I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who feels sickened, outraged and more than a little sad when reading articles or hearing on broadcast TV stories about rape cases that usually end up in ridiculously short sentences. Does anyone else remember Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student who was convicted in 2016 of sexual assault and then received a six-month sentence? That story received international coverage, sparked outrage in many corners, and brought to the forefront necessary conversations on “the rape culture” on college campusus (and in the world as a whole, one might argue).
All to often nowadays, with the current administration in the White House, one hears about how colleges are scaling back on rape investigations, and other similar nonsense. I want to spit whenever I read about people whining about how their sons might be “falsely accused” of rape (to which I think, “if you don’t want your sons to be involved in a sexual assault then whey don’t you raise him better to prevent him from ever taking part in such an awful crime”). While I am in no way denying that it probably does happen, it is most likely in a very small percentage of reported assaults. I am not naive enough to understand that sometimes rape accusations are made against men to “get back at them” for some reason (dumping the woman, for one). But again, there’s no doubt that the actual false charges happen in only a small number of cases brought to the police.
Sexual assault is one of the most under=reported crimes (along with domestic assault) and it isn’t hard to understand why. It comes with a stigma against the person reporting the attack and often results in the victim’s being “victimized again” as she goes through the process of seeking justice for the crime done to her. It is a harrowing process to go through that causes much mental anguish. This anguish is compounded if a victim has the misfortune to encounter a “macho” attitude on the part of law enforcement that might discount the victim’s story. Then there are “friends” and family who will shame the rape survivor for her behavior, or any number of other reasons. No doubt there are many, many sexual assault survivors walking around who never pursued a case against the attacker for not wanting to go through that awful,
Rape cases come down to “he said, she said” and unfortunately what he said seems to more important to jurors in rape cases …. especially if the alleged rapist is a white male, and bonus points if he comes from a family with money, which generally will “buy” leniency for the rapist. Sad, but all too often true. We see/hear proof of this reality on a regular basis.
As the mother of a son, I absolutely could not fathom what it would feel like if my son were involved in committing such a heinous act. On the other hand, I don’t believe I have to worry about it, for a number of reasons, one being that he was raised by my “village” to, for example, respect women. As a young Boomer, I have a few suggestions on how those of you who are now raising your young might help your sons to not become rapists (plus some words of advice for moms of daughters as well).
- Our young people need to learn a perhaps old-fashioned (but never out of style) concept called Respect. Respect for themselves, which might help keep them out of potentially dangerous situations (for example, parties where intoxicating substances are being consumed), and respect for others as human beings — and NOT seeing everyone as potential sex partners, with or without the consent of the other person. See #2.
- “No Means NO, Not Maybe.” It may seem trite and and fossilized relic of my generation, but the fact remains it is true. If someone says “no” to sex, that should be that. No coercing, no wrestling, no arguing over it, and therefore no risk of being accused of assault. Make your kids write this sentence down 100 times and memorize it: No Means No. Period.
- Do not buy into that old patriarchal mindset of “boys will be boys.” When my son was little I often told people that I rejected that bullshit. I said he is a boy, yes, but that is not going to be an excuse for his unwise behavior. He was going to confess his misdeeds and be held accountable, period. Just like everyone should be: held accountable for their poor decisions and made to face the consequences. Too many people today are literally getting away with murder because they do not own up to their actions. Their poor behavior apparently is always “someone else’s fault.” Don’t be the parent that gives your kid this mindset. Actions equal consequences.
- Please throw out those neanderthal “manly man” attitudes of the olden days which help explain why so many men are never charged (or convicted) with crimes such as rape. Old-fashioned, misogynist attitudes such as “she asked for it” Luckily, I believe that those attitudes are dying out with the older generations, although “woman-hating” mindsets (and pro-rape culture attitudes) are passed along to the youngsters in the family. That should stop now.
- Also, do not buy into that crap that a girl “wants it” because she is “dressed too sexy.” That, too, is bullshit. I remember an aunt of mine saying decades ago, “A woman should be able to walk around naked if she wanted and not have to worry about being raped.” I agree with her, though unfortunately that’s not the way life is. Especially in the environment we live in where some people doubt rape actually is “a thing” and the society that blames the victims for “bringing it on themselves.” As rape isn’t generally about the sex but rather exerting power over the victim, it isn’t about how she’s dressed; that’s not an excuse.
Since unfortunately there will probably always be people who are just “born predators,” (who learn anti-woman, pro-rape attitudes in the home) there will probably always be the very real possibility that at some point one could be raped— even us “older” women could be targets. Years of being around “pick-up artists” has sharpened my attennae for detecting them and given me tactics to avoid possible assault. Unfortunately, the consumption of alcohol may dull that “early warning” system that might clue you into whether someone has sexual intentions toward you, so I am always mindful about my drinking while in public for that reason.
I find it incredibly refreshing, and unfortunately very rare, when I am in a bar and am able to converse with men and not feel threatened. These nonthreatening males have obvious respect for women and it would be really, really nice if more men were being raised that way.
It warms my heart to see that the Millennials seem to be a more open, accepting bunch of people inasfar as interpersonal relationships. While I was growing up, some of my best friends were boys. Forty years ago I was part of a large group of friends of boys and girls and it was awesome. While my son was growing up, he too had a diverse assortment of friends, both male and female, and I see that a lot with the younger generations. I’m also heartened to see younger people taking up causes they believe in, be it racial injustice or global warming or what-have-you.. It would be really cool if their generation worked to start a revolution against the rape culture in the world and teach their kids to not be rapists.