Teach Your Children Well
One week ago, within minutes of the verdict in Steubenville, I posted my weekly column. I gave the Reader’s Digest version of events, spoke about why it happened and then talked about the Rape Culture that has taken this country by storm. And by Rape Culture, I’m talking about the rape apologists who think the perpetrators of the crime were “children”, their little brains weren’t fully developed, thereby absolving them of the responsibility of their crimes, and those who would heap blame upon the parents of the victim for permitting her out of their sight and upon the girl herself for drinking and being in the company of relative strangers. Of course, my favorite comment was “This girl didn’t lose anything. So she got ‘fingered a little’. She’ll get over it. These boys will have to live as registered sex offenders for the REST OF THEIR LIVES for a youthful indiscretion! A year in jail when you’re 16 is a LIFETIME!” I could only mutter one reply to that. “Fucking REALLY?” Things got pretty ugly. Why the rape apologists were too chicken shit to voice their opinions right here, in the comments section under my words and instead chose to use my personal Facebook page as a place to say some pretty despicable things, I don’t know. My personal Facebook page has been shut down indefinitely to protect some rape victims from being re-victimized on my page. I can live without Facebook. I think if people want to say something about how women are to blame for rape, they should use their real names – their full names and state their case in the space provided below. My Facebook page provides such a limited audience, and if they’re so sure they’re right, they should plead their case to a wider audience right here.
You want to know the most disgusting part of these conversations? I was having most of them with other women. That’s right. The rape apologists were, at least on my wall, in a 3 to 1 ratio of women over men. That part stunned me. From being told I was being too harsh and looking at this very “one dimensionally” to being accused of hating men, I fought off those who said I was being calloused and judging others because they have “more complex emotions” than I do. Fucking REALLY?
It took me a couple of days to ruminate on this. To really stew over the words written there to consider why women would be the ones defending these young football players. Hell, even CNN’s report on the verdict was more of the same. More fawning observations from two women reporters about the tragic lives of these two boys, how deeply emotional the verdict was and the devastating impact to them. CNN spent all of 15 seconds talking about the victim… just long enough to remind everyone she was intoxicated. Period. Of course, there was a public outcry about CNN’s response – for which both of the journalists in question are shocked, shocked I say, that anyone would think they were sympathetic to two rapists! It’s six minutes long. You watch and decide for yourselves:
Maybe it’s just me – but I was taken aback at their observations that after what the “State of Ohio” had done to them, it would follow them for the rest of their lives.” The State of Ohio meted out some pretty tame punishment, given all for which those men could have been charged. The State of Ohio did their job by handing down a sentence. I don’t have to agree with it. They got what they got. They won’t go to an adult prison and learn what rape really feels like. For that alone, I feel they should consider themselves lucky.
And you may have heard that two teens girls have been detained by the State of Ohio for threatening the life of the victim in this case. Yes. She was threatened by teen girls. Plenty of boys took to social media to blame her and call her a whore, but the girls were the ones offering up the most vicious attacks. But as the lady said above, “Nothing happened to the victim. She didn’t lose anything.” Fucking REALLY? But it gets worse. Take a look at this:
I thought to myself it couldn’t be real, couldn’t be true. I’ve looked for Goodchild’s original publication and can’t find it, however, I have seen it cited in numerous books written by credible people such as Naomi Wolf and one blogger went so far as to research it herself, citing those books on www.fearus.org. You can click any one of the links there and see the actual books in which the study was cited. Now, what I find interesting is that on some of the questions, more than half of the males in the study felt it was acceptable under certain circumstances to hold a female down and physically force her to have sex. Even more stunning is that on several of the questions, more than 30 percent of the young women questioned felt it was acceptable.
I have to ask the obvious question. When did so many women, especially young women buy into the idea that we are personally responsible in any measure for unwanted sexual advances, up to and including rape? When did that happen? Who sold these young women a bill of goods, making them think they don’t have the right to decide who or what penetrates their bodies under every circumstance? Who taught these young people that boys have a right to take something that doesn’t belong to them, simply because… they want it, feel entitled to it and will take it no matter what? Folks, we have failed our children by not dealing with this subject honestly or even dealing with it at all.
