By Miranda Rider
On Sept. 2, 2022, Eliza Fletcher was reported missing by her husband after she hadn’t returned from her four a.m. jog near The University of Memphis campus in Tennessee. She was an avid runner, a loving mother, and the heiress to a multimillion-dollar hardware store fortune. Not long after her disappearance, the police found security footage that showed 38-year-old Cleotha Abston Henderson following Fletcher in a black SUV before abducting her.
Victim blaming began circulating shortly after her body was identified on Sept. 5. Fletcher went out jogging that early morning in a pink sports bra and purple running shorts.
One Twitter user commented shortly after her death was announced, “Don’t Dress like that exposing yourself, be a little bit more modest so as not to attract that kind of energy”.
Another twitter user made a comment, blaming not only Fletcher but the area she was running in.
“We should NOT ignore the fact that she put herself in a dangerous situation. Memphis is a ghetto, a very dangerous area. She shouldn’t have been jogging in the dark without a gun or bear spray,” said the commenter.
Other Sheriff’s offices began releasing ”jogger safety tips”, many of which people have claimed contributed to the victim blaming. Dayton Police Department in Ohio suggests that women should not “jog or exercise alone” and “stick to areas or trails they know well”.
Many individuals on social media are outraged at the victim-blaming statements directed toward Eliza after her death.
“The sheriff’s response is disgusting,” said Gianna Klavon, junior marketing major. “The fact that that was the first thing in response to a horrific case of a poor woman’s death is truly unbelievable. Raise boys better.”
The Eliza Fletcher case is just another example of victim blaming after a horrendous crime had been committed. In 2018, Mollie Tibbetts was running her usual route in Iowa when she too was abducted and later killed. After Tibbetts was murdered, many individuals took to the internet and blamed her for running along a rural road at night.
Victim blaming has been an unfortunate part of our world and the criminal justice system for quite some time. This can have lasting effects on not only the victim’s families but even future victims in cases like these.
“If the system intends to assist victims, to help them see their way through the criminal justice system, they must believe the victim… and understand when they speak about their victimization,” said Dr. Rhissa Robinson, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice.
Mollie Tibbetts, and now Eliza Fletcher, are just two cases where tragedy led to more harm than good.
“We need to tackle the problem at the source, the predators,” said Lois Jackman, a graduate student at the University of Tampa. “But since we can’t achieve this overnight, us women should be extra vigilant and protect ourselves, even if we shouldn’t have to in the first place.”