Thursday, March 14, 2013

Empowerment Should Be Inclusive

This morning, NPR news interviewed neighborhood residents from Steubenville, OH on the rape of a local high school girl. There were the typical responses of remorse and shock, but one interview caught my attention.

When asked why he thought the young girl's peers did not notify authority as they witnessed her mistreatment through the night, the man replied the kids probably viewed the events that led to her rape as normal.

Reports of that night's events are disturbing. A 16 year old girl was dragged from one party after another by males, raped and humiliated as her peers looked on and recorded her ordeal. The fact that this could be processed as normal is troubling. Is society to blame, negligent parenting, perhaps the school these kids attended?

Last night during the Crisis Training class, I learned that for a woman to obtain a Victim's Protection Order from the courts, she has to pay about $200. Of course, she's not expected to pay up front, but that tab will remain on her record until it is paid. Most times, the abuser is expected to pay up, but imagine an abused woman inquiring about a VPO and being turned away because she can't afford one. Is it the judicial system's fault, law enforcement's or society's?

To answer both questions: we are all to blame. The fact that there is still an implied 'male' idiosyncrasy that normalizes abuse toward females, or obstacles to protecting women still present in the court system is everyone's problem.

There is a reason why so many women remain underrepresented in the labor force: they're at school celebrations fighting for their dignities or still pleading with the courts to save their lives.

Studies show that the younger children are when they experience traumatic experiences, the more likely they are to turn to obstructive behavior as they age. Unless this 16 year old defies the odds, what are her chances of staying in school, receiving a college degree and getting a decent professional job? She can be rehabilitated and her future can turn in her favor, but should a 16 year old really be in counseling?

Statistics concerning abused victims place the average age range of that group between 18 and 23. What are the odds of these women looking forward to a future at a professional job and making a decent living? Especially after the system has failed them?

With all the talk this month about empowering women and raising their numbers in the workforce, we need to keep these things in mind. Recruiting women from top universities will never solve the gender inequality issues we still face. We need to include all women and we need to start at the grade schools. To really empower women, we must teach them and our boys that its not okay to mistreat our girls. And we must teach our kids that one person's problem is
everyone's problem and that sitting back and watching a girl get abused by high school boys or refusing to offer her protection when she seeks help is immoral and, as gender inequality has shown, a hindrance to all of society.

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