on rape culture & parenting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably read some of the think pieces about the recent sexual assault case involving a Stanford freshman athlete. I hope you’ve read his victim’s impact statement in its entirety. If you haven’t, please take the time to do so – it’s moving, gut wrenching and perspective changing. I am now joining the cacophony of angry voices. I can’t keep my thoughts to myself with this one, though it’s not exactly “on brand” for my fledgling lifestyle blog.

My heart is racing right now, as I write. Partly because I’m so angry at the system that has failed in stopping our society’s metastatic rape culture, yet again. And partly because this hits close to home for me. Though my story is nowhere near as jarring as this, I have my own history with sexual assault. It took me years to even acknowledge it and understand it and honestly, I still grapple with it to this day… more than 15 years later.

Thank GOD I wasn’t found behind a dumpster, unconscious and barely clothed like this young woman. That, I cannot begin to comprehend. What I do know all too well, is that rape culture is something that needs to be addressed and NOT the “drinking culture” that Brock Allen Turner, his attorney and his father have all emphasized. Let’s not forget the judge who handed down a laughable and infuriating sentence of 6 months in a county jail, as opposed to the 6 years in a state prison that the prosecution was asking for. To be clear, Brock Allen Turner was convicted on THREE FELONIES, by 12 unanimous jurors. He was stopped in the act by two passersby, who chased him when he ran and held him down until authorities arrived. It doesn’t get any more red-handed than this. Yet, here we are with the old boys club banding together, protecting him from the consequences. Not only that, but he doesn’t even have to acknowledge what he did. This is the part that infuriates me the most, the utter lack of accountability. The “drinking culture” and “sexual promiscuity” clearly lead to this misunderstanding and it certainly wasn’t the rape of a woman who was unable to give consent. Sorry for the inconvenience, Brock; our mistake.

Rape culture might seem like a crass term or even something you may not have heard before, but it’s a very real part of our society and I am one of many women who can speak to this personally. So let’s talk about it.

Rape is not limited to the violent, back alley experiences that we are all familiar with from TV and film.

“Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration, perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.”

Wikipedia

Rape culture is the normalization of these actions. They are normalized every day through advertising, TV, movies, music {hello Blurred Lines}, jokes, even laws and more. It’s the sexual objectification that is rampant in our society, the trivialization of sexual assault and the impact on its victims, the glamorization of sexual violence and sexual coercion. It all seems so normal because we’re bombarded with this influence daily. It’s just a fact of life, right?

“Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”

Shakesville

I couldn’t relate to the above statement more and these are all lessons I was taught at a relatively early age. In fact, the “it’s your fault” piece of this statement hits a special kind of nerve for me, as it’s something that I still have trouble shaking. It was my fault. I put myself in the position so it’s on me. But why isn’t it on him? What are boys taught when the emphasis is put on girls to mind their p’s and q’s?

don't rape

As a mother to two boys, this is something I’ve thought about a lot before now. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to raise boys and men who do not filter into this cultural disgrace. I think about how I’ll teach them and what I’ll tell them. Do I tell them of my own experiences to help make it real for them? I’m not sure. But I do think this type of education needs to be addressed proactively and directly. The rape culture in our society is much too strong of an epidemic to just assume that raising good kids will be enough for them to not pick up on the social cues that this culture has fueled.

I think this starts at a young age. My boys are 4 and 18 months, but this is in the back of my mind, particularly when the 4 year old is asking for something he wants. Usually he demands something and I tell him no, so he’ll ask politely, but the answer is still no, then he gets more demanding and goes off the deep end. I know this is typical toddler and little kid stuff, but if he learns at 4 that this is how you get what you want, then who’s to say that this won’t turn into a behavior that he carries into his teenage years and adulthood? If you put enough pressure on, eventually you’ll get what you want. You can see how this mentality could be a slippery slope in relation to sexual consent.

There’s a lot to unpack about Brock Allen Turner’s father, Dan Turner’s statement to the court. Read the complete statement here.

Dan Turner Letter.jpg

Excerpt from letter written by Dan Turner. Via.

Ultimately, we are looking at an excellent example of how rape culture is perpetuated by parents. Parents who are no doubt, well-meaning and just want to fight for their child’s best interest. However, is it really the best thing for anyone to have people who don’t accept responsibility for their actions? People who don’t admit fault? People who sweep under the rug, explain away, water down and spin their own choices, actions and behaviors so that they are not expected to hold accountability? The verdicts didn’t break and shatter your son and family, Mr. Turner; your son’s “20 minutes of action” did that.

Several people I know and care for have a negative connotation with the word feminism, because I think they don’t fully understand the meaning of the word. But I think it applies here in a way that is tough to dispute. Among other women’s issues, to be a feminist means to support the protection of women and girls against sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence. I want my boys to be feminists. To speak up and be part of the change. I’ve said this before in a previous post about another heated subject, but I’ll say it again: I want my sons to fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own. This isn’t just a women’s issue, but it’s an issue for all of us. For every mother, sister, daughter, wife and friend, it’s our responsibility to do better.

I don’t know her name, but to the brave young woman who fought for justice: You have been that lighthouse just standing there shining and a great many of us have been moved. I hope that your light is the one to ignite a blaze that will lead to change.

 

Good Reads:

I Blame Brock Allen Turner’s Father

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture

 

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