Thursday, May 12, 2016

Consent, rape & reporting. The conversations we must be having with our children

My latest via Divorced Moms. A critically important topic, whether we have sons or daughters.

I Was Raped & Never Told. Who Would Believe Me?
by Lizzy Smith for Divorced Moms                    

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May 12, 2016
635477056998671909Fotolia_70885927_XS.jpgDuring my freshman year in college, a friend, “Suzie,” went out on a date with a fellow student, “Joe,” that she recently met. They drank a little, drove up into the canyon, started making out… And then Joe forcibly raped her. Suzie came back to our dorm visibly shaken, with bruises showing up on her arms a few days later.

“Joe raped me,” she told me in the middle of the night. I stayed up with her while she went from crying, to silence, to rage. As an 18-year old totally unprepared for sex and what it meant (I was still a virgin with limited experience), I did not encourage her to report the crime. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to be raped by a date. After all, I thought that rape was a crime committed by strangers, at knifepoint, under the threat of physical harm. Dates didn’t rape you, especially if the girl put herself in a position that enabled it.

The next day, Joe called Suzie and she went out with him again. This time, the sex was consensual. Over the next year, Suzie and Joe had a drama-filled relationship until summer break when we all went home and Joe transferred to another university. Suzie’s rape was forgotten. During the remainder of our college years together, I witnessed Suzie go from an innocent virgin to a very promiscuous girl. What role did Joe play in her future decisions and beliefs about sex, her body, and her self-worth? Likely, quite a lot. We both grew up in religions that taught us that sex was for marriage only, that it was better to die defending our virtue than allowing ourselves to be raped, that once given (virginity) we could never get it back, and that our dress and physical appearance could contribute to boys’ lusts and behavior. That is quite a burden to carry, I assure you.

A few weeks ago, Suzie and I were talking about sex among high school and college students. She reminded me that her first sexual encounter was at the age of 18 and it was rape.

“Why didn’t you report it?” I asked her.

“Who would have believed me?” she asked.

I wanted to cry. “Why didn’t I encourage you to report it?” I asked.

“I have always believed that I am responsible for the things that happen to me. I should not have been drinking. I should not have gone up into the canyon with Joe. I led him on, I went too far. Part of that was my fault,” she said.

“No, Suzie, rape is not your fault. You had a right to say no at any time and be heard. And you had a right to report it. It was a crime,” I said. And, left unsaid, as a friend, I failed you.

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