There has been widespread outrage in the United States after Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student, was sentenced to only six months in county jail (he can get off in three months for good behavior) for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. (Her statement to the court was released and you can read every painful detail of what she has gone through since it happened here.)
When Turner’s statement to the court came out, people were appalled at the show of entitlement, the lack of remorse, and his refusal to accept responsibility. He blamed alcohol and the party culture, but somehow he never saw himself as accountable.
How can this college-age kid shrug off blame just like that?
Carina Kolodny delivers the cold truth: It goes back to parenting. In an open letter, Kolodny, who writes on sexual health issues, says we are unintentionally having misguided conversations with our children that allows rape culture to pervade in our society.
"The cultural indoctrination that I’m speaking of goes something like this: It is a young woman’s responsibility to safeguard herself from rape, assault, harassment, stalking and abuse because boys will be boys and some of them just can’t help themselves," Kolody writes.
For us, women, fear has always been the central theme when it came to the "sex talk" most of us got from our parents--we are the one with "everything to lose." One mom shares, "When my friend had her period, her mom told her she couldn't play outside anymore. Mag-ingat na raw siya sa kilos nya kasi hindi na sya bata. She was confused about it. Somehow the message she was getting was if she plays outside, she could get pregnant."
"You're giving men the wrong idea" is a line often given to us by our parents when we have on "revealing" clothes, act "flirtatious," or wear red lipstick. That's what their parents told them as well. There is no doubt they are coming from a place of love, but it doesn't mean they are right.
As Kolodny points out, "We live in a culture that relegates not getting raped to women and girls instead of expecting and demanding boys and men to be responsible for not raping."
We need to stop having two different conversations with our sons and daughters about sex, where our daughters are constantly on the defensive while our sons are told to bring...protection. "We need to make sure we’re not teaching them some very dangerous lessons, even if just by accident," Joanna Schroeder writes here. "In many different ways, well-meaning parents contribute to rape culture, and our kids suffer for it."
How can we be better parents?
Begin by call body parts by their own names. Our kids can be very perceptive even from a young age. They take cues from us, and if we can't say the reproductive body parts without feeling shame, they will think they're dirty words and should not be talked about.
Stop telling our kids that “boys will be boys.” Doing so makes them feel like they are above the rules, by virtue of their gender, says Schroeder. "It cannot be used as an excuse for bad behavior." We need to stop perpetuating stereotypical masculine--and feminine--attitudes, and it starts in our own home.
Make them understand the word “no.” Education consultant Chary Mercado says you can teach your kids about boundaries even when he or she is just a toddler. As they grow up, expand the definition of consent. "Any physical act must have a full, verbalized 'yes' from both parties for it to be acceptable. Without a 'yes,' it’s still officially a 'no,' and therefore, a hands-off situation. Consent must be given freely and knowledgeably, not when someone is scared, or drunk, or high."
Remember to have the above conversation with your son. We've had what Kolodny calls the "don't get raped" conversation with our daughters. But do we have a "don't rape" talk with our sons? If we want to protect our daughters, we need to begin with the "danger" we often warn them about. Who is that danger? Someone's son, and we need to teach him how to treat and respect women. "It’s so critical that we model integrity, character, respect, and sound moral values in front of our sons," writes dad of four boys Mike Berry.
Teach your children empathy. Michele Borba, author of the new book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, says, "So many of us think kids are born with [empathy] or learn to be that way simply by living. Sure, some are more wired for empathy than others. But parents need to teach empathy intentionally. When your child walks in the door, how often do you say ‘What caring thing did you do today?’"
Here's a way to show them empathy: stop thinking about what did the victim do to get raped the minute we read or hear a story about rape. We have to work on our first instinct to put blame on the victim. Instead, use it as an example to show your children there is simply no situation or excuse where sexual violence is okay--none.
Don’t make the kids feel any more privileged than they already think they are. Mae Raguindin Rafanan, assistant professor of the Psycholoy and Counseling department at St Scholastica's College Manila, advises parents to stop making excuses for their children--and to let them face the consequences of their actions. "We need to ground them on the reality that success comes to those who does honest and hard work. We have to make them realize that not everything is digital or can be had at a push of a button. Allow them opportunities where they will learn clearly that the things worth having are those that they work hard and fought for."
Set an example. You must model the behavior you hold your children to, according to Mercado. They follow our cues on how we treat men and women in our family. Mercado adds, "There are plenty of movies, music videos, songs that make it sound as if sexual harassment were common occurrences, like it is something to be expected in certain situations (for example, a girl is 'asking for it' through suggestive behavior or clothing). This is the time to draw the line in the strongest terms as possible."
Parents, you can change the conversation. Let's raise a generation of kids who understand respect, kindness and responsibility.