“Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day I will have my retribution against humanity. Against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. In those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness… I do not know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.” — Elliot Rodger
On Friday, May 23, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old Santa Barbara City College student, reportedly killed six people and wounded 13 others in the college town of Isla Vista, according to the New York Times. Apparently, and that justified stabbing three men in his apartment and opening fire in downtown Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara.
The police reported that Rodger was found dead with a bullet wound to the head when his car crashed into a parked car.
Before the attack, Rodger made multiple videos about his “day of retribution” and posted them YouTube; he also wrote a 140 page manifesto outlining his plan and justifying his actions. The plan included three stages; stage two was called his “war on women.”
Since the time of the attack of Friday, an extremely sobering wave of backlash has hit social media with the hashtag #YesAllWomen.
#YesAllWomen is the perfect illustration that, although what happened in California is awful, this behavior is something that all women deal with every single day of their lives:
— @ZAmmi: #yesallwomen because “I have a boyfriend” is more likely to get a guy to back off than “no”, because they respect other men more than women
— @leanna_vallone: Because being cat called while walking down the street is considered a compliment #YesAllWomen
— @JosieKoeppel: Because when I know I’ll be out late alone I put on baggy clothes to look like a man to avoid getting too much attention #YesAllWomen
— @katekilla: Girls grow up knowing that it’s safer to give a fake phone number than to turn a guy down. #yesallwomen
— @OneBookishMom: In college, a police officer told us to scream FIRE if we were in danger of being assaulted otherwise people won’t get involved #YesAllWomen
So, the real question we must ask ourselves in this situation is this: why are these behaviors still acceptable in 21st century America?
Meanwhile, back in Mingo Co., W.Va., women are being faced with a much more common war, but one that is just as difficult to win.
Mingo Co. Board of Education members, along with many members of the Burch Middle School administration, systematically covered up allegations of sexual abuses and assaults at the school by two boys whose relatives are allegedly board employees, according to an injunction filed in Mingo County Circuit Court Thursday, May 8 by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
The complaint alleges the victims, female classmates of the two boys, were “subjected to repeated incidents of sexual abuse and/or sexual assault by two fellow male students, and then threatened with discipline and/or retaliated against by members of the Burch Middle School administration when each pursued punishment for the offenders.”
It’s easy to overlook these things when they happen in Calif. That seems like another world. But this is hitting close to home. Probably more often than the community even realizes.
• One in four college women report surviving rape (15 percent) or attempted rape (12 percent) since their fourteenth birthday.
• 99 percent of people who rape are men, 60% are Caucasian.
• 35 percent of men report at least some degree of likelihood of raping if they could be assured they wouldn’t be caught or punished.
• Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that approximately 30 percent of rape survivors report the incident to the police. Of those rapes reported to the police (which is one third or less to begin with), only 16 percent result in prison sentences.
Statistics from One in Four USA
Defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, sexual assault includes a wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape: attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats.
As I was writing this story, as a 21-year-old Caucasian female, I tried to think back to the first time I was sexually assaulted. My #YesAllWomen story. But unfortunately, I can’t remember the first time.
I remember my parents leaving me alone in a camper with a male classmate when I was 13 while they went for a run. He never bothered me, but I was terrified.
I remember driving home alone after dark for the first time and praying my car wouldn’t break down. Not because I didn’t want to lose my car, but because I didn’t want to lose my virtue.
I remember walking down the street one day last week avoiding eye contact as a man yelled inappropriate things at me. And then being called a b*tch for ignoring him.
I remember the first time a stranger approached me for my number when I went away to college. I was scared to give it to him, but I was also scared to tell him no.
I remember turning the TV volume up loud when I was home alone before I answered someone’s knock on the door. And pretending to talk to someone if a delivery guy brought my food so he wouldn’t take advantage of me.
I remember my mother teaching me to walk to my car with my keys between my fingers, just in case.
As a woman, I do not ever remember feeling safe.
These acts can no longer be dismissed with the adage “boys will be boys.”
But it is obvious that many politicians will be hard to win over to prepare and pass legislation for this matter. So, what can be done?
Grassroots campaigning, such as #YesAllWomen, is a good start. Many great pieces of legislation have come from grassroots campaigns, such as the Violence Against Women Act. But it has to go further than participating on social media. To see this problem fixed, proponents must step out from behind their computer screens.
Petition county legislators. Write bills proposing equality. Stand up and be heard. It is time for change, lest future generations endure the same (or worse) hardships.
**Author’s Note: If you would like to share your #YesAllWomen story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Victims of sexual assault can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.