A few days ago I was on Facebook (pre-Orlando, which is another post coming, but since I was waiting on this and now it’s basically completely out of the news I feel like I should just post it already) and I came across a suggested news article from Buzzfeed entitled “Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker.” Little did I know the rabbit hole this would lead me down.
It was a weekend day. I had just put my daughter down for a nap. My husband was working in the yard. I took a few minutes of quiet to sit down at the computer and peruse Facebook. Then I came across that letter.
If you haven’t read it, please do. If you have read it, you probably understand how I feel. It’s gut-wrenching. It hit too close to home. It made me think about so many emotional things in the few minutes it took to read it.
The important thing about this letter and this entire situation is that, well, there’s just not one important thing that centers around this. There are a multitude of things. But I’ve been focused on a few that relate specifically to my life in its current state.
Had I read this in college, or post-college, when I had too many nights where I had too much to drink and either did stupid things, could have done stupid things, or could have been victimized, I might have woken up a little bit and changed my ways sooner. Which again isn’t the point. It’s not how much I drank that would have been the problem had I become a victim. It’s that someone would have felt the ability to take advantage of me or had the capability to do so that would have been the problem. Yet as a society we’re still not there, and it usually is the assumed fault of the victim for not being more responsible with themselves, so I thank my lucky stars that on those nights I had some really fantastic guardian angels.
Turns out I read this as a parent myself. A new parent, but a parent nonetheless. I have a very young daughter. I have an even younger (read: fetus) son. And I found myself thinking two very separate things in regards to my children and this situation.
For my little fetus of a son, I thought the same thing many bloggers have said in the last few days. “I must teach my son not to rape, not teach my daughter how not to get raped. I must save this letter and have him read it when he becomes old enough to understand what it means to have and give consent. To have consensual sexual relations. To understand that this is not only a male/female victimization, but that it can happen with any pairing of genders.” I thought about it from the standpoint I wish I had thought about it for my daughter.
My immediate thought for my daughter was that I had to prepare her for the potential dangers of being too intoxicated. What she should do to protect herself from getting in a situation where she may be taken advantage of.
I was ashamed of myself for thinking this. As if she gets too intoxicated she should expect something bad to happen, and also as if she gets too intoxicated that being victimized would be her fault. Yet I still can’t stop thinking that I must warn her of these potential dangers. Why the disparity in my thoughts? I suppose my brain is wired within the current rape culture of our society because I too follow the checklists of what to do and not do in order to not become a victim – not only of rape (because at this point in my life that is a pretty low statistic) but also of violence. Being a parent and being pregnant has rendered me completely vulnerable at many times throughout the day, so I still am sure to mentally follow the rules about how not to be a victim.
Dress “properly.” Don’t walk by yourself late at night. Have your keys in hand. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t fall for any Ted Bundy-like tricks. Don’t do this, don’t do that, and if you do these things properly, you won’t be victimized. You won’t get raped.
That’s just not the truth.
It’s just not the darn truth.
But how do I teach my children about this on an even playing field so one doesn’t feel like a potential victim and the other like a potential attacker all the time? I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if there is an answer. I do know I will try my best, and talk to them openly and answer any questions I can. But until then? Until we can have these conversations? I need to make sure I’m doing the best that I can with those around me. And I can always do better. I can keep learning about good ways to talk to my kids so when we are ready we can have a helpful conversation. I can learn how to talk to my spouse, my friends, and my family about things like this. I can keep the dialogue open and productive.
I can’t do much about the current situation with the Stanford student and the woman he assaulted, but I can support her and others like her, because there are many. Too many. And I do support her. I support her because for everyone like her, there are women like me who could have been her. And that scares the dickens out of me.