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The issue that’s missing from the Republican debates? Sexual violence.

The US Centers of Disease Prevention and Control reports that 1.3 million women annually are victims of predatory sexual violence. They regard it as a public health crisis. One could reasonably expect that this epidemic of sexual violence would be of vital concern to our leaders, but did you hear it raised in the Republican debates? I didn’t. Planned Parenthood. Immigration. The budget. Building a wall on the Mexican border. Hillary Clinton’s emails. Syria. There was lots of anger and sparring on these issues. Sexual violence? No opinion.It seems the candidates regard the war on women as a lost cause. Either that, or it’s so unimportant to them, they don’t give it a second thought.
There is no reason for our leaders to be so complacent. Nothing has improved.  While other types of violent crime have decreased, the incidence of rapes and sexual homicides have skyrocketed. Even simple measures could make a difference. For example, rapists are known to follow their victims as they walk home along darkened streets. City councils could be providing better street lighting. Getting rid of the backlog of untested rape kits would make an even bigger difference. The Joyful Heart foundation reports there are hundreds of thousands of them. Yet it’s so often the case that after DNA testing leads to an arrest, it turns out the perpetrator was a serial offender. By failing to test rape kits, cities allow serial rapists to roam free, attacking more women.
Sexual violence is not an issue that galvanizes our leaders. They don’t debate it, they don’t campaign on it, they don’t ask women’s organizations, “what can I do to help make a difference?” They regard it as a non issue. Is it cynical to think that if 1.3 million males were raped annually in the USA, crimes of sexual violence would be a recurring topic in the Republican debates?

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Stig Larsson and the U.S. Congress

In 2009 President Obama declared a National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Sexual assault is pervasive in the United States,” stated the President. “One recent study found that 18 per cent of women in this country have been raped in their lifetimes.” Barack Obama issued a rallying cry. “ I urge all Americans to respond to sexual assault by creating policies at work and school, by engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by making the prevention of sexual assault a priority in their communities.”
Well, he did his best. Did it become a priority in most communities? Nope. Did it become a priority for state governments? Hardly. The President’s call to action pretty much fizzled, while statistics for sexual assault continued to rise. Does this nationwide indifference  encourage rapists to believe no one takes attacks on females seriously? Of course. How could it not?
Several years ago TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell declared that there was a “war on women.”’ She’s right. With nearly one in five women in the USA having experienced at least one rape, that’s a useful way to look at it. After all, Congress has a history of funding wars with taxpayers’ money. Now, imagine if Congress became just as committed to fighting the “war against women. ” Imagine if from middle school on, all females received training in how to escape dangerous individuals and situations.
Schools are mandated to instruct students —female and male—on what to do if a gunman is loose on school premises. So, ironically,  girls learn how to protect themselves against a mass killer— it is unlikely they will have to use these skills, but better safe than sorry! —but they don’t learn how to fight off a sexual assault. Although twenty percent of them will face that situation one day!
As well as training girls how to deal with dangerous individuals and unsafe situations, schools should be training boys as well. Not just how to lead other students to safety when a gunman roams the halls—although that is laudable— but how to stop a rape, and ensure the victim’s safety. There are a lot of boys who would welcome that training.
Stig Larsson was once a boy like that. As a teenager, he witnessed a gang rape. He felt powerless. He didn’t know what to do. His failure to act haunted him for years. As a result he created the character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. From a young age, Salander trained herself how to defeat any man who attempted to hurt her. The author said through his protagonist’s example he wanted to empower girls to be able to fight back effectively.
Wouldn’t it be something if Congress saw the same need, and actually did something about it?

Teenage violence

Sixty years ago, Doctor Robert Lindner, warned of an epidemic of teenage predatory behavior to come. Dr. Lindner discussed his fears in a best-selling book called ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, which was turned into a film starring James Dean. To say that the message of the book – a call to arms- was lost in the Hollywood treatment of the material is stating the obvious.

The fact is today we seem to be living in the middle of that epidemic. Young psychopaths are violently acting out more than ever before, and in greater numbers. Gang rapes are up. Bullying is commonplace. One in five high school girls has been sexually assaulted. More teenagers are also killing their teachers, or their own families. Following the massacre at Columbine, school shootings are more frequent.

Predatory violence directed at younger children – sexual assault then murder- has also become more widespread.

‘I just wanted to see what it felt like to kill’, is often the only motive offered by teenage psychopaths.

Doctor Robert Hare, the inventor of the Psychopathy Checklist, the diagnostic tool used in hospitals and prisons, gives lectures around the world on psychopaths. Author of the book ‘Without Conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us, ‘ Hare has observed that eastern societies manage to contain their psychopaths better than we do in the west.

The medical profession believes that psychopaths are born not made. Nevertheless, environment exerts an influence in the kind of acting out they do, and the behavior they think they can get away with. With the lifting of any kind of restrictions, psychopaths respond by increasing their antisocial behavior. This is why when a dictatorship topples, all the psychopaths come out of the woodwork and start looting, raping, committing home invasions, and setting fires.

Psychopaths are basically amoral. Brain scans have shown no activity in the areas of the brain governing conscience or empathy. Lacking internal controls, they will always do as much as they can get away with. That means that as society forbids less and less, young psychopaths push the envelope more aggressively. And once a psychopath embarks upon violence as a teenager, it isn’t possible to rehabilitate him as an adult.

Teenage predators take their cues from adult society. And adult society at this moment in time not only shows little respect for victims, it applauds outrageous behavior, the kind that is shown on reality TV. Society also will defend the rights of the aggressive individual – to read violent pornography, to collect semi-automatic weapons, to play graphically violent video games, which depict females as sex objects – above the rights of the rest of us to feel safe.

Now most women and girls are not interested in collecting assault weapons or pouring over S and M pornography. And it’s women and girls who are the most at risk from predatory violence. So is society defending the rights of men above the rights of women and children? No, it’s worse than that.

Most men don’t collect semi-automatic weapons or read bondage pornography either. Most men are just as concerned as women about the level of violence in our society. No, the males whose rights our community defends to collect assault weapons and violent pornography, are the disturbed ones, the predators.

Is that really the message we want to be sending teenagers?