11/05/2011 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sexual Assault Prevention: Are Guns Really the Answer?

Should women carry guns to ward off sexual predators, as a South Carolina sheriff recently suggested? He made the statement at a press conference after nabbing a rape/kidnapping suspect who already had a long history of arrests. He said, "I really think that would send a message to some of these people who can't control themselves that you better be really cautious who you mess with because they might be armed."


Of course, anti-gun activists are none too pleased about the statement. Caroline Brewer of the
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence told Reuters, "To encourage a woman to carry a gun is to encourage her to put herself at much greater risk of being shot and killed, and we would not recommend it." And anti-rape activists consider the remarks a form of blame-the-victim scapegoating.

But I see it differently. I think this is less about "blaming the victim" and more about the way we think about violence towards women in this country. Rather than focusing on education, prevention and awareness, we look for band-aid approaches, such as telling women not to dress like sluts, not to go out alone at night or urge them to carry concealed weapons.

I'm not against women practicing their Second Amendment right to bear arms if it makes them feel more safe. They should be properly trained to use them safely and know how to kick a little ass, too. But it'd be far more effective if we also did a better job of educating the masses about violent and sexual crimes against women so that fewer instances occurred, and so more people knew what to do about them when they did.

Look at the success of Take Back the Night crusades on college campuses and now, around the globe. The first event occurred 30 years ago, when the term "date rape" wasn't even in our lexicon -- it was one of those things we didn't talk about, mostly because women were made to feel like it wasn't a crime and that their voice wouldn't be heard anyway. Now there are Take Back delegations in nearly every U.S. city, countless rape hotlines that save lives and catch predators, and a month dedicated to domestic violence awareness, when even morning talk shows focus on the issue.

Ending violence against women takes intervention on a societal level. We need to make everyone as incensed about this issue as they are about terrorism -- and let's not forget that sexual terrorism has been around longer than any other kind.

That South Carolina sheriff was frustrated and fed-up with violent offenders ending up back on the streets. He was suggesting a method of protection that made sense to him. What makes more sense to me is to fix the laws that put first-offense, inner-city drug addicts in prison longer than someone who commits a sex crime. Let's put our loud-mouthed, lobbying muscle (you know, the way the media makes stories like this viral without considering the larger issues) behind things that can create real change.

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