The media has been flooded with a flurry of arguments for and against gun control, women’s rights, and rape since the March 4 vote on passing House Bill 1226; a bill that would ban carrying a concealed weapon on Colorado college campuses.
Rape victim Amanda Collins testified to the House Committee that, had she been able to carry her legal firearm on campus at the University of Nevada at Reno, the story of her rape may have been different. Despite her moving account of the 2007 attack, her cry for gun advocacy to help women defend themselves, and the insensitive response from Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak (D), that kicked off a firestorm of its own, the bill passed in a 3-2 vote.
In response to Sen. Hudak’s statements, Miss Collins said, “My parents equipped me to ensure that I would not be an easy victim, and that I would not be an easy target. They did everything they could to reduce the risk of me being raped.”
While this retort is not what ignited most of the controversy surrounding the Senator’s reply, what lies within Collins’ words is truly at the heart of the matter.
Following in the aftermath of the vote and the attacks on the Senator’s lack of compassion for the victim, fellow rape survivor and Democratic Strategist Zerlina Maxwell appeared on Fox’s “Hannity” show ready to defend a woman’s right to live without the constant fear of rape. Hannity, also a gun advocate, argued that the current suggestions for defense against rape, such as using a pen as a weapon, urinating or vomiting to deter the attacker, or blowing a whistle to garner attention, are "idiotic," and that maybe allowing women the right to bear arms could be a good idea.
Maxwell’s response, which was not in support of gun laws, echoed Collins comment above by suggesting that despite efforts to prevent rape, the responsibility for protecting women relies only on us.
“The entire conversation is wrong,” Maxwell said to Hannity, “I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear, how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape.”
While this may seem to paint Maxwell in an anti-gun corner, the point she wanted to drive home is that further violence is not the answer to solving the problem of rape. However, opening the conversation to finding better preventative measures will get us closer to stopping it.
In fact, such discussions should include men, and offering non-violent approaches to stop violent actions is not a new idea. Maxwell explained to Salon, “The reality is that we need to be changing how we train and teach young men. We need to teach them about consent and to hold themselves accountable.”
Perhaps this kind of education initiative would also have reduced or even prevented the onslaught of negative commentary and rape threats against Maxwell after her appearance on the show. And no matter what side of the gun law argument Maxwell and Collins are on, no one can ignore that conversations about rape prevention and women's safety have entered the spotlight again.