By now, you’ve heard about the tragic events that occurred in Isla Vista, near the University of California Santa Barbara on Friday, May 23. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old man, went on a killing spree, taking the lives of six people before committing suicide. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Rodger posted angry, vitriolic YouTube videos of himself declaring his hatred of women along with a 137-page manifesto detailing his childhood and adolescence, which he describes as filled with isolation, loneliness and rejection by his peers.
It’s tempting to dismiss the shooter as “crazy.” He had been seeking mental health counseling since the age of eight and reportedly refused to continue taking certain medications, choosing to drop out of therapy altogether instead. Yet he had specific concerns that may resonate with many young adults: rejection, peer pressure, a desire to be liked, fitting in, finding companionship, the pressure to have sex and so on. The shooter was an extreme case, and his views are in no way to be shared, honored, glorified or put on a pedestal. However, a lot of teens and young people may face similar feelings of isolation, rejection and pressure every day.
We as a society often encourage and expect certain things out of gender roles. For example, young men may feel they have to lose their virginity by a certain age or else they’re not a man. Or young women may feel they have to offer or accept sexual advances depending on the circumstances.
We need to talk about how these expectations are harming young people and leading to violence. No one should have a sense of entitlement over another’s body, sexuality or psyche. And when anyone -- you, us, your child, your friend -- expresses in anyway that they do feel entitled, we all need to take that as a warning sign and re-examine our attitudes and behaviors. Tragedies like what happened at Isla Vista are preventable. And so are the other acts of injustice expressed online through the #YesAllWomen hashtag.
Let’s do better. If you need guidance on how to talk to get started, we’re here to help. Call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 to speak with a peer advocate.