Today I’m reading in a national publication about three rape victims in my home state being bullied out of high school. A few weeks ago I was filing a police report, because a man in my building attempted to sexually assault me in the middle of the day. Last year I was explaining to my kid’s school administrators that rape culture was so rampant at the school that they had daily themes of “Titty Twist Tuesday,” and “Slap Ass Friday.” Three years ago, I was taking one of my kids to the safe child center to provide testimony against a child rapist. I could go on and on about my own and my friends’ experiences, but I’m sure the theme is clear by now.
I’m super tired of the “boys will be boys” attitude in our schools. I’m tired of the “girls must cover their shoulders and thighs,” dress code instructions which always come with a “well, boys are just wired to get distracted by girl flesh, so we have to keep it covered up,” explanation when I ask. How is this OK? How is it OK that we’re teaching our boys that they’re mindless animals with an uncontrollable urge to put their penis in anything handy, and we’re telling our girls it is their responsibility to stop that? How is this not completely insulting to men as well as women? And, how does it help our kids foster relationships with the opposite sex? How can a girl feel good about her sexuality if her “job” is to make sure she holds violent threats from boys at bay? How are boys supposed to feel good about themselves, when girls are terrified of them? We are failing our kids.
Our “anti-bullying” measures in the schools over the last few years are well-intentioned, miserable failures. Bullies are not born – they’re made, and using punitive measures with bullies only makes things worse, and nothing gets resolved. I’ve recently begun to study restorative justice in schools, and the tremendous success schools have had who have implemented it. Our “tough on crime” measures don’t even work with adults. Why have we transplanted them to the classroom? If kids have stuff going on, really tough stuff, they’re going to act out. Deal with the stuff – don’t punish the kid. Great quote from a NY Times article:
“The approach now taking root in 21 Oakland schools, and in Chicago, Denver and Portland, Ore., tries to nip problems and violence in the bud by forging closer, franker relationships among students, teachers and administrators. It encourages young people to come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing while challenging them to develop empathy for one another through “talking circles” led by facilitators like Mr. Butler.”
Rape is not sex. Sex is not rape. Stop using those words interchangeably. Rape is an ugly, traumatic, violent crime. I hope that’s not also your description of sex.
Men are not bad. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National network) cites the following in their report for the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault:
“…three percent of college men are responsible for more than 90% of rapes. Other studies suggest that between 3-7% of college men have committed an act of sexual violence or would consider doing so. It is this relatively small percentage of the population, which has proven itself immune to years of prevention messages, that we must address in other ways.”
Men are raped, too. And, we never, ever talk about it. I know men who were raped as children by their babysitters. I know men who were raped by other men. I’m sure you know male rape survivors, whether they’ve disclosed that to you or not.
Sex is not bad. In a country where we’re excited to talk about how much we love God, it’s amazing to me that we want to make our kids feel shame and guilt about very natural and God-given body parts and feelings. Kids need to be fully informed about how their bodies work and the responsibilities that come along with being sexually active. Please no more abstinence-only sex education. Would that have worked for any of you when you were a kid?
Finally, people who have already been raped are vulnerable to being raped again. I don’t know any kids who have been through the foster system who have not been sexually abused by adults or other kids. I’m so jaded at this point that I assume any kid who is in or has been in the foster system is a victim of sex abuse/survivor of rape. Please let’s make sure kids who have already been through hell are not re-victimized.
If you or someone you know is a rape survivor, there are some great resources here. You might also check the resources section of this blog. If you have ideas (or proven strategies) for dealing with any of the issues I just described, please post them here. Thank you for reading.