"What is rape, mom?" My 12 year-old daughter asked as I got back in the car following a very quick pet store pick-up.
"Where did you hear about rape?" I asked, trying to recover from the jolt and buy a little more time to formulate my answer.
"Oh, on the radio just now."
And so thanks to Mr. Akin and the subsequent media explosion, I had to accelerate my journey into the discussion of women's rights with my young daughter.
While I had anticipated this topic and we'd had our age-appropriate sexuality chats since she was 8, I was truly grateful for the sage words of parenting expert Betsy Brown Braun who advised me years earlier: "Answer your kids' questions when they ask, honestly and in words they can understand".
So I went to work! Specifically our discussion focused on:
- Understanding the debate in the context of our political system -- letting her weigh-in and presenting both sides' arguments respectfully.
- Separating the issue of whether it is right or wrong to terminate a pregnancy, and think about who should have the right to make that decision?
- That rape is the worst form of violence -- it's a forced and traumatic sexual act.
- That unlike what Mr. Akin expressed -- rape is black and white -- there are no shades of gray here. The terms "forcible rape" or "legitimate rape" have entered the national conversation in the context of politics, not facts.
- Yes, you can get pregnant when raped.
- That sadly, it can be perpetrated by someone you know and trust.
- To always remember that "no" means "no" -- period.
She listened and asked a few more questions, still processing it all in her brain. And while she was doing this, I was moved by her proud acceptance that the world can be a cruel place. Her fairy tale childhood was somehow over.
After all, she will be a teen this year -- a fact that fills me with both fear and excitement.
What will she do with her knowledge? I don't know.
What exactly does she believe is right or wrong? I am not really sure.
But I do know that she's more empowered to make decisions about her own life and fight for what she believes is right.
Still I wonder... How would you approach the question? Share your thoughts here with us.