By Krista Schwimmer
In the wake of the recent horrific rape and murder of Venetian resident Eun Kang, as well as reported rapes along the Boardwalk, I decided to seek out more information about violence towards women. Knowledge, I thought, was my first layer of protection.
One of the ways women can protect themselves is by educating themselves about the issue of stalking. Stalking, sometimes called “obsessional following” 1 is a common occurrence for many women. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 12 women are stalked in their lifetime. Since 1994, all states have an anti-stalking law. Even with this law, however, many experts believe ultimately a woman needs to be her own first line of defense. Most violent crimes begin with stalking.
Marina Del Rey resident, Tino Struckmann has a lot to say about stalking, evident by his book “Stalking, What You Can Do About It.” The book seeks to educate women about stalkers in many situations – from work to home— and how to protect oneself from these predators. I recently met with Tino to talk to him further about his thoughts on violence towards women.
Influenced by his grandfather, Tino is a passionate advocate for women. At 18, he began his work in the personal security field when a family asked him to help with protection. Currently, he owns “International Special Service, Inc.”, a company that has provided for a variety of people, from The Rolling Stones to UN officials.
He believes in a chivalrous code, seeking to help women because they are more vulnerable in society. “It’s a worthy battle to fight for,” Tino says, “If you look at 9-11, 3,000 Americans died and we went to war for that. 3,000 women are killed in abusive relationships every 2 or 3 months and you don’t see us going to war for that.”
For this reason, Tino started the Struckmann Foundation, a Foundation whose goals include raising awareness of women’s safety issues; informing on rape prevention; donating to existing women’s shelters; working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that the funds needed are available to crime labs and police departments to process rape kits and fully investigate rape cases, leading to convictions; and providing extended counseling for women who are victims of violent rapes.
Sadly, lack of prevention and education are but a part of the problem. In March 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report “Testing Justice. The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County.” At that time, they reported that “Los Angeles County has the largest known rape kit backlog in the United States,” with at least 12,669 untested sexual assault kits sitting in storage facilities. They also reported that despite the lower crime rates in Los Angeles, arrest rates for rape had declined since the late 1990s. This gave a person reporting a rape “about a one in four chance” of seeing an arrest.
Many people, like Tino, were outraged by the discovery of these unprocessed kits. At first glance, lack of funds appear to be the reason why these kits remained in the facilities. The Human Rights Report, however, showed other factors existed. In 2004, the federal government began giving grant money to states to deal with their backlogs. Between 2004 and 2008, the Los Angeles County crime lab was awarded $4.9 million in federal grant money.
On November 5, City Controller Greuel released an audit on Los Angeles’ rape kit backlog. Her cover letter states that “while substantial progress has been made, the LAPD still has a long way to go to reduce the backlog and bring justice to the thousands of rape victims in Los Angeles.” The LAPD has reduced the overall number of kits from 7,038 to 2,527. Other problems still exist as well involving the outsourcing of testing kits, notification of victims, and the new backlog being created.
The more I endeavored to educate myself on the topics of stalking, rape, and overall violence towards women, the more questions arose. In this age of liberation, why is there still so much violence towards women? Is it because, as Tino said in his interview, women are simply physically weaker than men as a whole, and thus, more vulnerable? Or is it because society as a whole still does not collectively take a firm stance against these crimes, evident by not only the rape kit backlogs in Los Angeles, but in other states as well?
In the final analysis, does the reason truly matter? In my mind, there are enough statistics to indicate that we, as a society, still do not value women as a whole. In my mind, it is time to focus on education of women, enforcement of laws, and punishment of criminals. It is time, ladies, for all of us, to kick some butt!
To read the Human Rights Watch Report, “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County,” go to www.hrw.org