There is an article floating around social media about a young woman who was raped. I read her words, and I cried. I read the details of her trial, and I cried. Then I started seeing more and more articles in my newsfeed. They focus on the rapist. He is portrayed as an Ivy League athlete instead of a rapist, but I don’t want to talk about him. He doesn’t deserve a voice. The day he choose to rape an unconscious woman, the day he took away her voice, is the day he lost his.
One day soon I will need to sit beside Cole and discuss with him consent. He sat in family life this year. He learned about sex, bullying and abuse. Every day he came home, and I asked him to share with me what he learned. With flushed cheeks he repeated the words of his teachers. While we both giggled a lot while he shared details, there was a reason I asked him these questions. I want to make sure we communicate. I want to make sure he knows he can talk to me even if we giggle our way through the conversation. I wanted to know what he was learning.
I wonder if they discuss rape? He never mentioned it. Do they teach them the basics? Do they teach our boys and our girls that no means no?
But the young lady that was raped couldn’t say no. She was unconscious. She wasn’t able to give consent. Rape is so much more than no means no. Consent isn’t given by the absence of no. Consent is given by participation.
I need to wrap my heart and my head around the words I’ll use to teach my boys about rape. As a society I think we teach the wrong script. We tell our girls how to avoid rape (really! Like any girl does anything to welcome it!). We teach our boys to stop if she says no. But what if she can’t say no? What if she’s unconscious? What if she whispers no instead of screams? What if she is so afraid that words can’t leave her lips? What if her eyes scream fear, but her body is paraylzed?
When I sit down next to Cole, I have my own story to tell him. I will tell him about me. I will tell him about being eighteen years old. I will tell him about my fear, my paralysis, and my rape. Rape doesn’t come in one size fits all. It doesn’t always happen in a dark alley after midnight by someone you have never met. Sometimes it happens after school by a friend who ignores your whispered nos and your pleas to leave.
When Cole is old enough and mature enough to consider having sex, I want him to know that it is meant to come from a loving place. It’s meant to be a celebration between two people. If for a moment he questions if his partner is willing, it’s his responsibility to stop.
I have so much admiration for the woman in the article. I applauded her strength, her courage and her vulnerability. She has taken her voice back. I hope I can find the same qualities as I sit beside my boys to discuss an incredibly important topic. I have to find my voice so I can guide them properly. We all do. We all owe it to our children, our sons and our daughters, to teach them more than no means no.
What if the rapist in the article’s parents sat beside him and told him to always make sure his partner was an active participant in sex. What if my rapist’s parents told him that even whispered nos mean no. Fear affects everyone differently. We don’t all fight back kicking and screaming. Rape doesn’t always look like it does in the movies.
Talk to your sons. Talk to your daughters. Let’s change the script of rape our society has written. Let’s save our next generation.
Every 107 seconds a rape occurs in America. 1 out of 6 American women will be raped. Take a moment to digest that number. That’s 17.7 million American woman.
It’s time we all take our voice back.