April 30, 2013

It’s 2013 And We Shouldn’t Have To Teach Our Daughters How NOT To Be Raped

by

 Teaching Girls How Not To Be Raped

As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close, I need to write this. A month ago two boys (young men?) from Stubenville, Ohio were convicted of raping a high school co-ed as well as dissemination of child pornography for sending around photographs of the young lady they took of her after they took her clothes off. The girl’s name was made public, which is highly unusual, because major news media outlets just didn’t seems to care about protocol.

After the verdict, the rape-sympathizing was blatant by several reporters and so-called legal analysts. Statements about how these boy’s lives are being ruined by having a conviction and being sentenced to incarceration in a juvenile facility were spewed by women reporters who seemed more maternal than objective. There were tweets and comments to news articles talking about how “their lives are ruined”, referencing the two boys convicted of rape.

There were articles where page after page of comments were from people who blamed the girl. People who said she chose this when she got so drunk she couldn’t stand up. That the girl had a history of getting drunk, of “hooking up” with guys at parties, of being “a whore“. There were comments that she shouldn’t have been there. She was dressed like “she wanted it”. She was “all up on these boys” earlier.

So, basically, it’s her fault. For being raped. She should have left. She shouldn’t have been drinking. She should have dressed more modestly. She was irresponsible. She didn’t make good choices. She got what she deserved because she was sexually promiscuous.

Having been cross examined by a snake of a defense attorney who asked me so many personal (and inappropriate) questions, I’m shouldn’t be surprised by any of the responses blaming the victim. It’s one of very few strategies a defense team takes in cases of rape (or sexual assault, or whatever “non-threatening to the defendant” name they want to give it). I expect it from the defense team. I expect it from the defendant’s family and friends. I lived through it. And my daughter wasn’t even 5. So I wasn’t surprised when the defense went after the victim in the Stubenville case.

But the aftermath and public response shook me. First it was members of the news media who became personally attached and felt the need to tell us we should feel sorry for this horrible fate the two boys faced. Then it was the public. It’s the girl’s fault for putting herself in this position, is basically what it comes down to.

I get that the girl made some poor choices. I get that she may have a history of being promiscuous. I get that she’s been drunk before. I get that she was dressed provocatively. None of that is lost on me. But none of those, individually or in the collective, is justification for rape.

Everyday people make poor driving choices. But if they’re hit by a drunk driver no one says they deserve it. Lots of people forget to set their house alarm, drive fancy cars, and buy expensive things. But who says they flaunted their wealth and therefore it’s their fault they were robbed? Both of these sound absurd. It’s not their fault, it’s the drunk driver or the robber’s responsibility.

Not so with rape. So in 2013, parents need to have the “How not to be raped” talk with their daughters. Let’s not talk to our sons and teach them to be respectful of girls and women. Let’s not teach our boys that rape is NEVER a good choice. No, let’s sit our girls down and erase 10+ years of self-esteem building where we told them that what they wear doesn’t define them. Let’s tell our daughters that all those years they heard us tell them they were strong and independent we were lying to them.

Instead, we have to teacher our daughters they what they wear can give the wrong message and if they’re attacked it’s their fault so think twice about what you wear. We need to make sure our daughters know that sometimes boys don’t understand what ‘No’ means despite having been told 389 times and hearing it yelled into their face. Parents must demand their daughters NEVER drink alcohol because if they do and their judgement is impaired and a boy rapes them it’s their fault for being impaired and not saying “No” (note how this conflicts with above that even saying NO doesn’t matter, but let’s just hope our girls don’t pick up on that). We can’t forget to tell our daughters not to flirt, bat her eyelashes, flip her hair, giggle, touch her body in any way, or even look at a boy because if they do and are then raped, any of those things can be considered consent. Oh, and let’s not skip making sure our daughters know never to tell their friends that they like a boy because what she’s saying is that she wants to have sex with him and that’s consent to whatever he does to her after her friends tell his friends who tell him that she likes him.

As ridiculous sounding as all that is, it’s what parents of young girls are up against. Basically, if we let our daughters out in public alone where boys may be then we’re sanctioning her rape. Because evidently boys can’t be trusted to make good choices. And so it’s all on girls, and their parents, to take on the responsibility of not being raped.

