The Stanford criminal who raped a young woman was on my mind this morning. I read a few news stories, and watched Ashley Banfield read the survivor’s letter on the news. I cried while I listened, knowing that this woman would feel the indelible markings of this event for the rest of her life, while the man who was convicted of his crime would not serve his due time to the fullest. I thought about my daughter, my strong, confident daughter who will one day grow up and be faced with the reality of rape culture in our world.
I read the rapist’s father’s letter. I read between the lines of what he didn’t write. That he didn’t acknowledge the crime or the victim screamed out, unwritten. Equally as loud, the concern for his son’s well-being, more so than the victim’s. An ugly misogynist voice that is usually shuttered up and hidden among some was laid bare for the world to see and reflect on.
The mother in me thought next of my family. I thought of the shattered young woman and her family that must now, because of this senseless act of violence, regroup and learn to live differently. I wondered about the rapist’s mother, too. How must it feel to watch in anguish as your child displays an appalling lack of character, a complete lack of regard for a woman and her personal safety? I don’t know this family, but I can imagine because my heart broke for her as well, as her hopes and dreams about her son were shattered in the face of his horrific choices that night.
The teacher in me searched for what can be changed. What can we do so that our daughters do not have to grow up afraid and our sons feared?
What do we need to be teaching to our sons and our daughters?
The answer is simple. We teach people not to rape.
But there are other lessons here that are not so black and white. Some things that begin very early that teach children innate lessons about their gender and their self-worth.
I can teach my sons:
- – what no means. That when a girl says “No more,” that means stop. No more tickling, no more cajoling or teasing – no means to stop.
- – that girls are not weak and emotionally unstable. Girls may change their mind or they may not. Girls have the freedom to feel any emotion they feel, and boys must respect that.
- – that violence does not equal masculinity. I see the conflicting messages in our media about the value of boys’ strength and the focus on a violent means to an end.
- – to be in control of their own body. Emotions do not control us and we are not ruled by desire, but by sound thinking.
- -that we are not free to make comments or judgments about girls’ appearances or dress or body.
I can teach my daughter:
- – to not be afraid. That any unwanted touches are not OK and not provoked, and most importantly, that we will believe her if she tells us something happened.
- – that she is above all else smart and kind in a world that places more value on her face and her body more than her mind and soul.
- – That she deserves every bit of respect that boys do, whether the world acknowledges it or not. That her smaller paycheck, limited top-level work force presence, and underrepresented gender in government and politics must not dictate her worth.
- – that boys who hit, poke, or physically tease her in ways that make her uncomfortable show aggression, not affection.
- – that she does not deserve to be raped. Full stop. Even if my lessons to her go unheeded or unheard, she does not deserve to be raped.
What am I missing? What lessons do you think we need to teach to end this culture of rape? This is a conversation that needs to be had.