Do you ever notice that when you talk about rape or abuse or sexual assault, people come out in droves to tell you that they’ve been through something similar?
And no one is surprised.
And why should they be? We’ve all heard the statistics. 1 in 6 women (and 1 in 33 men) will be sexually assaulted. 60% are not reported to the police. Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Approximately 73% of rape victims know their assailants.
It is alarming how often women are used and abused, seen as nothing more than a means to an end. Or at least, it sure as hell should be alarming.
Although, if you turn on the TV or sit through a modern day film, you’re probably not at all surprised to see women exploited and objectified over and over again. Hell, you may not even notice it anymore.
So, what do we do?
We can donate money. We can counsel survivors. We can listen to people tell their stories and we can even try and tell our own. We can do everything we can to help these victims heal and get on with their lives.
After the fact.
But is that enough? Shouldn’t we be trying to prevent this from happening in the first place?
I thought about this on Wednesday as I watched the comments come in. I watched as person after person shared that they knew the pain intimately, and I wished that it wasn’t so easy for so many people to relate. I wondered what we could do to make a difference – what could I do to stop this from happening over and over again?
We can teach our daughters about safety. We can talk about dangerous situations and teach them self defense. We can build them up so that they know they deserve better than that. And to some degree, I think that helps.
Except for the 73% of rape victims who are attacked by someone they know, and in most cases trust.
It occurred to me that perhaps the fatal flaw in our efforts is in our focus on the women who so rightly evoke our compassion and sympathy.
The problem is not inherent in the victims and would-be victims. The problem is inherent in the attackers and would-be rapists. The problem is in the men and boys who grow up seeing women as objects to be controlled and dominated.
In as much as it is our daughters who are most likely to become victims, it is our sons who are most likely to become victimizers.
And that’s who needs to hear your story.
Your brothers. Your friends. Your nephews. And especially, your sons.
They need to know that “boys will be boys” is not an excuse. They need to hear that the same morals and ethics and sexual standards that we apply to our daughters apply to our sons. They need to know that every woman they encounter, no matter how she’s dressed or how she dances or how much she has had to drink, is someone’s daughter. Or sister. Or mother.
They need to know that you don’t have to be better than a woman to be a real man.
They need to be told that “you’re such a girl” is not an acceptable insult.
They need to be taught that it is not tolerable to leer at a woman and strip away her humanity so that you can get a better view of her tits and ass, simply because you don’t know her.
And they need to hear it from us. They need to hear when we shut off the radio and turn the channel on the TV as a reminder that exploitation is never “normal”. They need to hear it from their fathers who refrain from objectifying women in the name of male bonding.
If the statistics and climate of sexual assault is going to change, it is our sons as much as our daughters who need to hear our stories. And they need to hear it from you.