Iowans need to address violence against women

Iowa tragically lost two young women — Mollie Tibbetts and Celia Barquin Arozamena — recently. The stories have not only shaken our state, but they have made their way around the world.

While their lives should be fondly remembered and not politicized, our communities must look at the circumstances surrounding their deaths. We must learn from this heartbreak.

The tragic deaths of Tibbetts and Barquin Arozamena are far from commonplace, but violence against women is not. It happens all the time. And as we saw with these two heartbreaking incidents, time of day and what they were doing didn’t matter. It could happen anywhere.

Too often, women are victims of a range of violence. In Marshalltown alone there were 350 domestic violence calls to the Marshalltown Police from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. The vast majority of victims were women and perpetrators were men. And those are just the ones that were reported. Most often victims of domestic violence do not report the crime.

Oftentimes the response to violence against women places the responsibility on women — they shouldn’t walk alone or they should be prepared to defend themselves. While making personal safety a priority is recommended for anyone, telling women to be prepared for an attack at any moment is not only impossible, but it furthers the notion that women are vulnerable and cannot live independent lives.

Anyone should look out for himself or herself. But looking out for yourself does not stop violence, it just better prepares you to defend yourself if someone becomes violent. Our energy should focus on preventing violence and addressing the societal issues that lead to it. That starts with the perpetrator, not the victim.

In power-based violence, the perpetrator acts to gain control. That’s what we have to work to stop. Instead of leaving the defense-based solution that leave women to shoulder the responsibility we must better address why perpetrators become violent. We can’t allow victims to be shamed for not doing a good enough job defending themselves. We need to start standing up to any form of harassment and violence.

Addressing violence against women addresses violence at large. When we stand against violence we stand for treating all lives with validity, fairness and equity.

Stand up to street harassment and catcalling. Stand up to any comments formed out of prejudice. Stand up for survivors and speak out when someone tries to place blame on anyone but the perpetrator. Learn the signs of abuse to better recognize when you or someone you love is in an unhealthy relationship. And teach others, especially youth, to treat all people with kindness and fight against power-based violence. Do it at home, at work, at the gym and at school.

Tibbetts and Barquin Arozamena were taken from the world way too soon. They had their whole lives ahead of them. To ensure we don’t have to say that about someone else, recognize the real root of the problem and work to solve it.


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