Is America bored with protecting its girls and women?

Thursday, May 26, 2016
 | 
Bart Stinson - Guest Columnist
Stinson

We're being told with a straight face that the real issue with North Carolina, Target, and Obama's "transgender" edict is the autonomy of those who are sexually confused. No – the issue is preventable sexual crimes against the vulnerable and innocent.


In a previous career, I used to drive out into the desert near the California-Nevada border to work. I was an EMT at a large hotel-casino complex along Interstate 15.

On the morning of May 25, 1997, I arrived to find crime-scene tape and a guard posted at the entrance to the downstairs ladies room. Co-workers told me there was a dead body inside, a murder victim.

She was Sherrice "Sherry" Iverson of Los Angeles. Her killer was 18-year-old Jeremy Strohmeyer, an adopted child in a prosperous, well-respected Long Beach family. At the time of the killing, Jeremy's biological father was in prison and his biological mother was in a mental hospital.

He was a porn addict, and he wrote in an Internet chat room of his violent sexual fantasies. His adoptive parents had no idea.

Jeremy traveled to our hotel-casino from Long Beach with his friend David Cash, 17. David's dad drove. You have to be 21 to gamble in Nevada, so Jeremy and David went downstairs to the arcade.

When Sherry went into the downstairs ladies room, Jeremy followed. He walked out 25 minutes later. We know that, because Nevada casinos are brimming with surveillance cameras. But most are unmonitored, so they're more useful for finding out what happened than preventing it.

David entered the ladies room, too. He was there long enough to witness his friend forcing Sherry into a stall. When he looked in from an adjacent stall, he saw Jeremy holding one hand over her mouth, and fondling her with his other hand.

Then David left the ladies' room, without intervening and without reporting it to anybody. Jeremy raped Sherry, and strangled her to stifle her screams. As he was leaving, he saw her move, so he returned to snap her neck. Twenty minutes after David left the ladies' room, Jeremy rejoined him and told him he'd killed Sherry.

The housekeeper found her stuffed between the commode and the wall around 5 a.m. As an EMT, I treated the housekeeper several times over the next few years for panic attacks. The EMT they called to the scene was a tough guy, but the Sherry Iverson case landed him in psychotherapy.

It took police three days to identify and arrest Jeremy in California. His friend David told police he didn't report it because it was "none of my business." During those three days, Jeremy and David boasted about the crime to young California friends who also declined to assist the police investigation.

Jeremy was eventually convicted of multiple charges and sentenced to four life terms. David was never charged with anything. In fact, he was admitted to Berkeley as an engineering major and is probably having a very nice career right now.

mug of Sherrice IversonMuch of the early media coverage focused on Sherry's 14-year-old brother Harold. Their father Leroy, who was preoccupied with slot machines upstairs, told Harold to watch after Sherry. But Harold didn't want to watch after his sister any more than his dad did. Sherrice Iverson was no fun, you see, because she was a second-grader, just seven years old. And sometimes, boring your protectors can be fatal.

Are we bored with protecting girls and women in America?

I remember when we integrated men and women within Army units. Anybody who's served an enlistment knows that you have almost zero privacy, and that you're often at the mercy of your superiors. That's especially true in basic training, when my particular military service has a program of "total control." It was an obvious recipe for sexual disaster.

And yet Senators were shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you! – at the ensuing epidemic of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the sexually integrated units. Is anybody really that naïve? It was entirely predictable.

Now we're told with a straight face that it's narrow-minded, even bigoted, to suggest that giving men free access to ladies' restrooms will pose a menace to the girls and women they follow, or for whom they wait inside. The real issue, we're harangued, is the autonomy of so-called transgenders, not preventable sexual crimes against girls and women.

Under the Target Store policy, and under the Charlotte, NC, municipal ordinance, we would have had no right to challenge Jeremy Strohmeyer or David Cash for entering the ladies' room in 1997. That would have been harassment.

Do we think we've exhausted our supply of Jeremy Strohmeyers? Do we think the coast is clear? When men with bad intentions can enter ladies' restrooms unchallenged and unrestrained by protective men, when women are stripped of their right to object to male intrusion, women and girls will be menaced and subjected to voyeurism. Even if they're not physically assaulted, they'll be deprived of their peace of mind at their most private moments in what used to be the most private place. And some will be assaulted.

There's nothing noble about that. The U.S. Justice Department's rampage against conventional sexual privacy is reckless and tyrannical. The complicity of PayPal, Deutschebank, the NBA, NFL and the NCAA should never be forgotten.

But what about us? If we avert our eyes and shrink from this unpleasant showdown, what might Sherry Iverson recognize in us? Are we, like her dad, paternal fakes who have abandoned our protective role? Or eternal adolescents like her brother, too preoccupied with socializing and entertainment to grow up and watch out for the vulnerable and the innocent? Or maybe we're like David Cash, utterly and rigorously indifferent to good and evil.

Sherry would be 26 now. If she's looking down on the restroom controversy, what does she see? Unfortunately, I think she might recognize a Jeremy Strohmeyer here and there. But David Cash? Thy name is Legion.

Editor's note: In September 2000, legislation known as the "Sherrice Iverson Good Samaritan Law" was signed into law in California. The law makes it a crime to witness the sexual assault of a minor without notifying police. The murder was the subject of a "60 Minutes" segment called "The Bad Samaritan."


Bart Stinson is a columnist for The Press-Dispatch, a community newspaper in Petersburg, Indiana. He is director of the Pike County Public Library in Petersburg and writes a weekly column called "The Resurgent Library."

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