Sexual violence is murder of the soul

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Sexual violence is murder of the soul


A while back, I ran into a senior reporter at my office and we chatted about work for a while. Suddenly, he pulled my sleeve and said, “I have to go to the bathroom, come with me.” Without thinking, I started heading toward the men’s room. Then he realized, “Oh no, you’re a woman.” I didn’t feel insulted or ashamed. Instead, I was proud that I could make my colleagues forget my gender in such a male-dominated industry.

Even today, sexism is a problem, and men are still bold enough to make sexist jokes. Sometimes, I laugh off such comments, but if someone really crosses the line, I don’t keep quiet. So I can say I have grown accustomed to living and working as a woman in Korean society.

But out of all my time navigating the gender issue in this country, the last couple of months have been particularly distressing. The first blow was the foul language associated with the popular podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda” (“I’m a Petty-Minded Creep”). Some female fans posted photographs of themselves in bikinis, and I was quite disappointed at the response of the hosts.

The most painful news was of the murder of a young woman in Suwon, Gyeonggi, on Saturday. I couldn’t bring myself to read the conversation between the victim and the emergency call center dispatcher that was published in the newspaper. How could this life-threatening situation be treated so imprudently?

The media circus that developed made me even sicker. Why would newspapers use “mutilated murder” in a headline and then describe the victim’s body so vividly?

When I was seven, a homeless man snatched me by the hair and dragged me away. If a neighbor hadn’t spotted me, no one knows what would have happened to me. When I was 12, a friend of mine was assaulted by a bum. In middle school, my friends and I felt insulted by a teacher who pulled on our bra straps.

Whenever a case of sexual violence is reported, we all feel panic because we’re all vulnerable. The fear is very real as we have all seen, heard or experienced this kind of assault. Sexual violence is murder of the soul and a society that treats it lightly is not qualified to talk about human rights.

I hope the new National Assembly will realize these concerns and prove once and for all that women deserve the same treatment as men, whether in the workplace, at home or in the watchful eyes of the law.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Na-ree
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