A friend recently forwarded the following article on Not Rape to me. [Note: if the mere mention of rape causes panic attacks, don’t read it.] An excerpt:
Rape is only four letters, one small syllable, and yet it is one of the hardest words to coax from your lips when you need it most.
Entering our teenage years in the sex saturated ’90s, my friends and I knew tons about rape. We knew to always be aware while walking, to hold your keys out as a possible weapon against an attack. …
Yes, we learned a lot about rape.
What we were not prepared for was everything else. Rape was something we could identify, an act with a strict definition and two distinct scenarios. Not rape was something else entirely.
Not rape was all those other little things that we experienced everyday and struggled to learn how to deal with those situations. In those days, my ears were filled with secrets that were not my own, the confessions of not rapes experienced by the girls I knew then and the women I know now. …
Not rape was being pressured into losing your virginity in a swimming pool pump room to keep your older boyfriend happy.
Not rape was waking up in the middle of the night to find a trusted family friend in bed with you – and having nightmares about something that you can’t remember during the daylight hours.
Not rape was having your mother’s boyfriends ask you for sexual favors.
Not rape was feeling the same group of boys grope you between classes, day after day after day.
Not rape was being twelve years old, having a “boyfriend” who was twenty-four and trading sex for free rides, pocket money, Reeboks, and a place to stay when your mother was tripping. …
I grew up in an earlier era, when such happenings were less frequent…or at least less obvious. And yet at least half of my friends have either been raped or “not raped” (i.e. sexually assaulted). I am in the latter group, and I can testify that, as the author says, sexual assault is damaging and painful. The aftermath included, among other things, trust issues with men, which obviously impacted my marriage.
The author of the article closed with a list of things that women could do to help girls stop “not rape”. But she misses one crucial issue: “not rape” is perpetrated against women, yes. But it is perpetrated by men. How do we change our culture so that everyone, male and female, treats each other with enough respect and dignity that “not rape” is eradicated?
This is a serious issue to me because, as you know, I have four boys. I do not want my boys to grow up to be the sort of men who would assault a woman in any way. Nor do I want my sons to hang out with guys who act like this.
I like to think that I have taught my children to respect others. I like to think I’ve instilled a strong sense of morality in them. I like to think that I’ve taught them to be unselfish–to put the needs of others over their own needs or wants. But have I been successful? Only time will tell.