Today, as we sat within our newsroom yelling out ideas for the forever dreaded editorial, one of our staff began circling the room asking each of us, “What makes you angry?” After a few minutes of this ritual, one of our staff members piped up. She said, “I hate how I have to walk to my car with my keys between my fingers and how a proper going away gift for a college girl is pepper spray.” And there it was — our topic.
Now the complication that we as an editorial board face is this: what do you say on this topic? What is left that hasn’t already been said, screamed or painted on the side of buildings before? Violence against women is an issue; in fact, it is a gargantuan issue that we would attest most decent people on this planet care about. For every angry message board diatribe that asserts that feminism is the baleful cloud that hangs over all things good and proper, you probably have five men or women with daughters, wives, friends or just general loved ones they are forced to worry about every single day. Frankly it makes us angry as well. I am not talking about that sterile anger you feel at the various crimes against humanity that occur a world away; no this is an immediate anger. This downright pisses us off.
But what is left to say about this topic? What good is it to say that these crimes — be it rape, assault or kidnapping — that happen so frequently to a large percentage of our female population are bad? At some point, are we just picking an easy topic that we can stamp our feet about without really saying anything in particular and still count it as a laudable effort? Most of us don’t disagree, and the ones that would disagree are probably not going to be swayed by any argument, no matter who made it. So what good is there to do by throwing our hat into the ring?
Well, there is but one question to answer, what change has occurred? According to statistics by the U.N., “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008 there were 552,000 nonfatal instances of rape/sexual assault, robbery and aggravated or simple assault committed against women 12 years or older. Though the popular statistic that attests that one in five women will be raped during their time in college is the site of some heated debate, there is no doubt rape remains a prevalent issue for young girls with cases such as Steubenville, which show a shocking lack of empathy among administration, rearing their heads consistently.
This is not to say that no steps have been taken in the right direction, especially in America. The Bureau of Justice Statistics also states that cases of rape and sexual assault among females have been curtailed significantly. In 2010, there were 270,000
cases of rape or sexual assault against females above the age of 12, compared to the 556,000 cases in 1995. This data is collected from a national survey, and it includes both reported and unreported cases. Also, legislation such as The Violence Against Women Act has worked to improve the country’s ability to prevent domestic violence. The frequent presence of this broad issue in the media, as well as the increasing popularity of activist groups related to the issue, has also contributed to a higher frequency of reported rapes, as well as more successful convictions.
Just because the day has become clearer doesn’t mean the storm has passed. The U.N. is still correct when it declares these instances of violence across the world a “pandemic.” It is plain folly to say that the media is leading us astray in talking about the frequency of violence against women even as the statistics decrease, and they are perpetrating some adverse agenda. Maybe it is an agenda, but it is one that should have no dearth of support. The improvements are not coming naturally; they are coming because people are really beginning to care.
This is why we speak on this issue today because improvement is simply too slow. It comes in a trickle, when it should be flowing in waves. This, unlike so much else that is going wrong in the world, is one thing each of us can work to change in a very direct manner.
We are not going to just sit here and pontificate on this issue. With every expression of anger and frustration, there needs to be a proposed solution. So, as cliché as it sounds, be the change you want to see. Education is the first step. Do not just be hyper-protective of your daughters — telling them the step-by-step rules to living in a dangerous world — speak with every member of your family about this issue. Education has proven, in the moral injustices of the past, to be the best medicine.
If you have been a victim or know a victim do not fall into cynicism, instead, “let grief convert to anger, blunt not the heart, enrage it.” Write about it; read about it. The
best advice we can give is that everyone should learn not to just talk about the issue, but how to talk about it. Do not be just another voice in the crowd, but have the ideas behind your speech that will let you stand out. The problem is, as mentioned, beyond most of our scopes and a systemic problem in how our culture treats women and gender, but small changes en masse morph into large changes.
This may all seem to be lacking nuance, as it is advice that has been given time and time again, but the importance of this editorial is not to solve all the ills of the world. It is to remind you of one in particular and hopefully reignite that flame. Let this serve as an introduction because we are not done talking about this issue.
Complacency is the end of progress, and this is one of many issues we simply refuse to let sizzle out. There may be a million voices in the choir already, but one more is not going to hurt, as long as it is singing the right tune.