We applaud Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright’s strong stance against rape and other violent crimes. We are also horrified by the sexual assault that occurred at Milliken Park on Sunday afternoon, and by the number of violent attacks committed against women every day. But, we also know that having a gun will not prevent a rape–in fact, it may put the victim in more danger.
Repeated studies have shown that people who own a handgun are at a high risk of that gun being used against them. Unfortunately, people who perpetrate violent crimes are often more adept at using, and more ready to use, handguns.
The fact is very few rapes are perpetrated by strangers. We warn our children, our friends and family members to be careful of strangers, when we should be warning them about those they know. According to the US Dept of Justice, most sexual assaults (approximately 2/3) are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and trusts.
How willing and able would you be to pull the trigger on your relative, friend, spouse, boyfriend or someone else you know? Having a gun in your possession would probably only increase the possibility of you being shot. Even in stranger rapes, the rapist is much more likely to be prepared to use violence than the victim—and may use the weapon against her. We all want to reduce the number of women who are attacked in our community. But we have to be careful not to increase the number who are killed—especially by their own weapons.
We are not taking a stand for or against guns. We are merely saying that there are better ways to prevent rape. First, we as a community need to step up and tell perpetrators that we won’t tolerate their actions. If you see someone harassing, following, assaulting or intimidating a woman, step in and call for help. Teach the men in your life that no means no, and that sexual assault is never acceptable. Hold your friends and acquaintances accountable. Don’t ignore that behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable. Watch out for one another.
Do we want to live in a community filled with fear? A community where innocent citizens feel they have to carry a gun everywhere they go? A community where violent criminals are able to turn our own fear, and our own weapons, against us? Or, do we want to make our community safe—for all women, children and men? If we do, we have a lot of work to do, and the first step is education and prevention—not carrying a weapon.