By Christine Kehoe
District 39 California Senator
Violence against women has plagued the world for centuries, and events this year in San Diego County remind us just how much more needs to be done in California.
Despite the progress women have made—particularly over the last 30 years—in athletics, the arts, academia and politics, we remain targets of sexual assault and other acts of brutality.
Nothing could have illustrated that more starkly than the murder of Chelsea King and the earlier disappearance and murder of Amber Dubois. Each of these San Diego teenagers was outside in daylight and yet was still subject to violence. This violation of personal and public space is deeply disturbing and makes us all feel vulnerable.
None of us should be required to “be on alert” at all times just to avoid a physical attack. None of us should fear that being alone during the day poses the same risk of assault at night. These fears remain part of a woman’s world—whether in San Diego or any other community in the United States.
In response to the murders of Chelsea and Amber, the community demanded tougher state laws for the monitoring and treatment of violent registered sex offenders across California. One of those proposals, called Chelsea’s Law, would increase the sentences and parole terms for violent sex offenders, especially crimes committed against children.
In addition, some people like San Diego lawyer and resident Pam Wilson called for better preventive measures like self-defense training. Last December, a young woman trained in self-defense fought off the murderer who killed Chelsea and Amber. The young woman’s ability to protect herself is a testament to the value of, and need for, such programs.
That’s why I introduced legislation this year that allows self-defense training as part of the physical education curriculum for middle and high school students in California. Currently, schools may offer such training only to students in grades 10-12.
By expanding the number of students eligible for self-defense classes, we can help women and girls in the future to better ward off potential attackers. Although self-defense training is no guarantee of complete safety, such training helps empower girls and young women and helps reduce assaults, abductions and even deaths.
Given the world we live in today, I urge girls and women to enroll in a self-defense class. It may only be a small part of the long-term solution, but we must do more to lower our risk against dangers in the community.
My legislation, SB 1290, passed the Senate in May and is awaiting a vote in the full Assembly. I encourage you to contact your Assemblymember and Governor Schwarzenegger and ask them to support this common-sense legislation. It’s one way we can better protect our daughters and allow them to protect themselves.