I'm Not Raising Rapists
Or, rather, I'm actively trying not to.
With the news over the past few weeks of the Baylor University rape cover-up scandal and, more recently, the news of the convicted Stanford rapist named Brock Allen Turner who received a paltry six months in prison for brutally raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, I feel sick to my stomach every time I open my browser or turn on my television.
I have too many friends who have been raped. And so do you.
One of my college friends lost her virginity by being raped by her junior high boyfriend in the basement of her parents' house. He threatened to tell everyone at school she was a slut if she said a word to anyone. So she didn't. He called her a slut anyway. Another friend woke up to being raped by an intruder to her apartment. A childhood friend was molested by an older cousin on a family vacation. A girl from my high school was kidnapped in a drive-through, gang-raped, and left naked and alone in a South Dallas neighborhood. (The only reason she wasn't dead was because the gun they pointed to her head jammed and they panicked.) Another college friend was date-raped after a party. So was another. And another. And another. All by men who looked a lot like Brock Allen Turner.
My list goes on and on. Yours does too. And, if you don't think you have a list of your own, your friends haven't told you. Because that's how common it is. That's the society we're living in.
And I'm mad as hell about it.
Several years ago, a friend called to tell me that another friend's son had been accused of rape. She went on and on about how this accusation was going to ruin his future. I told her that if she was looking for me to respond with "Oh, poor rapist!" she was talking to the wrong girl. "But think about it. What if it were your son?" she replied. I took a breath, looked at my infant baby boy's big blue eyes, and, in my most steady voice, replied, "If it were my son, I would drive him to the police station myself and leave him there."
And I would.
I am the mother of two daughters.
It makes me physically ill to think of my daughters being in the position of having to guard themselves so carefully all the time. The one time they slip could be the time that someone drugs them at a party and rapes them behind a dumpster. Or films it to show all his friends. Or leaves them bleeding in a ditch.
If you think I'm being over-dramatic, let me tell you that a friend's daughter came to her in high school to tell her that she had decided to have sex with her best guy-friend (not a romantically-involved boyfriend). When her mother questioned her about why she would want to choose to have sex with someone she didn't truly love or even have a committed relationship with, she responded that she thought that it would be better to lose her virginity on her own terms, rather than in rape.
Let that sink in.
We're not talking about waiting until marriage. We're talking about waiting until rape. That's the society we're living in.
After I heard that, I asked a group of girls who were in college if that was commonly accepted thinking in their age group. Unanimously, they all said that she was being wise and that being drugged at a party and date-raped was so common that they were surprised that I was so surprised by it. Then I felt lucky to have not been drugged and raped. How twisted is that? What the hell is wrong with us?
I am the mother of two daughters.
I am also the mother of two sons.
I will be the first one to tell you that when my son comes in covered in mud from an impromptu football game in the backyard, I will chuckle and say, "Boys will be boys!" That applies to dirty clothes. Or a jar of bugs. Or a variety of things that are gross and make me shake my head (weird smells and armpit noises included).
It does not apply to rape. Or to hurting someone else in any way. That's crossing a line that I'm drawing in the sand for my kids. From the time they could understand language, I've been saying, "No means no!" to them. (This goes for my girls too, by the way.) We talk a lot about respecting other people's bodies. We talk a lot about using gentle hands. We talk a lot about being helpers. About speaking up when you see something wrong. About looking out for others.
The one thing that gives me hope is that Brock Allen Turner was apprehended by two Swedish men on bicycles. One of them was so shaken by what he saw that he couldn't stop crying in his description of the scene to the police. These are good men. I know that somewhere in Sweden, two mothers and their communities helped to raise two boys to respect the dignity of every human being. And to stop and help when they saw something wrong. In this case, they decided to cross the "none of my business" line and stop to check it out. Maybe we all need to be a little less concerned that it's not our business when something doesn't look or feel right. Turner ran. They chose to go after him. I can't imagine that it was easy for them. Turner is an athlete, after all. But it's not taking the easy path that makes a hero. No, they had to chase him down and hold him there until the police arrived. I'm sure that's not what they bargained for when they set out that night. It's the Good Samaritan all over. Except it's not one's sworn enemy lying in the road. It's a woman, unconscious, lying behind a dumpster while a morally-corrupt (but Olympic-quality!) swimmer rapes her. Would you have ridden by without stopping to help? Would your kids? Riding by is not okay with me. We, as a society, need to be better than that.
I have told my children, when they come home crying from someone hitting or kicking them on the playground, that it's not okay with me. It's not okay with me for someone to hurt them intentionally. I understand that accidents happen, but intentionally hurting someone else is not accepted in this house. When my kids are the guilty ones (and they certainly have their moments), they know that there are immediate consequences, tailored to the loss of what each of them loves most (screen time for one, ice cream for another, lip balm for a third) and I follow through with those consequences. There's no negotiation. They are also expected to apologize for what they did and answer the following questions:
1. What did you do that was wrong?
2. Why was it wrong?
3. How did you make the other person feel?
4. What will you do next time instead?
"How did you make the other person feel?" Empathy. I'm drilling into my children's heads that their actions directly affect other people and to put yourself in their shoes. What happens if we lose that? I'm worried that's what's happening. I'm worried that's what's breeding this culture. Isn't that partly why we are all so enraged by the rapist's father's letter claiming that a longer sentence would be too a harsh a punishment for his son getting "20 minutes of action"? Isn't it the sheer disregard of how the woman might have felt? And isn't it a selfish entitlement to think that his son is above the law? That the judge should let him off easy because, by golly, he's just not enjoying his ribeye anymore? No. Just no.
I am fighting entitlement every single day. I am fighting the notion that my kids should get everything they want just because they want it. I'm not doing my children's homework for them. If they fail at something, I want them to feel that failure deeply and to learn from it. I'm not here to make everything perfect for them. That's how we end up writing letters to judges as to why poor little Brocky needs to stay home from prison today. That's not the way the world works. Or, at least, it's not supposed to.
And, to the parents who say that boys need an outlet for aggression, I agree. When my son is in a rage, I tell him to go hit a pillow or throw a ball against our garage or play loud music or scribble with angry colors, whatever he needs to do to get the anger and aggression out. But not on someone else. And certainly not on someone helpless who hasn't asked you for it. Only yes means yes.
So, fellow mothers, please know that I'm trying my best. I'm doing everything I can to break this culture. I'm done with being part of a society that allows it. I'm fighting mad. I'm mad for my daughters. I'm mad for yours. I'm mad for my friends who have been victims. And for the victims I've never met.
It stops here. It stops with all of us, one child at a time.