It has been the viral crack of the week. Outrage has swirled around social media as people learn of Stanford University student, Brock Allen Turner‘s lenient sentence in a prominent rape case. The cavalier attitude of Turner, his father, and the attorney representing him have served as rocket fuel for women and those who love them as they try to make sense of such a depraved lack of remorse and extremely soft punishment.
Acceptance or a shoulder-shrug towards rape is NOT exactly what I had in mind when I began raising 3 beautiful children!
After reading the title, “Rape Culture Starts As Early As Middle School” on the Scary Mommy blog, I had to weigh in. As the mother of two incredible teen girls and one remarkable teen boy, this story makes my stomach sick, and the blog post rang true in my personal experience. There are so many hints of this indecency that DO begin with the way children behave in the middle school years!
As you read this post, my youngest child is making the long-awaited exit out of 4 hellish years at our public intermediate school. Her time there has been distinctly marked by marginalization, repeated bullying, and even physical harm. Because she has diagnoses ranging from severe ADHD to social processing challenges, her difficulties over the years have been treated in a dismissive fashion by teachers and administration alike. The lack of responsibility taken by those charged with teaching and caring for my daughter during school hours has been stunning.
Here are only a handful of altercations she has endured. She had one situation during the bitter cold winter where the school held “indoor recess.” As it turns out, this type of recess left children alone in their classrooms while 2 recess monitors stood outside in the hall to supervise 4 classrooms. One must wonder what rocket scientist thought this was a great idea as they put the policy into place. My daughter was being chased around her particular classroom by a male student that she had had trouble with in the past. She kept trying to move away from him, but he pursued her. I suppose if the two recess monitors in the hallways were deep in conversation, ignoring the kids as they usually did on the playground, they likely missed this interaction. At one point, my daughter finally sat down on the floor next to two friends who were sitting and hid behind them to avoid the boy. This provided her no safety as he kicked her in the head in his attempt to dislodge her. Did you hear that? HE.KICKED.HER.IN.THE.HEAD! Provided no safety and previously feeling dismissed by the adults in charge at the school, she cornered him the classroom supply closet and slugged him. That finally made him back off.
Subsequently, after school, this boy’s mother picked him up and noticed bruising. She promptly marched him into the principal’s office, wondering what had happened to her precious, stalking son. Of course, this boy named my daughter as his assailant, gaining her a detention the following day. When I was notified by the school that they were giving her an “in-school detention,” I immediately removed her from the school, knowing that there was something more to the story. Finally finding the courage to make her voice heard, my daughter sheepishly told me the entire story. I was furious. I insisted that this detention and scuffle was removed from her permanent record. The principal agreed to remedy my daughter’s records. However, there was an uncomfortable silence when I insisted that he give this boy, who was the true assailant, a detention. It never happened. The principal at that time was a gay male, by the way, showing that this misogyny knows no gender.
Later in that same school year, a boy on the playground wanted to use a piece of playground equipment that my daughter was on. When she wouldn’t get off the equipment soon enough for him, he whipped her around and slammed her head into another piece of the play set. I ended up with her in the local emergency room diagnosed with a concussion. While the father of the boy was a stand-up guy, paying for her medical bills, no amount of money could make up for the stress of all the missed school and the pain of our girl’s 3 weeks in a dark, quiet bedroom resting with a head trauma.
Despite this mistreatment, our daughter literally has all male friends as her female peers refuse to include her. While she was recently at one of her friends’ houses with her small group of buddies, even there one boy was hitting her. She told him, “Stop!” but he continued. When she became quiet and tearful, he told her to quit being such a wimpy girl. I urged her to go get a parent next time this happens, and she expressed fear of being further ostracized and scolded by her friends. I assured her that stopping her male friend from hitting her now would prevent him from going to jail for hitting his wife in the future (although I have to question the truth of that comment now with the Turner miscarriage of justice).
