Commentary: McCluskey’s murder indicates a deep societal ill

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Photos of Lauren McCluskey on display as It's On Us Utah hosts a celebration of McCluskey's life at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Friday Oct. 26, 2018.

It’s been a week since Lauren McCluskey was cruelly and senselessly slain. I did not know Lauren, nor her killer. However, I am gripped by a terrible melancholy and I am compelled to speak.

My fellow woman is dead, and I perceive this to be not only the workings of a killer, but also of a deep and terrible societal ill. I do not absolve him of his crime by any measure, but the fear of this type of murder among women existed long before.

Lauren’s death appears to be a crime of retribution by a man who misrepresented himself and deceived her. She rightfully rejected him and worked to get her life back on track, but he took that life when she was vulnerable and alone. I don’t know why he felt entitled to her life, but I know that her death gives womankind more reason to fear men who respond to rejection with violence.

I’m not alone in this fear. The same anger and entitlement that leads to the murder of innocent women contributes to sexual assault. I’m not diverting the conversation, both are senseless acts of violence rooted in control and terrorism of women’s lives. Both are theft of life and a person’s rights over their body. There’s no reason for Lauren to have died. Her life was stolen, like many women before her.

This heritage of trauma has taught women there is safety in tiptoeing around men’s feelings. I learned this fear from my family member, a 100 percent disabled U.S. Air Force veteran and victim of sexual assault by a fellow serviceman. It was a vile act of retribution. He felt embarrassed after she rejected his advances. Her disability is attributed to injuries she sustained in the assault, from which she could have died.

Here in America, shootings are a common headline: Janese Talton of Pittsburgh, Mary Spears of Detroit, Shemel Mercurius of Brooklyn, just 16 years old, Shana Fisher of Santa Fe, and thousands more were shot by men angry that they’d rejected them.

This inheritance of fear and legacy of trauma that millions of young women endure is a reason girls have learned to express profound emotional intelligence when confronted with danger in relationships, for self-preservation and survival. We must include emotional development in the education of all our children, or we will continue to bury our daughters.

We must foster boys and young men to act with tenderness and understanding, or women will continue to be subjected to treatment as though they are prey at the mercy of predators. The epidemic of poor emotional maturity affects men as much as women. It is not a “women’s issue.” All relationships — business, friendships, travel — all are strengthened by emotional maturity. No woman should die because of men who can’t handle intense emotions.

We are stronger as a people when men and women understand boundaries and issues of consent. Murder and rape are not crimes of passion, but crimes of exerting control over a person’s life and terrorizing their freedom. Learning consent is a matter of emotional maturity. It is in everyone’s interest to invest in helping young people to experience intense emotions responsibly.

Rejection doesn’t entitle someone to take a life or irreversibly alter it in any way. Emotional pain never justifies an act of brutality or murder.

Lauren should be with us, alive. I beseech lawmakers to take action on behalf of their daughters, sisters and wives. Lack of action can only result in further death, and indicates a lack of honor in our nation on the protection of our precious girls and women.

Frances Geerlings

Frances C. Geerlings, Bountiful, is a computer science student at the University of Utah.