Arm your daughters — With words.
I was not-raped, once when I was twelve, and several times when I was (barely) fourteen. The details of those events are not part of this post, which is “squick safe”. The article linked above is awesome, but might squick you, fyi.
At the time those incidents happened, I didn’t know how to say “this is coercion”, “that was sexual assault”. I’d never heard those phrases used in context, in spite of having lawyers in my family, and I’d never been told who to tell them to or how.
In spite of the fact that I barely knew what the words meant, I did know that they weren’t really important, to adults or to society. Rape was important, or at least usually important enough to sue over (but not if it was just “your word against his”, because then you wouldn’t win and the attorneys would make you look like a slut in front of everyone — I knew that at that age, as did everyone who owned a TV). But if it wasn’t rape — if you weren’t held down and penetrated, in front of witnesses, all while screaming “no” and wearing conservative clothes — then it wasn’t worth mentioning, or rather mentioning it would only make you look bad. Talking about incidents of harassment or assault, other than in whispers to your closest (female) friends, was somewhere between needless bitching and outright slander of the men involved. Other men, and sometimes teenage boys, sternly looked down upon such talk, especially if it involved naming names.
I had nearly fifteen therapists during my teenage years. None of them ever asked me if I’d been not-raped. Well, one did, but she meant by my dad — the context of which question is quite enough to put anybody off the topic, you know?
My daughter will know what not-rape is. She’ll know what “assault”, “harassment”, “coercion” and “statutory rape” are, and she’ll know that all of them are illegal and who she can talk to if any of them happen. (Oddly, she won’t be told to go to the police, whom I feel I can trust completely to make such a situation worse. She’ll be told about the relatives and friends of the family who are trustworthy, and how to spot other adults and groups who might be.)
And she won’t know when she’s sixteen, when it’s more comfortable for me to raise the topic. She’ll know before she’s twelve, because that’s the first time a man held me down and groped me in the public swimming pool. Parents who suppose that they’ll keep their daughters safe by keeping them away from “drug parties” and the like are fucking morons, I think. As if predators don’t ever go seek prey.
And lest you think, out of ignorance I hope, that not-rape doesn’t ruin lives, I suggest you think again. Not-rape leads to phobias, deep trust issues and relationship problems, and shattered self-confidence (usually at exactly the time in a person’s life when the shattering is most profound). It took me years upon years to even begin to feel that I was on my way to being over it.
Hell, this is the first time I’ve ever spoken of it “in public”.
See what power having the words, and a place to speak them, can be?
My daughter will also know kungfu — and believe me, my experiences in not-rape do play into that — but if I could give her only one thing to help her prevent and deal with not-rape, it wouldn’t be self-defense lessons, which can only help some of the time. It would be knowledge of the words, and where to speak them.
What about your daughters, sisters, nieces, friends, students? Will they struggle through it alone for decades, unable to think anything other than that they deserved it somehow, or will someone give them the words?
And what about the boys and men — the only people who can realistically stop not-rape? Will they ever be taught how harmful those actions can be, and that they’re not acceptable even a little, and that the victims are never to blame for them?
I guess time (and words) will tell.