40 years ago I was just coming of age, coming into the fight for women’s reproductive rights, birth control availability for all and a new awareness for women that we were more than the property of our parents or a man. My adult life has been rooted in the certainty that rape is a crime, in every circumstance. It’s the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex. It means you can’t have sex with an individual who is so impaired they cannot give informed consent. It means you can’t have sex with an individual who is, for all intents and purposes, unconscious, regardless of their behavior prior to losing their faculties. It means that when you stand idly by, snapping photos and recording video, you’re not innocent – you’re an accessory to a felony. But I’m saying this to a nation of onlookers. I’m speaking to a nation of people who believe that unless it’s happening to them, it’s someone else’s problem. If it’s not my daughter, it’s a parenting issue. If you believe that, you’re looking at the issue with the eyes of a traffic accident onlooker. Titillating to watch, temporarily slowing down traffic enough to get your attention for a few moments, but happening to someone else and really none of your concern – not to mention forgotten by the next day.
I think women of my generation had convinced themselves that we truly had “come a long way, baby”. So much so, we assumed that the civil rights for which we fought more than a generation ago were such a part of our essential self, that the results of our fight would somehow be “endowed” to future generations of women for all time. Of course, now we know none of that is true. We know it’s not true when the victim in Steubenville can have her name aired by Fox News. We know it’s not true when after the verdict, news outlet after news outlet continued to discuss the men in terms of “star athletes” with “brilliant and promising futures”, the victim as “drunk” and the crime still “alleged”. Before you accuse me of being hyperbolic, let’s turn the tables:
Men in this country are raped every day. Have you ever heard someone accuse him of lying about being raped? Has anyone ever asked him what he was wearing? Did you ever hear anyone say he shouldn’t have been drunk or been in the company of strangers or gone anywhere without a friend to avoid being raped? Has his name been publicly released by news outlets and have you ever heard anyone disparage his character, call him “a whore” or held out for ridicule on social media? No. We know male rape happens, but it’s widely under-reported and it is rarely discussed. Men hold a stigma about it because they fear everyone will think they are a homosexual. This partially explains why young men, victims of pedophile priests take decades to admit what happened to them. I’ve interviewed male rape victims and they deal with a shame far beyond anything I’ve discussed with other women, but it doesn’t change the fact that even if we did talk about it, men wouldn’t automatically be assumed as liars. I mean, who admits to this? There is an undercurrent in the national conversation that women somehow like talking about being sexually assaulted and revel in their “victimhood”. Are you seeing the double standard here? Women are not proud of being raped. Women do not enjoy being a victim. Rape is rape, regardless of the gender of the person being raped. Do you hear me? Rape is rape.
In August of 2011, Vicki Childs and I aired our first program about Military Sexual Assault. I did a promo video for that show that has been viewed more than 64,000 times. You only have to read through several pages of commentary under that video to understand how endemic the problem is – not rape in and of itself, but societal attitudes toward the victims. The comments there pissed me off and simultaneously made me throw up in my mouth, but you know, “Freedom of Speech” and ‘Murica. Shaking my damned head.
This is far from over. Last week, two football players in Connecticut were charged with felony second-degree sexual assault and other crimes last month in cases involving different 13-year-old girls. At least one of those girls is already being taunted on social media for being a whore, snitching and ruining the lives of these young men. I doubt there were any real lessons learned in Steubenville, like the people who ruined the lives of these young men were the young men themselves. Gawd forbid we should expect star athletes to accept personal responsibility for their fates off the field.
What is the lesson we should be teaching our children? Rape is rape. Rape is never okay. Rape is never acceptable. Reporting rape is something every man, woman and child should be able to do in a safe environment. Moreover, authorities should take rape more seriously. Only 3 in 100 people who commit sexual assault ever spend a single day in jail. I’d like to think we will teach our children that if you have the chance to safely stop a crime, you should. The excuse that kids get caught up in the pathology of the pack mentality and fear doing something is a phenomenon we can overcome by having honest conversations with them about what it means to do something heroic. Heroism isn’t performed in a sports arena. Heroism is performed by everyday people with an inner voice that tells them the noble thing is to personally intervene or call someone who can. We must challenge those who would apologize for or excuse the behaviors of the men perpetrating these crimes because they’re young, or male or athletes. We have to stop explaining rape as a “woman problem”.
What is the lesson we should be teaching our children, especially our sons? To be kind. Once you get that lesson down, the remaining lessons come easy. To the fathers: when you stop equating kindness with weakness, you’ll make a real man out of your sons. No one can teach them like you can. Here’s a little Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to bring it home:
And if you have anything to say to me about this – do it here and use your real name.
Carol Baker is a free-lance political writer. She is a regular contributor to Here Women Talk.
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