Blurred Lines: mental health and misogyny

Illustration by Shannon Wright.

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

Days after the killing spree by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista, California, the social media campaign #YesAllWomen was created to respond to what not all men may do, but what all women must fear. The response brought awareness to the violent manifestations of misogyny but lacked the depth to detail the mental health issues behind Rodger’s, and other misogynists’, frame of mind. 

Rodger had received psychiatric treatment from the time he was 8-years-old and was prescribed risperidone, a medicine that is often prescribed for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism. However, he documented on his blog that he refused to take the medication after researching it.

 In a 2011 volume of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry a study done on five separate U.S. treatment facilities stated that with their samples of sex offenders 90 percent had axis I disorders, 63 percent had mood disorders, 24 percent had psychotic disorders, and 64 percent were substance abusers. Axis I disorders  include depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia. The study isn’t exclusive to sexual offenders that have sexually abused only women. In surveys from 1980 to 1983 carried out by the Epidemiological Catchment Area, data showed that violent tendencies were much higher among individuals with severe mental illness.

This was prevelant more so with individuals who had not received treatment within the past six months. People with mental illnesses also are far more likely to be violent when they abuse substances. According to a study done by Harvard, 27.6 percent was the amount of people who were substance abusers that also had schizophrenia with at least one violent act compared to the 8.5 percent of people with the illness without substance abuse. 21.3 percent of substance abusers with depression had at least one act of violence in a year compared to 4.9 percent of those with depression without substance abuse.

Misogynistic violence is not something exclusive to the mentally ill community. At VCU in February three freshmen soccer players were charged with felonies. Donovan Arias, Finnlay Wyatt and Bobby Hopper’s crime involved taking pictures of a non-consenting minor in the nude.  The problem with the soccer players is not so much with their brains as much as it is with their moral compass.  

James Madison University is also another Virginia university with a recent sexual assault case.  Three members of JMU’s Sigma Chi chapter videotaped their sexual assault of a female student and shared the video across the campus. This resulted in compulsion after graduation, a scant punishment akin to graduation. They will still receive their diplomas. The third student plans to stay at the university for his senior year.

 Sexual assault on college campuses is something that has recently garnered national attention. Four schools including JMU are being federally investigated for possible violations against Title IX, theeducational anti-discrimination law. It’s a trickle down effect; the correlation of  how far our culture believes it is alright to go and how far people such as Rodger have gone. If it is bad enough to sway a man to go on a killing spree then it shows how vehemently the issue needs to be discussed on a greater scale. Awareness needs to be brought to the topic because there are far to many men that feel as entitled to women as Rodger felt.  The #YesAllWomen movement may not be the solution to eliminating misogyny from our culture, but it’s a good start.


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