By now, you may have heard about the tragedy that occurred on the campus of University of California Santa Barbara late last month.
A 22-year-old college student killed six students and then himself, after creating multiple videos and a lengthy "manifesto" all highlighting his pain and anger caused by being rejected by women he felt entitled to.
Elliot Rodger's posts spun darkly to his attack on the "hottest sorority" on campus and his plan to "slaughter" the women inside after "giving the female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them," he wrote. It goes without saying he was tormented by mental illness and distress.
The murders were gut-wrenching. And in the following days, social media and the Internet united over a hashtag: #yesallwomen. The hashtag proceeds comments like: "because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body" and "because I've both given and received the 'I'm afraid your ex-boyfriend will kill you' talk."
In short, #yesallwomen has provided a sounding board for an astounding and unsettling number of shared experiences. It's a virtual coffee klatch where women have come together to say, "Me too!" and "This isn't right!" and "How do we stop this?"
What surprised me most is the angry, primarily male, response. Girls sharing under #yesallwomen have been brutally harassed and threatened, with the comments often followed by #notallmen.
On behalf of the "all women," let me respond to those men: We know not all men are rapists. We all likely know generous, kind and loving men who are equally appalled by this brutality as we are. To those men - thank you for seeing this as a tragic epidemic and not just a "cry for attention" as some suggest.
"Epidemic" is a fitting word. Most women know someone who has experienced gender violence and have felt that fear at least once.
Unfortunately, we live in a world in which fear is trivialized. Think about this: The chance of dying in an airplane crash is one in 11 million.
A woman's chances of being raped are one in six. The fear of flying is seen as normal and rational, but women who speak up in fear of being raped are seen as alarmist and hypersensitive.
A survey of online dating sites showed that the biggest fear women experience during a blind date is making it home alive.
For men, the biggest fear is being set up with someone whose body they don't like. Because this is reality, #yesallwomen exists.
Perhaps a pound sign and three little words can help open eyes. I'd guess that more people have learned about sexual assault and gender violence in the past few weeks as a result of this hashtag than countless other awareness campaigns. Maybe this is where change can begin.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Option can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.
Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St.