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Hate Crimes: A Rape Every Minute, a Thousand Corpses Every Year

There' a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and incessantly overlooked.

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This summer, an estranged husband violated his wife’s restraining order against him,  shooting her -- and six other women -- at her spa job in suburban Milwaukee, but since there were only four corpses the crime was largely overlooked in the media in a year with so many more spectacular mass murders in this country (and we still haven’t really talked about the fact that, of  62 mass shootings in the U.S. in three decades, only one was by a woman, because when you say lone gunman, everyone talks about loners and guns but not about men -- and by the way,  nearly two thirds of all women killed by guns are killed by their partner or ex-partner).

What’s love got to do with it, asked Tina Turner, whose ex-husband Ike once said, “Yeah I hit her, but I didn't hit her more than the average guy beats his wife.” A woman is beaten  every nine seconds in this country. Just to be clear: not nine minutes, but nine seconds. It’s the number-one cause of injury to American women; of the two million injured annually, more than  half a millionof those injuries require medical attention while about 145,000 require overnight hospitalizations, according to the Center for Disease Control, and you don’t want to know about the dentistry needed afterwards. Spouses are also the  leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S.

“Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined,”  writes Nicholas D. Kristof, one of the few prominent figures to address the issue regularly.  

The Chasm Between Our Worlds

Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice -- and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.

Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it -- though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called  Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist.  It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time  telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.

Threats of sexual assault now seem to take place online regularly. In late 2011, British columnist Laurie Penny  wrote, “An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the Internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they'd like to rape, kill, and urinate on you. This week, after a particularly ugly slew of threats, I decided to make just a few of those messages public on Twitter, and the response I received was overwhelming. Many could not believe the hate I received, and many more began to share their own stories of harassment, intimidation, and abuse.”

 
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