In America, a woman is worth less than political agendas, sports and college reputations.
It’s not an overstatement. It’s a reflection of current events.
This week, despite Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto, Missouri enacted the second-strictest abortion laws behind South Dakota, by mandating women to wait 72 hours after consulting with their doctors to terminate a pregnancy. There are no exceptions for rape and incest.
Rep. Kathie Conway, a Republican from St. Charles, says if a Missouri woman doesn’t like it, she can hit the road.
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“If it cannot wait,” Conway says of an abortion, “go across the river where it can happen tomorrow.”
Over at KU, students have taken action via protest and social media to demand the school rework the way it handles rape. The school is one of 76 universities being investigated for alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases. In a video, survivors share their stories and discourage enrollment at the school until action is taken.
A Twitter hashtag, #aGreatPlaceToBeUnsafe, also flooded timelines sharing stories of plagiarism being punished more harshly than rape. Students also demand that campus officials stop referring to rape as “nonconsensual sex.”
Since then, University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little created a sexual assault task force to review current policies and practices. That’s a good step. If school officials have been afraid to simply say the word rape, they should try to imagine how the survivors of rape must feel.
And then there’s Ray Rice. Now that TMZ has leaked footage from February of Rice knocking out his then-fiancee, the Baltimore Ravens have released Rice from his contract. They knew for months that he attacked Janay Palmer Rice, now his wife, and indifferently dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator.
But it wasn’t until the public saw the video that the NFL took serious action. If we had not seen that video, his initial two-game suspension would have held.
In the world of sports, light punishments are the norm in cases of violence against women. Ask Jason Kidd and Brett Myers. Kidd pleaded guilty to spousal abuse; he coaches the Milwaukee Bucks. Myers was charged with assaulting his wife, but charges were dropped; he pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star and former NFL player Terry Crews grew up watching his mom suffer that kind of abuse. He told “Entertainment Tonight” that it’s part of sports culture to bully women. He says he heard “people laugh about keeping their pimp hand strong and keeping her in control so that she knows her place. But think about how evil that is for one man to think that he’s actually more valuable than a woman, because as a human being you’re worth is immeasurable.”
Unfortunately, treating women as less than has become commonplace. Already, people are pointing fingers at women. Why didn’t Janay leave, they ask. But that’s not the question we should be asking. The question is why did Ray Rice so nonchalantly deck her? Why does it take a video for us to be outraged?
Across the country, 1 in 4 women have experienced abusive relationships. In Kansas City, police respond to about 15 domestic violence calls a day. At least six of them are assessed as high danger and Rose Brooks Center, a Kansas City domestic violence shelter, helps protect the abused.
Six women fear for their lives in our city and are removed from their homes. Every day.
Susan Miller, chief executive officer at Rose Brooks, says that number hasn’t changed since 2009, when they first implemented the partnership with the police department. A week like this, where it takes the public seeing footage of an assault and students not feeling safe at college, really forces us to think, she says.
“It demonstrates that women are not seen as equal to men in this country,” Miller says. “What I would hope to see happen in light of recent events is that we take a look at our values and a culture that promote actions against women. This has opened up a dialogue about domestic violence and the Ravens’ decision has moved the conversation in the right direction. Domestic violence is a criminal activity and people should be held accountable for it.”
And we should all be held accountable for our reactions to it. No victim-shaming, no tuning in for amusement or dismissing it as “not my problem.” We cannot just value men. We cannot just value women. To make progress, we must value one another. Always.