This week, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton‘s death has brought national scrutiny to the growing gun violence problem in the streets of Chicago. The young woman’s murder grabbed attention because the teen majorette had so recently performed at President Obama’s Second Inauguration in Washington DC. But when I was discussing the story with some Chicago parents, they brought up another growing fear, aside from gun violence, that hasn’t made it to the national news just yet.
“Everyone’s talking about gun violence, which is a good thing. It’s a problem we need fix. But no one seems to be mentioning that shootings aren’t the only problem. I can’t watch the news without a rape story, a rape spree, or a rape trial.”
I live just a few short hours from Chicago. My local news covers their top stories pretty frequently. And personally, I hadn’t heard of any high-profile cases or string of crimes. But a quick Google search showed just what that Chicago parent was talking about.
Just this week, police have charged 18-year-old Colin Kennedy with sexually assaulting two of his Loyola classmates. Police reports say that the international business student told two separate women that he needed a place to crash for the night, then forced himself on them when they let him into their dorm rooms.
Last week, a jury convicted a gynecologist who raped a patient that was eight months pregnancy. 60-year-old Bruce Sylvester Smith gave testimony claiming that the encounter was consensual, that his patient even initiated it, but his story was not believed by the jury.
The more I searched, the more I understood just how sexual assault was dominating the news cycle in Chicago. There’s 32-year-old Tracy Haugabook, charged with raping a sleeping woman, his girlfriend’s friend. There’s 33-year-old Derrick Baldwin, charged with breaking into four women’s homes and sexually assaulting one of them. There’s a 25-year-old man who went to police after being raped and possibly drugged by a man he met at a bar in Boystown.
Rape isn’t a crime that we’re used to hearing about on a daily basis. It’s a crime that goes largely unreported. It’s even less likely for a rapist to be found and brought to trial. It’s understandable that hearing all of these stories in recent weeks, the earliest is from January 13th, would alarming to residents of Chicago.
In fact, as one suburban mother told me, “The sexual assault news is just as scary as the gun violence and murder tallies. More so, because you always know in the back of your head that with rape, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The saga of gun violence in Chicago is beginning to gain traction in the national media. People are realizing that it’s an out-of-control problem that desperately needs to be addressed. But gun violence isn’t the only type of violence plaguing this city. And just like shooting innocent bystanders shows an extreme lack of empathy or respect for your fellow man, so does forcing sexual acts on another human being. While gun laws and curbing violent entertainment and easier access to mental health care are all important solutions that we should be considering, all solutions that have been tossed around to deal with gun issues, we also need to find ways to combat that a culture that simply disregards other human lives as important. It doesn’t matter what weapon is used, the violence is terrifying.