The first order of business in reducing the incidence of rape is to shift the focus FROM the survivors of the crime TO the perpetrators. Once we have put the spotlight on the boys and men who are committing the crime,Â our cultural tolerance will decrease, the likelihood of prosecution will increase and the consequences will start to become more meaningful as a result.
This is an environment conducive to change and progress. Next, put the following three strategies into practice:
TALK to your son(s) – without the clear, compassionate moral rudder of a concerned parent willing to have an awkward conversation (and tolerate many sighs and eye rolls), your son’s ship could likely run amock. If you aren’t teaching your boys how to treat girls and women, guess who is? Media and social media. According to a study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8-10 year-old kids are consuming 8-hours of media/social media per day and older kids up to ELEVEN HOURS. Is this the tutor and nanny you want molding the mind of your child? Start when they are 6-7 years-old with age appropriate teachable moments and keep the conversation through college. Educating our country’s young men about respect, by-stander intervention and consent is a parent’s responsibility. Educating boys will protect both young men and women.
New legislation is being introduced that would create a standard disciplinary process to curb the campus sexual assault epidemic and more young men might find themselves expelled from college for the same behavior that’s been tolerated for generations. No more.
MODEL what “normal” looks like – A mother is a son’s first love. She shapes his definitions of normal and healthy relationships. Your son takes his cues from you. If you are a doormat, what is that teaching your son about respecting women? If you are a tyrant, how do you think he will try to reclaim his sense of power and control in the world? Raising children should be an Olympic event. It can be grueling, exhausting, it’s a 24-7 lifetime endeavor and there’s no money to be made. And you get one shot to do your best. Once kids decide who they are, you’ve crossed the “nurture” finish line.
Although you may have some influence in their decisions once they leave the nest, while they’re in your house you have an opportunity to help your sons be compassionate, respectful and fair human beings who understand that girls and women deserve to be treated equitably. You also have a chance to instill the reality that violence is a crime, not a communication strategy–don’t tolerate violence in your house.
3. ENCOURAGE your relatives and friends with boys to talk to their sons – Those of us who have daughters don’t have the opportunity to help boys understand the ways to behave respectfully. I have a daughter so my mission is for her to see my husband and I treat each other with respect, even when we are having a “spirited” disagreement. We make sure she gets to see the arguments, compromises and apologies. I do everything I can to ensure she sees what equitable relationships look like: both mom and dad sharing responsibilities (doing housework, working, cooking, shopping, etc) and taking care of her. I’m lucky that my husband is naturally sensitive and finds it easy to be affectionate with our daughter. He is her first love and she will expect a lot from her future partners.
For those of us with daughters, our job is to arm them with a clear sense of what it looks like to be treated with respect, prepare them for the double-standards and teach them compassionate communication to stand up for themselves and others. Awareness is a real game changer. Helping people in your circle of influence understand the benefits of talking to their boys and girls about respect, consent and by-stander intervention will do more in raising a generation of healthy young adults than any government program or new law could ever hope to.
Please help make the world a better place by raising the bar on how we expect our boys to behave. The “boys will be boys” attitude is outdated and dangerous. Our boys and girls deserve better.