March 14, 2016

“Yesterday I was killed…But worse than death, was the humiliation that followed.”

Twitter screengrab

When I read last week about two female backpackers who were raped and murdered in Ecuador, I was simultaneously heartbroken and angered.

Heartbroken by the brutal end to the lives of two beautiful wanderers who were living out a dream, and angered by the fact that their end was brought about by the selfish cruelty of men who wanted something that was not offered—and felt they had the right to go and take it anyway.

My anger grew as I read in the following days about how people were taking to social media to blame the young women for their fate. 

And I’m not alone.

Young female solo travellers around the world have taken to Twitter to protest this victim-blaming mentality that persists, and to claim their independence and freedom, using the hashtag, #viajosola. As one said, “The world is ours too.”

One particular Facebook response, written by Paraguayan student Guadalupe Acosta from the perspective of one of the girls, went viral. 

As a 20-something female who spends a fair amount of time traveling alone, this issue feels personal. I am grateful to be alive, but could hardly say I’ve made it through unscathed.

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At first, I accepted that fact as something to be expected—just the way things were, so I simply needed to deal.

But one day I stopped thinking it was normal or to be expected or okay, and this entire (and, unfortunately, extremely prevalent) idea that a woman brings any sort of assault upon herself by her clothes, her mannerisms, traveling alone, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, makes me want to scream in rage and hurt and frustration.

Having a vagina shouldn’t automatically put you in danger.

No woman is ever asking for it.

No one brings being raped and murdered upon themselves.

Being born a female should not condemn you to a life of looking over your shoulder and questioning your every choice, from wardrobe to lifestyle to relationships to travel, simply to remain un-assaulted.

Being born a man does not give you the right to take something just because you desire it.

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Maria and Marina, whatever the next life looks like, I hope you journey on in peace. I grieve for you.

I grieve for your families and loved ones, for your unfulfilled dreams, unfinished bucket lists. I mourn for your legacies that some have so cruelly turned against you, when what we should be focused on is the beauty of two lives lived and loved wholeheartedly.

Tonight, I’m imagining a world where every human being, man or woman, is able to climb a mountain, move to a new country, walk down a dark alley, or accept shelter from a stranger—all alone—and be safe.

A world where little girls can be taught that it is okay to embrace their dreams, pursue their passions, voice their opinions, love and trust with abandon, wear whatever the f*ck they want, and roam the far corners of the earth to their wanderlust-fueled-heart’s content, without the fear of being mistreated by a man having to ever even cross their minds. A world where, instead of criticizing and blaming women, little boys were taught how to grow into decent human beings.

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This world is everyone’s home, and to be safe in it should be everyone’s right.

“I ask you, on behalf of myself and every other woman ever hushed, silenced; I ask you on behalf on behalf of every woman whose life was crushed, to raise your voice. We will fight, I’ll be with you in spirit, and I promise that one day we’ll be so many that there won’t be enough bags in the world to shut up us all.”  ~ excerpt from the viral Facebook post by Guadalupe Acosta


Author: Hana Rexroth

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Images: Twitter screenshots/ #viajosola


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