Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the murder of single mom, Ingrid Lyne. As a single mom myself who lives not too far from where Ingrid was raising her kids (and was then later found in a recycling bin), the whole thing gives me the chills.
Frankly, women everywhere are getting the chills. Unlike most of the men I talk to, they don’t see it as a freak occurrence, but as the realization of their worst fear and the ultimate failure of their ongoing efforts to avoid their own rape or murder.
Every woman I’ve talked to knows it could have been her. People of all genders are remarking on how Lyne “took every reasonable precaution” and yet it still happened. Do you know what that means to women? It means that you can do everything right–check off all the items on your personal safety list–and you can still be killed by a man. It means that the idea that you can prevent your own rape or murder is bullshit, an illusion of rape culture that promotes victim blaming and misogyny. It means the perpetual precautions you take every moment of your waking life are quite probably a colossal waste of time.
Perhaps more than anyone, women have internalized victim blaming. Without thinking too much about it, we spend our days avoiding rape and murder. It begins when we wake up with the clothes we put on. It continues as we walk out the door and worry about the consequences of wearing a hood even though it’s raining, as we weigh the risks of looking at a screen while we walk, have 911 on speed dial, square our shoulders and walk with the “right” posture, avoid certain routes, shield ourselves from strangers on public transport, screen potential dates, not reject street harassment too rudely, and so much more.
We do these things without thinking and we do them in perpetuity. I’ll say it again: We spend nearly 100% of our time doing things that we believe will help us avoid being raped or murdered. We have been doing it our whole lives, which is a long time. It almost doesn’t seem like it’s costing us any effort at all because it’s second nature, dialed up on auto-pilot. “Natural.” But it’s not natural and it’s still energy spent. It takes away from other ways we could be using our brains/time and it means that it’s dangerous to be in our bodies.
So when the news broke that Ingrid Lyne went on a date with John Charlton and got murdered for it, women everywhere unconsciously evaluated her behavior and interrogated the situation, walking ourselves through Lyne’s paces. Sure, she met him online, but Charlton wasn’t a stranger to Lyne; they’d been dating for 6-8 weeks (check). Their date was in a public place (the Mariners game–check) and she told folks where she was going (check).
So we wonder if Lyne missed warning signs. We start asking about Charlton’s criminal background and we discover his history of drugs, theft, assault and battery, the creepy threat he made to his mother in 2006 when, after some macho chest-bumping and a few hours of verbal assault, he presented her with the movie Hannibal and told her to “beware.” Maybe we need to add “get an assault-and-battery background check” to our list of murder-avoidance rituals before we go on dates–even if it’s someone we’ve been dating a little while.
It would make us feel safer if we could find some hole in Lyne’s actions leading up to her murder because it would mean that maybe–just maybe–we have some control.
Think about it: Before we could even talk about the crime, we had to make sure Lyne wasn’t culpable somehow. That’s victim blaming, one of the most deeply ingrained forms of internalized misogyny I know. Looking it in the eye and explicitly rejecting it means letting go of the notion that we are in any way agents of our own safety where men are concerned. The reality is, there are no sufficiently “reasonable precautions” we can take or “right” ways to behave that will ensure we won’t be raped or murdered by a man.
The unfortunate alternative to victim blaming is that it doesn’t fucking matter what you do: You can “take every reasonable precaution” and still end up in pieces in a stranger’s recycling bin.
So now what?
Ingrid Lyne’s murder did not happen in a vacuum. I didn’t know her, but I’m also a single mom with two kids and, like most women, have spent my entire life practicing ongoing rape-and-murder avoidance rituals (at times with better results than others). It’s not a theoretical, hypothetical conversation for me and I know from talking to other women that they feel similarly.
Ingrid Lyne’s murder does two contradictory things: It confirms the need for women to continue our vigilance (because look what happened!) and it also points out the uselessness of that vigilance (because look what happened!).
So when you hear people talking about the very “reasonable” precautions Lyne took to avoid being murdered, point out the absurdity of it. Interrogate the master narrative. Get curious. Point out the inherent toxic masculinity and victim blaming of it, since those things are perpetuated by our silence and passive acceptance. You have a particular duty to call it out if you’re a beneficiary of rape culture.
Men, if your women friends talk about it with you, listen. Don’t ask them to be reasonable. Don’t tell them to calm down (tone policing). Don’t tell them they’re imagining the gendered nature of the crime (gaslighting). Just because you haven’t experienced living in constant fear of rape and murder doesn’t mean it’s not real 24/7 for over half of the population.
People of color, transfolk, and the queer community are at even greater risk for this type of violence , though it certainly doesn’t get the same–or often any–attention in the media. We have a particular responsibility to call that out, too.
This much is clear: Although it might be more comforting to do so, dismissing the murder of Ingrid Lyne as a freak occurrence isn’t doing anyone any favors.
P.S. You can donate money to support Ingrid Lyne’s three children here.