I recall vividly the reasons why my dad had the talk with us kids when I was in high school. A girl who graduated two years before me was living with her boyfriend in a house that shared our backyard. And at least 2 times per week, the sounds of her screams as he beat her echo’d through the neighborhood at 3 am. These were the screams of someone being harmed. These screams woke everyone up. My mom continually had to keep my dad from running to her rescue as the boyfriend was a known drug dealer who had made it very clear he was armed and would shoot anyone interfering with his life.
So each time, we would call the police. The screams would stop. You’d hear a door slam as he made sure he was not in the house by the time the police arrived. You’d see the police cars – usually a couple of them pull up and next to the house. And hear the murmurings of a conversation between her and the police. Body language and hand gestures told you without hearing they were pleading with her. In the end, she would send them away.
This happened for many months. And I remember – after a particularly bad night – my dad going on a rant to us kids. His rant went on about how to treat people. And then he specifically said to my brothers: “if you ever treat a woman like that – abuse her, rape her, assault her, whatever – you had better hope the police find you before I do.”
Looking back at that moment, I saw that my moderately conservative (at the time) father didn’t teach me how to dress so I would not get raped or how to act so I didn’t get raped. No, instead, he taught my brothers not to rape.
And when I think about how he raised me – he raised me to use my words. To not accept someone not listening to what I’m saying – if I’m saying stop or quit, my next step was to physically make them stop. There was no excuse for them to not honor my words or what I was saying. He taught me they were my boundaries to set – and no one else’s.
When I was very young, I ran into this problem. “Boys will be boys” was the comment made to my parents when a boy in my class kept lifting up my dress at recess. I had said something. My parents had said something – but that was the message by the teacher: “boys will be boys.”
Great, my dad decided, then I’m going to show my daughter how to put an end to it. He did. It was my first lesson in where to hit a boy and make him fall to his knees. And it worked well. Ironically when they called my parents to say I was in trouble, my dad’s response was “if ‘boys will be boys’ in how he won’t stop doing this to my daughter, than ‘girls will be girls’ when she puts a stop to it.”
In reflection, my dad taught me that my body was mine – no one else’s. There was no excuse – none – for someone not respecting my boundaries or my words. And, in short, if they disrespected both, they got to learn the hard way. I wasn’t going to change what I wore to school or change my own behavior to “avoid this situations” – nope – I was going to have his full parental blessing to stop it.
He taught her daughter – my father, the self proclaimed “never call me a feminist” – that there was never an excuse for that behavior – ever.
So I look at this rape case in Ohio and get pissed. I get pissed at that community – which by the way is only 6000 people larger than the town I grew up in – and know what happened there. I know the cover up. I know the excuses made. I know that there was more of a focus on protecting the football player than the girl. And I can’t help but wonder if she came from the “wrong side of town” thus lending to the further behavior of the school, administrators, coaches and kids. I know it would have where I grew up.
I get pissed at the media – for letting her name be spoken on TV as they replay portions of the trial. While people are up in arms about the boys and their punishment, they continue to punish her for speaking up – speaking out – and holding boundaries – the boundaries of human decency.
While the media goes on about “those poor boys”, we don’t hear about that young woman who will have to live with the scars of what they did to her for the rest of her life. Who is already getting death threats from peers. Who has a handful of adults standing up for her – but most of the people in the community – educators she may have respected – looking down on her, blaming her, and trying to cover it up.
I get pissed when I hear the sound byte from one of the boys – his “apology” where he apologizes more for getting caught than for what he did to that young woman. I can only hope that some parent or other adult smacked him alongside the head – and forces him to give a real apology.
But mainly I’m pissed at society. We are raising kids who don’t respect boundaries. We are reacting to situations where boys do things to girls as “how do we protect the accused” rather than “what do we do for the victim”. It pissed me off years ago when something happened to my daughter – and people witnessing it were more concerned about the boy who did it than the fact he taught my daughter a hard lesson about trust and the extent a kid will go to get revenge. Even though this situation was not as extreme as this rape case, it definitely revealed a thinking that was prevalent.
I can go on to say we need to teach boys not to rape. I could continue with another rant about how girls should be able to dress how they dress and drink if they want without worrying about having someone force himself on her. But it’s all been said.
So how about this. How about we teach respect for humans. How about we teach that people have value greater than how they dress or act or perform on the football field. How about we teach that everyone has boundaries to be respected – that words that are spoken should be given merit. How about we teach that we are all on this planet together so while you may come from different background – different socioeconomic situation – different cultures – different religions – different educations – different sexes – that none of those are reasons to look down on someone – to treat them as less than human. Then how about we follow it up with consequences for doing that whereby everyone embraces the victim and apologizes for failing the victim somehow while making sure the accused is treated as such – gets a fair trial but is reminded there are consequences for his/her actions regardless of their ability to play sports.
I applaud the State Attorney General Mike DeWine for not just concluding this case with the boys. I applaud him for going after those making threats to the young woman. I applaud him for launching an investigation among the adults about the cover-up and all. Go after all of them. Make this an example. This is a sad state of affairs – and not because two teenage boys were prosecuted, but because a town of 18,000 people decided to go after the rape victim when there was no question of wrong.
While I do not want us to stop teaching our girls to stand up for themselves – to defend themselves, I think its time to teach the boys that if they don’t respect the boundaries laid before them by the girls – then there are consequences – plain and simple.
And not simply that if you do something to my daughters, you’d better hope the police get to you before I do.