To my sweet four-year-old boy who will someday be a man,
In light of the recent rape case in California that has made a mockery out of how rape culture is handled in our country, I want to tell you another story about a girl who couldn't say no. By the time you read this letter, you will hopefully have learned through my example how to be the better man, like those two Swedish exchange students who were the heroes of this story and helped the girl they saw lying behind a dumpster being taken advantage of.
But there was a time when I was younger, that I was in a situation with a man who was not raised this way. This man thought that because we both had been drinking, that because I sometimes flirt when I drink, that he could have his way with me. He thought that because I couldn't say yes, I also couldn't say no, which meant that what he was doing was okay. He made me a victim. He made your strong, stubborn, courageous mom into someone who was scared and violated. And he never apologized, never faced up to what he did to this day.
I want you to really process this for a minute. I know it is uncomfortable to think of your own mom this way, being weak, and victimized, when I try so hard for you to see me as strong and ambitious. But I want you to picture me, or your cousins, or your favorite teacher, and think of her outside of that role. Think of her as just a girl for a minute, without the titles. Sometimes, this girl may drink too much. Sometimes, this girl may be scared. Sometimes, she may not be able to say no verbally, and sometimes not even physically. Would you be okay with any girl being taken advantage of in this way? I hope your immediate answer is no.
But because this is a message we seem to have to literally pour into some men's mouths so they can swallow it, if you ever encounter a girl like this, I want you to check yourself. I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
Did she tell you no, or stop, or I don't want this, or anything else that indicates no? If the answer is yes, then stop.
Are you in a dirty car, behind a dumpster, in public, or in a nasty bathroom? If the answer is yes, then stop.
Are you touching her inappropriately without consent? If the answer is yes, then stop.
Did you get blatant permission to put your hands or body parts anywhere near her body? If the answer is no, then stop.
Did she at any point in the night explicitly and verbally ask you to be alone with her so you could have a sexual experience? And I mean verbally, not just what you think might be asking, like dancing provocatively. If the answer is no, then stop.
Is her body limp? Are her eyes closed because she's passed out? Is she weakly trying to stop you but having trouble making you stop? Is she unconscious? If the answer is yes to any of these, STOP.
No means no. Silence means no, too. I want you to know the difference between what yes means and what no and silence mean. I want you to grow into an adult and be the protector. Be the guy who notices at a party when a girl who is not wanting attention, gets that unwanted attention and can't get free. I want you to be the hero, not the villain.
Mark my words, sweet boy, that if you were ever the one in the situation like this rape case, I would not be like that boy's father. Because I know the difference from right and wrong, and I know I've made an effort to teach them to you. If you find yourself in this situation, I will always love you, but I will not defend your actions.
It is extremely demeaning and terrifying to wake up knowing that you have personally been violated without your knowledge or consent. It scares you, it haunts you, it whispers in your ear every time a guy touches you after that night. You are never the same.
Please remember that you don't have to be this kind of man. You can be the hero. You can be the boy who saves the girl from the predator. You can make the right decision.
I have faith that one day, you will know why it is wrong to treat another person's body like an object of possession. I have faith that you will see how twisted and wrong our judicial system can be. I have faith one day, you will understand that if you make the wrong choice, it won't just affect your life, but it will forever affect the girl you violated too.
Do great things, baby. Be the change. Be the voice that's louder than the other's. Don't let peer pressure define you into a man who is weak and privileged. You are better than that.
A Mom building a decent man
To read more about the night that changed me forever, in a way that has haunted me since, click here.
Hi! I'm Katie. I am mid-twenties self-proclaimed "goal digger" and "boss babe" currently working on my MFA in Creative Writing. I write about my struggles and triumphs of being a single mom navigating through dating, finding time to travel, and writing about pretty much anything I can think of. You can keep up with my stories at www.writingandwanderlust.me.