Blame this, aholes Russians launch an online flashmob to push back against slut-shaming the victim of a brutal murder
On January 22, a university student named Artem Iskhakov murdered his ex-girlfriend, Tatyana Strakhova, and then killed himself. In a suicide letter, Iskhakov confessed to raping Strakhova’s corpse several times after strangling her. He said he murdered her because she refused to reciprocate his affection, he was jealous, and he wanted badly to have sex with her. In the note, Iskhakov wrote that he’d met with a psychiatrist and agreed to take medications (though his exact mental disorder and prescription remain unknown). Federal investigators have opened a first-degree murder case.
Tatyana Strakhova’s gruesome murder has galvanized the Russian news media and online community. In an article for the magazine Takie Dela, psychologist Svetlana Bronnikova speculated that Iskhakov may have suffered from acute psychosis, emphasizing that Russia lacks an effective and affordable system for helping people with this disorder, which can lead to such killings.
At the same time, other prominent voices in the press have highlighted Strakhova’s supposedly “provocative” behavior on social media. The tabloid REN-TV published a comment from an anonymous person who says they knew Iskhakov, who said, “The guy was seriously in love with her. [...] She drove him to it with her indifference and her attitude toward him. It’s an outrage.” The station even saw fit to run the headline “She Drove Him to It With Her Indifference,” before publishing a second story that read “The Girl Brutally Murdered by a University Student Had Uploaded Intimate Photos on Social Media.” In the story, REN-TV shared several pictures from Strakhova’s online accounts, including several underwear-clad selfies.
On Vkontakte, a user named Nikita Mogutin made waves with a post titled “Friend Zone and Punishment: A University Student Killed His Girlfriend Because of Unrequited Love,” where Mogutin argued that the murderer was from a good family, had a good primary education, and was “deeply stressed” by his failed relationship with Strakhova.
On January 23, the website Dni.ru published an opinion piece by Mikhail Voitsekhovsky titled “Why the Murdered and Raped Student Was a Potential Victim,” where he explained that Strakhova’s posts on Instagram “lead to certain conclusions” and that she “wasn’t as innocent as it might seem at first glance.” Voitsekhovsky went so far as to say that “Tatyana might have provoked her roommate with her photos,” though he was careful to note later in his text that nothing justifies such a terrible crime. Dni.ru later published another story about Strakhova’s posts on social media. The headline read: “I Drink Every Day: The Secret Life of a Murdered Student.”
Internet users also started leaving offensive comments on Strakhova’s social media accounts. According to the publication Medialeaks, members of the imageboard website 2Chan (better known as Dvach) have posted hundreds of identical insulting comments. Vkontakte users have also created several communities where people discuss and condemn Tatyana Strakhova.
Even Diana Shurygina, who was targeted in a similar defamation campaign after she went public about her rape in 2016, has joined the bandwagon against Strakhova. Speaking to the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, she seemed to defend Strakhova’s killer, saying, “that sick guy couldn’t take it anymore, seeing the love of his life living in such debauchery, and so he decided to put a stop to it.”
“Better to blame the poor girl”
The backlash came on January 24, when the #этонеповодубить (“This is no excuse for murder”) flashmob launched on Instagram. Women and some men started sharing their own intimate pictures, reminding readers that no photos or supposedly indecent acts are an excuse for violence.
The campaign originated with Minsk-based blogger Nu Ta Anastasisya, who regularly shares her own revealing photographs on Instagram and writes about equality, sexuality, and the Body Positive Movement. “They find a thousand reasons to explain why she could have been murdered so brutally and then raped afterwards: for explicit photos, for cynical posts on social media, for liking alcohol. [...] It’s better blaming the poor girl and romanticizing the acts of this lovestruck fucking psycho, so you can bathe a little longer in the illusion of control. So you can feel temporarily like this will never happen to you, because, hey, you’re nothing like that victim,” the blogger wrote, sharing a photograph of herself and encouraging others to join in. In two days, her post has attracted more than 3,590 likes.
At the time of this writing, the #этонеповодубить hashtag has appeared in more than 2,690 posts on Instagram, including some support from men. (You can also find some Internet users spelling the hashtag somewhat differently at #этонеповодубивать.) One of the most popular posts in this flashmob comes from Instagram user Lina.mi in Israel, who wrote: “It’s easy for people who haven’t experienced this kind of thing to scream, ‘She’s to blame!’ If you share underwear pics then you’re to blame. If you drink at a party, you’re to blame. If you wear a short skirt, you’re to blame! I don’t think I need to go on. For some reason, it’s awfully easy to tempt the modern man.”
“Is the society I live in really so afraid to admit to itself that, in rape and murder, the only ones to blame are the rapists and the murderers?” added another Instagram user. “I have some of my own photos, you know. I can imagine what people would say about me,” wrote one man who joined the flashmob, speculating that some people might want to kill him because of his two divorces, his attendance at political protests, and his clinical depression.