Our society has developed a deep fascination involving all things true crime, driven by a morbid curiosity surrounding the gruesome details about some of the most heinous atrocities committed by humans. These interests have caused an increase in the popularity of television shows, documentaries and podcasts that showcase the worst of humanity.
As it has for many others, the growth in popularity of true crime piqued my interest. I quickly became enthralled by the ghastly stories, but as I continued to expand the media I was consuming, I noticed one common trend in a majority of the tragedies I was listening to.
Nearly all the perpetrators were male, and a vast majority of victims were women. Some of the women have not been identified, and many of the murders went long periods of time with little to no investigation due to them being sex-workers or minorities. The number of perpetrators is so high that male serial killers, especially those who target women, have become a sort of celebrity: Ted Bundy, BTK, the Gainesville Ripper, the Green River killer. The list continues to grow.
After noticing this appalling trend, I decided to do my own research. I hoped in my heart that what I thought to be true would be proven to be wrong, and that maybe the content I was consuming was only sharing the stories that highlighted crimes against women.
Unfortunately, my naive hopes were quickly proven to be untrue. According to the , 90% of all homicide perpetrators are men. Yet, I have heard nothing about the epidemic that is violence against women. In some of these cases, women were being hunted like animals, but law enforcement repeatedly failed to conduct proper investigations that helped to link the cases of women to one another.
Women are taught to protect themselves. We are told to carry mace, brass knuckles, even guns to keep ourselves out of harm’s way. We are taught to always walk in a group and to never leave our drinks alone. I have never heard of a boy being taught to be cautious of how his actions have made a woman feel. In middle school sexual education, we had no lessons on consent or respecting one another’s bodies.
Not once have I heard the main point of the conversation be that boys must respect women, that they must treat girls with respect. Instead, they are taught that boys will be boys. It’s bloodcurdling to consider the fact that women’s lives are valued astronomically less than those of our male counterparts. Our society has created this narrative that women are vulnerable prey who must learn to safeguard themselves at all times.
The numbers only become increasingly horrifying if you happen to be a woman of color or a trans woman. The life expectancy for trans women of color in the United States is just 35 years old. It is apparent that there is an issue, but now we must ask, how do we work to combat this decades long epidemic? Aside from rewriting the belief that, because boys will be boys, we can excuse these behaviors, there is a copious amount of work to be done.
I do not sleep easily at night knowing that there are humans on this Earth who would be pleased to bring me harm, purely for the fact that I am a woman. I cannot allow myself to be carefree when I am out with other girls, because I do not know who may be out there. I do know though, that this epidemic is not going to be resolved if we do not start talking about it.
In recent news, Gabby Petito and her heartbreaking story has been making headlines because of a media frenzy around her murder, but what if we pushed the police this hard on every case of a missing woman? Thankfully, law enforcement has been working collectively to solve Gabby’s homicide, but this is not the normality. Missing women are regularly brushed off by law enforcement, and have been continuously labeled as “grown adults” or “runaways” that they do not have time for.
While we cannot all commit to joining law enforcement to fight this, we can, as a society, press our police to put this amount of effort into every missing woman’s case. Social media can be used to share awareness about cases and reach the masses. Tip lines like Crime Stoppers provide an outlet to anonymously report a concern or suspicious behavior.
Pressure your officials to enforce the humane treatment of women. Vocalize your experiences and share what you or those you may know. Tell the uncomfortable realities of being a woman. We are not expendable placeholders in this world.