Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse



Man’s actual disappearance from country reflected with his erasure from news report’s headline

This was the front page of Manchester Evening News this morning.


Laura Pahomova tragically sent a series of texts to her parents then threw herself from an 18th floor balcony hours after Martin Riley had emailed her parents to inform them that she was working for an escort agency. This is not readily apparent from the front page headline but details are provided within the body of the article as viewed online here.
My immediate concern was the use of the word ‘shamed’. This transitive verb indicates that another person was involved. Personally we may feel ashamed of our actions, but it takes another, or others, to make us, or force us to feel shame. However, the only person indicated in the headline is the victim who killed herself. The strapline conflicts the use of the word ‘shamed’ by stating that her parents, who live in Latvia, were ‘tipped-off’ that their daughter was working for an escort agency. This phrasal verb has a more positive meaning of providing information which would benefit those receiving it. Therefore, the combined word choices unite to suggest the shaming was justified.

The local newspaper, thankfully, does not waste time to reveal that it was Martin Riley who had informed his ex’s parents that she was employed by such an agency and that she ‘needed help’. The article does not present details of evidence to suggest that she had any other worries in her life; apart from a vengeful ex. Martin Riley is reported to have stalked her after she had ended the relationship as stated by her close friend, Vera Novikova, who also said she was scared.

I feel like I am having to rewrite the article for you here as what has been presented by Manchester Evening News is a salacious story of a woman who was forced to kill herself after her dirty secret had been discovered by the seemingly nice parents. This is not what I personally infer.

At no point in the article is he referred to as her boyfriend. It states that they ‘had formed an on-off relationship with Mr Riley through the agency.’ And later claim ‘Although Mr Riley had been in a relationship with Miss Pahomova, she split up from him in summer 2012.’ These are words associated with romantic relationships. So what we have, and are not presented with, is another case of intimate partner abuse.

An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. While the term intimate relationship commonly implies the inclusion of a sexual relationship, the term is also used as a euphemism for a relationship that is strictly sexual. The article clearly states that he ‘tipped-off’ her parents with the knowledge that ‘he knew she might kill herself if her parents found out the truth about her life in Manchester.’ We are not told how he knew this detail, but to me it suggests a level of emotional intimacy.
If I were to be fair to the journalist who wrote up the inquest into this young woman’s death, I would say there is some confusion with correct choices of language to refer to a man who may have paid to have a relationship with a woman, but ‘client’ appears way to clinical and negates the fact he had been privy to personal, family details which were later used to stalk and harass. I myself have had to carefully consider my word choices writing this. Maybe more than the person paid to present this as local news.

The most alarming fact within this article is not that Martin Riley has left the country and failed to reply to requests to give evidence at the inquest, but that he has a conviction for harassment. He contacted the family of another escort worker in similar circumstances. He was also rightly interviewed as a suspect in Miss Pahomova’s death by detectives. However, the CPS failed to bring a prosecution despite the evidence of harassment and stalking they must have seen as it was presented at the inquest.

There is only one person who should have been positioned as shamed in the headline: Martin Riley.

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