No parent looks at their child and imagines he or she will someday violate another human being but rape happens anyway. To prevent it, parents have to start talking.
The conversation about rape, rape culture, etc in our society today has grown louder than it has been in the past. Thanks to the internet, there is no position on the issue that can’t find supporters. One of the most pervasive, albeit seemingly simplistic, ideas to gain traction in the midst of the furor can be paraphrased as: Instead of teaching people ways to protect themselves from being raped, why not teach people not to rape?
On its surface, it seems like such an obvious thing. Clearly the onus should be on potential predators, not on the victims. And at only a brief glance, it seems like such an unnecessary thing to say. We raise our children to keep their hands to themselves, to have respect, to listen. One woman in a private forum I belong to went so far as to say she thinks it’s ridiculous, and that she’s not going to have any kind of discussion on rape with her son because her son would never rape anyone.
I don’t think that anyone looks at their son and thinks “yup, he’s probably going to be a rapist.” And hopefully there’s no one out there teaching their son (or daughter – I absolutely do not discount female predators or male victims here) that it’s ok to lay hands on an unwilling person. But rape happens anyway. Not everyone who rapes comes from a broken home. Not all were sexually abused themselves. Not all have some sort of underlying mental defect that made them think it was ok.
But when we think about rape, and are so sure our children would never do such a thing, I think we tend to think of the back alley, violent act of a stranger. That leaves out a portion of the conversation that’s much murkier – date rape. Your child knows not to lay hands on someone who clearly states no and fights them off. Hopefully that’s a no-brainer. But do they know to be careful when their intended partner has had too much to drink? What level of consciousness is required for consent? The difference between playfully pushing away and really meaning that sex is not wanted?
These things don’t only protect potential victims of rape. They also protect our children against those who would allege rape when they are unhappy with their own (consenting) actions. Against being put in a situation where they can’t clearly defend themselves and clearly show that consent was given.
We don’t think our children would ever rape anyone. But rape happens anyway. I intend on talking with my daughter (and any future children – boy or girl) about boundaries. About respect for people and for bodies. What rape means, and how it happens. About consent.
I’m not saying it won’t be uncomfortable. No one wants to believe their child could do something so grievously wrong. But keeping silent about it and hoping for the best can’t be the answer, either. So I’ll teach my daughter to be smart and stay out of dangerous situations. But I will also teach her not to rape.
Photo: Richard Potts/Flickr