It seems she has learned that she either has to fight for herself or she is out of luck. Most recently, she told me of an encounter with another boy at school who was poking her and calling her a b****. Despite repeatedly telling him to stop, he would not relent. The final time, she found her inner strength, twirled him around by the finger, put him in a head lock and said, “Do you wanna call me the b-word NOW?” He conceded the point and finally backed off.
Although I am happy that my daughter, who aspires to one day be a police officer, has learned to defend herself, I am concerned about the day when she is not big enough or strong enough to subdue her male counterparts. Male attitudes towards females begin formation in the home. Kids today are too often treated like just another piece of furniture in the nice house or a possession like the nice car. Parental engagement, modeling, and discipline seem almost too much to ask these days. Mothers and fathers are far more concerned about catering to make their children happy than they are about shaping them into respectful, responsible, wise adults. Furthermore, in a generation where schools are perfectly comfortable with boys identifying as girls (see At Alaska state track meet, a transgender athlete makes her mark), is it any wonder these males don’t know where the boundaries lie? The lines are too blurry for their immature minds to discern. Add to this the fact that our children are witnessing a wider cultural deterioration in decency, whether it be a woman getting pelted with eggs at a political rally or demeaning language used towards those with whom we disagree. And Self seems to be everyone’s god today, from leaders, to teachers, to students, to parents.
I will never claim perfection. I am a sinner, saved by God’s grace, just like all of the other members of my family. Even so, I think it is time to get back to basics where children are concerned. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Parents need to seriously fulfill their job as their children’s role model and demand proper respect. — It drove me nuts when my children were little and adults just wanted to be called by their first name. “Mr” and “Mrs” were and still are titles of respect I expect of my kids when they are addressing other adults, because they are not on the same level. Furthermore, hitting and name calling is viewed as completely indecent behavior in our household. “Please stop means please stop the first time,” is a rule in our house. Violators are disciplined. And my husband sets the tone for how our son will treat women.
- Boys need to know that they have greater muscle mass making them stronger than they might perceive. — A boy may identify as a female, but his genetic make up puts him on a different plane than his female peers. Every boy needs to know his natural tendency towards strength and be cautioned to proceed carefully with how they treat girls. This is another area where my husband has had to have a discussion with our son, especially when he caught our son mistreating one of his sisters.
- Mothers have as much responsibility as fathers in the rape culture. — While I may have two girls, I am also the mother of a boy. He knows in no uncertain terms that if I ever hear of him mistreating or being less than gentlemanly with a girl, I am coming for him. I have taught him to hold doors for girls and to treat them with respect. Unfortunately, I think my stern, Irish mama tendencies are a rarity these days. Boys are either taught to treat girls are their absolute equals or to treat them as objects to be used. Both of these are damaging the interaction between the genders. Equality is extremely nuanced because we are not equal in every way. And females are not commodities to be used and discarded like a piece of toilet paper. Dignity is something that mothers can impart to their sons by demanding that they be treated with such.
- Girls need to know that they may not be taken seriously and to be taught self defense. — As my daughter’s intermediate school nightmare clearly demonstrates, our girls can end up feeling defeated and discouraged when they go to authorities for help. If those in charge do hear them out, still nothing may take place to protect our daughters. Just look at how the judge responded in the Turner case! When those in charge at a school or at a private home cannot assure my child’s safety, she has every right to do everything in her power to assure her own safety. Period. I don’t care if your son is bruised. If he is not mistreating my daughter, she won’t harm him.
Heavily identifying with the notion that this rape culture begins in our kids’ formative years, I may be inclined to defend my girl, especially the one who has already endured the lion’s share of abuse. However, I think that in properly raising my son to act with decency, I am protecting him as well. God’s word says, “Even children are known by their behavior; their actions show if they are ·innocent [pure] and ·good[upright].” (Proverbs 20:11, EXB) We need to be sowing good seeds early on if we want our children of both genders to be yielding good behavior. There is simply no more room for this sort of barbaric mistreatment of girls in an enlightened, evolved culture.