It’s 2013, boys (and men) should know that you don’t rape people. Seriously, people should know you don’t rape anyone. There are not qualifiers. No, unlesses. It’s an absolute. We don’t rape other people. Doesn’t seem all that complicated to me. It’s pretty amazing boys even get to be teenagers if society doesn’t think they’re capable of  learning something as basic as “don’t rape people”.

Somehow boys learn not to kill people (for the most part). I’m pretty confident boys can be taught not to rape. But until that day comes, parents around the world need to sit down with their tween and teen daughters and begin the ongoing conversation of how not to be raped. Maybe we start off with the basics of not getting on an elevator alone if there is a guy already on it. Then we move to the disapproving look and “are you sure you want to wear that” when our daughters are dressed in anything other than the most modest of clothing. Ultimately, we’ll need to sit down with our daughters and break it to them that boys aren’t responsible for the choices they make and despite our girls having been told they’re strong and independent and smart and only responsible for their actions and choices that we’ve been lying and they’re also responsible for the bad choices boys make when “boys are just being boys”.

I think girls (and boys) need to be taught about making good choices. I think we need to talk to our daughters about the consequences of drinking, doing drugs, or being in a situation where they’re not in control of their choices. But girls don’t bear the responsibility of a boy’s poor choice. Girls of the world do not carry the burden of not being raped.

And yes, I get that girls can be aggressive with boys. And yes, girls, too, should be taught that “no means no”. But when statistics show 1 in 4 girls will be a victim of sexual assault by the age of 18, we’re dealing with an epidemic. And when cases like Stubenville bring out victim-blaming and shaming rather than focusing on the fact that it doesn’t matter what the girl was wearing, if she had sex in the past, or any of the factors that lead to her being so intoxicated she passed out, nothing, I repeat nothing, gives cause to rape. We need to take a hard look at what we’re teaching our kids. Boys (and girls) should learn not to rape, just like they learn not to kill, not to dismember, not to assault. Why is it so difficult?

Until the media and society stop blaming the victim and makes rapists – even when those rapists are teenage boys “just being boys” – accountable for their choice, as parents of daughters we need to sit down with our daughters and talk about how not to be raped.

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Shifra April 30, 2013 at 8:00 am

OMG! This is an amazing post!
As the mom of a daughter and sons, I am keenly aware of perceptions and preconceived notions about the different sexes. We try very hard in our home to teach our kids right from wrong about the little things and help them with good decision making skills – so they can use these tools when they are not with us and make good decisions for themselves.

I learned when my kids were way too young, through you, Sara, about sexual assault and how it can happen to anyone, by anyone, anywhere, anytime. It has forever changed me as a mom. I am conscious of every situation I put my kids in and the possible repercussions. One might say I am somewhat paranoid. But, as parents, we try to protect our kids from sexual assault. In this crazy freaking world, we need to teach our girls how not to be raped and teach our boys not to rape. Shocking and disgusting as it is, this is the situation for now. And it makes me sad and it makes me sick!

You, CycleGuy, and BabyGirl should forever be blessed by sharing your story with the world and hopefully helping some other families avoid the pain, anger, sorrow, and violation of what happened to you. I hope that other parents share this so they understand the responsibilities we have as parents to teach our children about even these most uncomfortable topics. I am about to share as well.

On behalf of moms everywhere, I am really proud of you and your courage. Thank you! <3

rhonda April 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

I agree so much with all of what you have written. Its important to be so very clear for both girls and boys.

Another piece of this unfortunate/nasty issue is teaching our children that “crying wolf” is not ok too. It harms everyone and is extremely harmful.
I feel very strongly about it too for a couple of reasons.

Its wrong.

Doriano "Paisano" Carta May 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

Very well-said. Thank you. As a father of 2 boys and 1 girl I totally agree with all you shared. That news event where the rapists were treated better than the victim made my stomach turn and my blood boil.
We strive to teach our boys to honor and respect their sister (which can be difficult sometimes) and all girls because we want them to grow up with a healthy attitude towards all women. My Italian mom taught her four boys to treat all women with respect and always remember that they are someone’s daughter, sister and mother.
This whole topic reminds me of another painful one…about bullying. There are similarities because both situations involve the parents and how they interact with their children. I’ve been shocked many times by how much some parents do not care if their kids are bullies. I would be just as upset to learn my kid was a bully as I would to learn they were being bullied! It’s just wrong. The same goes with our sons being sexually aggressive with females.

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