Thursday, September 1, 2016

What I Will Tell My Kids About Rape

Brock Turner will be released tomorrow after serving only three months in prison for raping a woman while she was unconscious.  Because of this, bloggers have been encouraged to write for the "You Can Rape Me Because I'm Drunk" Challenge.  It technically takes place tomorrow, but I am posting today because I'm not sure how technologically available I'll be tomorrow since we're spending the day away as a family.

I don't know where to start because the word rape brings up way too much for most of us to deal with.  But what I think about the most is how to talk to my kids about this when they're older.  How do you explain such depravity, such hateful behavior?  And how do you explain the Brock Turners of the world somehow managing to play the victim card after violating a woman so thoroughly?  I don't know, friends.  I really don't know.

Here's what I do know:  I'm going to talk to my kids about rape, and these are the four things I know for sure I will say.

Always Look Through Helper Eyes

If you can help someone who can't help themselves, do it.  Be the young man or woman who helps a friend out of a threatening situation.  Keep your eyes open for the evil doers waiting to harm women, and try to be the person who doesn't let it happen.  Feel empowered enough to make a difference, because you can.

Know When to Have a Conversation and When Not To

There were many people who, after finding out about Brock Turner and his dad's appalling letter to the judge, wanted to focus in on drinking.  Not Brock Turner's drinking, the drinking of the woman he raped.  Before they wanted to talk about the injustice of rape, about the craziness behind that letter, about this victim's rights, they wanted to talk about her drinking.

While there is a time and a place for every conversation, this was neither.  It was especially insulting to hear Turner and his father blame drinking for Brock's irresponsible behavior, and therefore make his excessive drinking the reason why he shouldn't be punished, when the victim was told  because she drank she deserved what she got.  Apparently Turner deserved nothing for either getting drunk or raping an unconscious woman.  And basically, he got nothing for it.

Such a sexist message is not helping the conversation we need to have about rape.

Rape is Everywhere

Date rape.  Gang rape.  Women raped while they were drinking or raped while they were sober.  Women raped by strangers and raped by someone they thought they loved.  We haven't given these women a safe place to come forward.  The question "What were you wearing?" should not be one a person has to answer when reporting a rape.  Threatening college girls with penalties for their behavior when they come forward to report a rape should be outlawed.  Asking a woman if she was "violently raped" should earn the questioner a class on the definition of rape.

It's happening to your mothers and sisters and daughters and friends, and most of them have been shamed into silence knowing the Brock Turners of the world will walk away unscathed while the victims live out their nightmare over and over again.

Don't Put Up With Bad Behavior

Strip clubs and porn, sexist jokes and catcalling are all pretty standard parts of our society.  They shouldn't be.  Women in pornography are often underage and drugged, having been trafficked so they could be exploited.  Men and women who stereotype women as being only one exaggerated personality trait-nag, killjoy, bitch-pave the way for women to be looked at as less than human.

We don't have to support any of this, not with our money or time, not with our attitude.  Rape is a symptom of a bigger problem, and that problem is women being viewed as property as opposed to  God-created souls with a purpose.  Kill this disease at the root.

I remember telling my dad that I was sure if he had sons the rules in our house for curfews and dating and parties would be different.  He answered honestly by saying, "They would."  As girls, we were taught from the beginning to be aware, to be alert, to understand the threat, and I resented it and still do.  But I don't resent my dad for teaching me to do all of those things, though it doesn't always ensure safety.  I resent the society that made him feel it was necessary.

My kids are growing up in that society, three girls and one sweet, sensitive guy.  Will the rules be different for them based on gender?  Will I have to tell my girls that part of their minds will always be distracted as they navigate life under constant unknown threats?  Will they be forced to make extra perfect decisions just to avoid being blamed if anything bad happens to them?  Dear Lord, I hope not. I hope at some point we all get fed up enough and men and women unite to stand as lookouts, to offer solace, to be the voice for those who have lost their own due to brutality.  I really hope.

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