometowns, going about their everyday lives.
I could have encounters a perpetrator at any given point in my life – in my workplace, at a bar, at university, on my street. In my case I just happened to meet a perpetrator when I was out hiking.”
Winnie suffered from PTSD from the attack and while she is now perfectly comfortable with travelling on her own, she takes more precautions.
In the US quite recently a woman from South Florida, who visited Costa Rica never boarded her flight back to the US. Soon after her family notified the Police that she was missing. Carla Stefaniak went to Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday with her sister-in-law.
Carla spent an extra night in Costa Rica before catching her flight the next day, she left messages to her friends saying that the resort she was staying it was “sketchy”. Her body was found half naked and covered in plastic bags near the Airbnb rental she checked into. It’s alleged that she was murdered fending off a sexual assault.
The point is every person who wants to travel should have the freedom to do so without question. However, being extra careful of your surrounding when travelling alone and doing your research goes without saying.
But it seems that women are the subject of abuse and more likely to go missing wherever they are, not just abroad. Is it because women are more vulnerable alone?
We shouldn’t be questioning a woman’s choice when we look at these cases, we shouldn’t be asking ‘should women travel alone’, rather ‘why is it so difficult for women to travel alone’. We should question the people that act heinously against women.
She is never asking for it.
As much as we emphasise that young girls should be safe by learning how to protect themselves, we should also teach young men to not just be aware of themselves, but also what the circumstances around sexual assault are and how to make sure never to coerce or force a woman.
Ms Millane didn’t do anything wrong except have a desire to see the world and travel. Women don’t go looking to be harassed or put themselves in dangerous situations.
Carla, Winnie and Grace aren’t the first and unfortunately won’t be the last. Unfortunately, this is becoming a narrative that’s becoming more common.
Dolline Mukui is a traveller, journalist and blogger who has palate to try new things. She is a very spontaneous person; you might find her skydiving over the Kenyan coast to kayaking in the Lake District. She can be an over thinker who thinks of every outcome but if she doesn’t she welcomes the change that wasn’t planned. However, she is a very simple person who is up for a good laugh or a book and enjoys living the moment. Dolline also writes for her small personal blog called ‘Swatches of Beauty’ and is currently a production journalist trainee at ITV Border.