Mollie Tibbetts was normal and average. She was the unassuming girl-next-door, a woman who was described by her boyfriend as being “kind, sweet, caring.” Mollie was dog sitting at her boyfriend’s house when she went out for a run on the night of July 18 — she was never seen alive again. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa on July 19, after her family could not get ahold of her.
Mollie was special. Anyone that saw her face plastered on a missing poster could see that. She looked like she was easy to love.
“She really does not have a single enemy — everybody loves Mollie,” Alyssa King, a close friend, told PEOPLE magazine.
When her fliers popped up on social media, you took an extra moment to look at the smiling face of a University of Iowa student who should have begun her sophomore year this fall. She was unnervingly beautiful—not in the way that calls for attention or recognition—the kind where you knew that this woman had a beautiful soul.
Mollie looked like the girl who could be anyone’s best friend. The person who’s warm smile could comfort you on a bad day, someone you could tell your darkest secrets to.
On July 18, a woman who didn’t want to be bothered, who was just trying to work out, was murdered by a man that followed her after she turned him down. He followed her, abducted her, murdered her and disposed of her body in a corn field in the county she grew up in.
Mollie Tibbetts was brutally murdered because she refused a man’s advances.
Traditionally, as young women, we are told to mind our manners. To be seen, not heard. In the past five years, that thought process has been thrown away and women are now told to be empowered—to take control of their world and to do what they please. In the era of #MeToo, we are told to speak up for what we believe in, to say no to unwanted advances, and stand strong as women.
If there are so many people supporting women’s rights, why is it still so hard to stand up for ourselves?
Mollie Tibbetts stood up for herself and was killed because of it. That’s why.
A man, who she had never met, thought he was entitled to Tibbetts and her time. He wanted her and with his personal justification was allowed to have her. No matter how many times Tibbetts declined his advances and threatened to call the cops, he still felt the need to stalk her and abduct her.
Mollie Tibbetts’ murderer is an undocumented immigrant, that is a fact. But this story has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with the fact that a man felt he was entitled to this woman—so much so that he murdered her.
No matter how many movements and award show speeches have the underlying value that women are to be cherished and valued, that message still won’t be received by some people.
It’s 2018 and women are still being catcalled on the street. Women are being called derogatory names and words because they turn down a guy at the bar.
We are the generation of women who check their back seat before they get in a car because we don’t know if someone is hiding trying to abduct us. We lock our cars the second we get into them and start driving before we even put our seatbelt on so we aren’t alone and in danger. We carry pepper spray, tasers and mace on our keychains like they’re a cute knick knack.
As a woman you know not to pump gas alone, to go to the supermarket after 10 p.m., to make sure you tell everyone where you’re going and who you’re going with. You make sure your trusted friends have your FindMyFriends location so if you go missing, they have the last place you were.
But because of Mollie Tibbetts, we are reminded that no matter how cautious we are, or how safe we think our town is, these things happen. Violence against women has been an issue in society for a very long time. Recently, violence has become normalized in our society because it’s something heard of on a weekly basis.
This isn’t an easy fix. This underlying idea that women are inferior to men is stapled together by hundreds of years of patriarchy. Women have been oppressed by men, society and themselves for too long. This change won’t happen if people aren’t willing to stand up for women.
Everyone needs to do their part in making the world a better place for women. If you are a woman, stand up for other women. If you’re a man, call out other men who make women uncomfortable. Not all men are horrible, not all women are saints. But if you’re a human, make sure that the world is a better place for other humans.
Be a friend to a woman. Be a friend to women everywhere, they deserve it and need it now more than ever.
Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or of its staff. Jacey Gonzalez studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.