Helen Bailey and the lethal darkness behind this ‘middle-aged woman’ myth | Deborah Orr

Those blaming the murdered author for being “easy prey” perpetuate a dangerous and pervasive stereotype

It is excruciatingly obvious that the writer Helen Bailey died horribly because she was targeted by a manipulative predator at a time when she was emotionally vulnerable. Who wouldn’t be, having witnessed the drowning of their partner of 22 years and seen the future she had quite reasonably imagined eradicated? The real horror of this narrative is that Bailey died because she was perfectly normal, in the grip of perfectly normal emotions such as loss and grief, and unfortunate enough to fall into the ambit of a dangerous creature willing mercilessly to exploit those emotions to his own vile advantage. And that is all there is to say about the matter, beyond expression of satisfaction that at least the man is now behind bars.

Yet, even in this extraordinary case, a smidgen of victim-blaming still creeps in. The Daily Telegraph has mused that “a lot of middle-aged women find themselves incredibly lonely”. The Daily Mail has pointed out that “middle-aged single women are incredibly vulnerable”, helpfully elaborating on what is meant by “middle-aged”. It means “older women” who are “in the autumn of their years”.

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Alex Vidal