Editorial: Sexual violence an epidemic?

Editor’s note: This guest editorial was written by my sister, who is editor of the Iola Register in Iola, Kansas. It was written in late May. We reprint it because the message is timeless, and because it as pertinent today as it was two months ago, and as it will be for years to come. – Angelo Lynn
The first cue that a problem exists is denial.
That’s why someone attending Alcoholics Anonymous begins with, “Hi, I’m Susan, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Until a person, a society, a culture, can admit to a problem, its cure is a long ways off.
So it was curious to read the hundreds of thousands of messages posted via social media regarding the murders committed by Elliot Rodgers near Santa Barbara, California, in late May in which six people were killed and 13 wounded.
By a wide margin, most see the murders as hate crimes.
Before the slayings, Rodger had posted several YouTube videos as well as a 140-page manifesto, “My Twisted World,” in which he vowed to take retribution against women, and also against men who were more sexually active and successful at dating women than he was.
The crime spree began when he stabbed to death three men in his apartment, then drove to a sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he shot four people outside, killing two female students. He then drove through the town of Isla Vista shooting at pedestrians, exchanging fire with police, and hitting four people with his car before crashing it.
Police found him dead in his car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
What prompted his hostility toward women? What was their crime?
Refusing his advances.
“I do not know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it,” Rodger, 22, is quoted as staying in the YouTube post.
The “Yes All Women” hashtag began in the aftermath of the slayings. It refers to women’s rights, including not being treated as a sex object.
We are not an enlightened society when it comes to sexual discrimination. Women navigate a world of real or implied threats, income disparities, harassment, and outright misogyny.
The “Yes All Women” tweets are fascinating to read.
To wit:
• “Women serving in the military shouldn’t fear getting raped by their colleagues more than they fear the enemy.”
• “Since we’re teaching women how not to get raped, we should teach men how to not rape.”
• “Women deserve to walk down the street without being catcalled, hollered at or made to feel unsafe in their own neighborhood.”
• When I reported an assault and attempted rape, the police asked, ‘Well, what were you wearing.’”
A recent story in this paper about a self-defense class reported a rape occurs every six seconds in the United States.
“Predators seek what they see as a weak target,” said the instructor, with the encouragement to fight back.
But being that the female sex is by and large the weaker sex that makes pretty much every female a target.
That’s why we walk in groups, try to curtail our activities to daylight hours, carry mace in our purses, and take classes to thwart a man’s advances.
In truth, most women can’t imagine life without such precautions most men would never dream of.
And most women would never venture to use physical violence because they felt owed a sexual favor, or, in the case in southern California, had faced rejection.
One in five American women have reported a rape to authorities. The real number is much higher.
The privileged say all this is overblown: that those killings in late May were an aberration. In truth, sexual violence is becoming an epidemic.
By being able to say, “This is the United States, and we have a problem with violence against women,” we can get the discussion started.
Susan Lynn, Iola (Ks.) Register

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