May is sexual assault awareness month. Here are some of my thoughts.
This is more than just a women’s issue. Women don’t come forward with sexual assaults or harassments because it’s just easier not to. We risk being completely vilified, shamed, blamed and judged by the clothes we wear, the alcohol we drink, by a flirtatious conversation we had or a bad choice we made in the past.
What we can do besides shout or angrily express our thoughts on the injustice is use this as an opportunity to start open and ongoing communication with our children about boundaries. It’s not enough just to educate our daughters not to get themselves into situations alone, to watch their drinks when they’re out at a party or club and why society would blame them for wearing a certain outfit etc. We also have to teach our son’s. As a mother of two boys I know this is important. I also know they receive mixed messages from girls. I’ve read their texts and messages myself. Some are aggressive and read like a paragraph from an adult magazine. Regardless, my boys are responsible for their behavior and choices.
Therefore, it’s not just one conversation we need to have. It starts when they are really young. When they’re in the playground interacting with the girls on the swings or in the sandbox. It continues with how the boys behave at recess, in gym class and at lunchtime, in high school, online, at the mall etc. I like to think I’ve been somewhat successful in this matter. As my boys were growing up every opportunity I had and still have I discuss with them boundaries and consent and what that meant and means at certain times in their life. From not getting physical when you want the toy she has, not snapping her preteen bra strap and not taking advantage of a girl who may have had too much to drink just to name a few examples. I’ve gone over countless scenarios to ask what they would do and what they should and shouldn’t do. I’ve also made sure they are very aware of what consent is. Maybe, sometimes in great, uncomfortable detail. Sometimes they’re embarrassed. And sometimes they don’t want to hear it.
As a woman I feel the need for them to be taught respect for these boundaries in a loving and detailed, specific manner continually and it’s my responsibility to do so. They know they can ask me anything too. As a mother I’m also educating them and protecting them from any situation they may find themselves in so they make the right choice to treat another human being kindly and respectfully. And of course, so they don’t end up facing a wrath of a court room or worse, the wrath of their mother. We need to educate our sons because this is not just a woman’s issue.