LAYTON — Jenn Oxborrow has seen some social media “othering” written about murder victim Ashlyn Black since the Layton woman was stabbed to death on a date Sunday.
“Victim blaming and shaming is a real concern to me,” said Oxborrow, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
When a woman meets someone through a dating app, she said, “and someone that they trusted and was intimate with hurts them, there is a lot of blame that comes with that.”
Such “othering,” as Oxborrow terms it, is dangerous and harmful because “we can see a chilling effect in other victims coming forward.”
In pointing out the fate of a murder victim who used a dating app, saying something like, “’Other people do that, I would never do that,’ it’s a defensive move to reassure us we are safe,” according to Oxborrow.
“It takes the focus away from those who need to be helped,” Oxborrow said.
It also takes attention away from the alleged perpetrator.
Ethan Hunsaker, 24, is being held without bail in the Davis County Jail. He was charged with murder Wednesday.
Hunsaker called 911 to report he had killed someone, and he wanted police to shoot him, the arrest affidavit said.
Police said they found Black dead on the floor with multiple stab wounds.
Hunsaker told officers he had been having suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming others, the arrest document said.
According to 2nd District Court records, Hunsaker and his ex-wife were granted a divorce in December.
Black and Hunsaker had met on Tinder, a dating app.
Oxborrow’s group decided to issue a statement after Black’s death because it has seen victim blaming in similar cases.
One was the June 2019 death of Mackenzie Lueck, a University of Utah student who met a man in a park.
Ayoola Adisa Ajayi, 31, is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies. He is also charged with abuse or desecration of a human body. Leuck’s body was found in Logan Canyon, according to Salt Lake City police.
As with Lueck’s case, some social media commenters have focused on Black’s dating choice, such as this post on Facebook: “Why do people do internet dating? You can meet enough weirdos in real life.”
“In both cases, several people have resorted to placing the responsibility of preventing the homicide on the homicide victim,” the Domestic Violence Coalition said in a press release.
“Victim blaming and shaming is inappropriate and grossly unacceptable,” the nonprofit said. “In addition to perpetuating myths about abuse, assault, and violence, victim blaming wrongly excuses the perpetrator’s behaviors.
Such attitudes can discourage victims from seeking help, Oxborrow said.
The coalition receives 43,000 crisis calls per year and provides 100,000 nights of shelter for domestic and intimate partner violence victims, she said.
“It can be really embarrassing to have fallen in love and someone is hurting you and maybe you’re tolerating things, but your risk is going up,” Oxborrow said.
The coalition and its partners in Utah communities provide help anonymously to victims.
“Our message is to trust your instincts,” she said. “Women in particular can be more forgiving and accepting,” which can play into a perpetrator’s hands.
Some perpetrators can isolate and manipulate their victims, so it is important for people to meet in public places, preserve an opportunity to leave by taking their own car, and the like.
“We don’t know that this young woman (Black) didn’t do that,” Oxborrow said. “This isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking with Ashlyn at all. She may have done everything right, regardless of what happened.”
She said she was not defending Tinder, but added, “Dating apps are the way that we date now. It’s part of our culture. And the reality is that dating violence has not gone up.”
The overwhelming majority of women harmed today and in the past were victimized by people they know and trust, she said.