Normally I like to keep my blog posts on the lighter side and about the insanity of parenthood and other oddball things I come up with. Today’s post is not one of those. It’s taking me way beyond my comfort zone to write this, because I loathe discussing politics and polarizing issues. Debate and confrontation generally make me want to hide under the covers and hope it goes away. I hate that I cannot have discussions with some of my friends for fear of offending and losing a friendship. As I type that I realize how ridiculous it all sounds.
But I’m not here to go into my opinion on the Kavanaugh hearing or the political motivations of either side of the aisle. That has been hashed out ad nauseum on line and in the press. It exhausts me. What still is sticking with me and keeping me up at night however, is how we treat assault — both the victim and the assailant. In the case of sexual assault, how come it seems that the assailant is inherently believed over the victim — that a victim’s perception and memory of events is far less reasonable and accurate than that of the assailant?
This past weekend, my husband and I were talking about the hearing and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s upcoming testimony. He asked me, “If that had happened to you as a teenager, you would have told your parents, right?” I answered him honestly. “Most likely not.” He was surprised, so I explained that I wouldn’t have for multiple reasons. First, I would have been afraid that I would have gotten in trouble for being at a party with underage drinking. Second, I would have worried that they wouldn’t have believed me. But far scarier to me than getting in trouble or not being believed, was the thought of what they most likely would have done: help me report it. The thought of all the drama, humiliation and pain it would have caused personally and publicly would have been unbearable. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to go to the police and relive the event, to be asked a million embarrassing questions, to have it turned on me as to what I was doing to have somehow “deserved” it. I’m sure the rumor mill at school would have burst into flames from working overtime. Mostly, I couldn’t bear the thought of what something like that would have done to my parents — the pain, hurt, embarrassment, sleepless nights or even the financial burden it would have caused. Wouldn’t it have just been far easier for me to hold it inside and deal with it myself instead of causing even more pain and suffering? And what if I didn’t get justice in the end? What would have been the point?
A friend of mine recently posted a powerful story on Facebook. I will paraphrase it here and hope I will have done it justice. She described how she was attacked as a teenager. She tried to remember details of the night, who exactly was with her or how long it lasted. But she does remember that her parents knew where she was, she was not dressed scantily, had not been drinking or doing drugs (although others around her may have been.) She has no idea what became of the others who were there that night. Unfortunately, she was in the right place at the wrong time. Then she asked, “Do you believe me? You know me and the kind of person I am.”
She went on to say, “Now, what if I say I was robbed, not raped? Because that’s what happened. I worked at a Wendy’s, and while we were closing the store, two men came in and robbed us [at gunpoint].” She went on to describe the tiny, little details she remembers about what happened during the robbery and how she thought she was going to die that night when one of the men held a gun to her head.
Then she asked, “Does that change your mind about whether I am telling the truth? If it does, maybe ask yourself why.”
Luckily no one was injured or killed that night, she and her coworkers were able to report it to the authorities, and the perpetrators were found and brought to justice. She was not ashamed or embarrassed to go to the police to tell her story, she didn’t have to ask herself what she may have done to “invite” this to happen to her, and she was believed. Think about that for a moment.
Back when I was single, younger and cuter, I was a director of special events for a health charity. I ran a variety of fund raising events, including high-end golf outings which consisted of mostly privileged white men. By the end of the evening when the alcohol had been flowing and the auction was coming up, I often was felt up, had suggestive comments made to me and even remember a guy grabbing me, pulling me onto his lap and sticking his tongue in my ear. Other men saw this and did nothing. I politely removed his hand, got up and walked away. I felt I couldn’t risk making a scene, bringing down the night and potentially losing thousands of dollars in donations for the charity from these men showing their machismo and bulging money clips. It all felt like “part of the job” and in fact, a co-worker called it “losing lipstick.”
I told my husband this story and he could not fathom how men could do such things to me. “I can’t imagine ever treating a woman or other human being that way.” Well, I know this and that’s just one of the reasons I married him. His honestly, loyalty and doing what is right even when it’s hard are some of his very best qualities.
The most important job as parents of our two sons and daughter is to teach them how to be respectful, kind and caring to everyone no matter their gender, race or views. I refuse to believe or accept that, “Boys will be boys” and their gender somehow gives them a pass on poor behavior. Do my boys do crazy “boy” things and misbehave? Absolutely. And I’m sure my daughter will do things to make me want to pull my hair out as she gets older too. What I do believe is that “Boys …and girls…will be respectful and decent human beings.” I want my sons and daughter to know this and live it. I already see it in so many of the things they do. There is hope.
It is our job as parents to help our children navigate through their lives, learn to make good choices, and that when we make mistakes to apologize when we’ve hurt someone. No one is perfect and sometimes we all need to be better about forgiving or giving someone the benefit of the doubt. What is never okay is to disrespect another person’s body and his or her power over it. It’s never okay for someone to disrespect our own body and power over it either. This goes for everyone, male or female: respect others and themselves. Furthermore, by allowing assault to happen or doubting the victim, we too are taking away even more of that person’s power over themselves.
I hope and pray that my husband and I can instill this in our children and that they will know they can always come to us for help and unconditional love no matter how old they are or what the circumstances. May we all be…and raise…good human beings.