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There are two uncomfortable realities about sexual assault in America.

  1. No matter who it happens to (male, female, teen, adult, elderly or a child) it’s far more likely to go unreported. And …
  2. The onus is almost always put on the victim to “not get raped.”

No one wants to be a victim. That’s why it’s human nature to try to look for fault in the victim. We want to believe we have control, that we can make ourselves save. This means we also want to believe that the difference between us and those who are assaulted is that they made some wrong decision and that if we simply go to the right places, wear the right clothes and conduct ourselves in the right manner somehow we will be rape-proof.

But the statistics don’t bear that out with one-in-six women being a victim of sexual assault at some point in her life time.

I don’t think any man is born a rapist. Unless he’s a sociopath without conscious (and sociopaths know no particular gender), that’s not possible. Rapists are made.

From Jennifer Kesler:

Rape is a learned behavior. It’s about enjoying or being profoundly indifferent to someone else’s suffering. It’s about remarkable levels of entitlement and the failure to recognize another human being as another human being. It’s about a gaping hole inside the rapist that nothing will ever fill. It’s way beyond a lack of love and respect. It’s beyond ignorance.

So what can we do to make sure the boys we love don’t grow up to be predators or apologists for them?

Don’t be abusive towards your kids

This seems like a no-brainer. No one likes child abuse whether it’s physical, verbal or psychological. But a child who is used to being treated cruelly, having his feelings mocked and disregarded, being neglected or unloved is going to have some issues.

While many abused kids grow up to become adults who don’t abuse, many also grow up to take out their anger on the world. Children feel powerless in the grips of an abusive parent, but do you know where many of these abused first get that taste of “power?” In finally subjugating and abusing someone else. Some of these kids will be bullies. Some will be users. And some, sadly, will become rapists.

Talk to your kids about sex

Parents are still the biggest influencers in how a child will view sex. If your attitude with your son is to either A) ignore the issue altogether assuming he’ll “figure it out” or B) encourage “early” and “often” sexual activity –whether your son is interested in it or not – you may have some problems.

Kids aren’t born fully understanding things like empathy or the feelings of others. They’re often selfish and singularly-minded as that is the nature of youth. Parents have to make a kid write “thank you” notes. Parents have to make a kid wash his hands. Sex and women are no different. Respect of women (or men, or property, or institutions, or nature) is not innate – it has to be taught.

Talk to your son about consent

Girls get told “no means no,” and sometimes boys also learn that too, but more times than not, there isn’t a lot of chatter about what “consent” means. Make clear with your kids being drunk does not equal consent. Going on a date does not equal consent. Making out does not equal consent. Her being your girlfriend doesn’t equal consent. Even past sexual counters don’t cut it at times. Don’t “assume” your way into sex.
A little confusion is understandable. But a rapist thrives in this “confusion,” seeking these situations “over and over again” and never learning “a non-predatory response to them.

Check your own issues on sex and gender

Both men and women will often engage in speak and behavior that reinforces people should be dismissive of women’s feelings. If you hold judgmental views. If you have little empathy for victims. If you think abused women are “asking for it” or that “she must have said something.” If you are an apologist for abusive people doesn’t be surprised if you find yourself raising someone who shares this view.

And not only might they share these thoughts, they could believe it to a damaging degree lacking in the wisdom and nuance of your own. We all say something judgmental and sexist sometimes, but your kids don’t have a lifetime of experience to know when you’re just rambling and when you truly mean it.

There will always be some who will act as if addressing these concepts isn’t necessary. It’s because we have been conditioned to accept the violations and violence that are perpetrated on others as simply “part of life,” or worse … “men being men.” But that’s not fair, nor is it right. A majority of men don’t rape or assault or molest or violate women – but a lot of men and women supply shade and protection to those who do.

But you can teach someone not to commit sexual assault in the same way most people know that if you find a credit card on the ground, you should probably try to return it rather than buy things. You know that you probably shouldn’t punch someone in the face when you’re mad. We don’t act like uncontrollable beasts in other aspects of our lives. And it’s not “eye-for-an-eye” in America. It’s “call the police and hope our justice system does its job.”

Why is it when it comes to sexual assault we decide we have to take it?

We don’t. And it starts at home. It starts when we’re young.

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87 Comments

  1. I want to know if the author has a son. This is a strange article. No one knowingly raises a rapist and I’m not sure if this is a behavior that a mother can correct. Where is the father in the picture?

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  2. Micole L.

    This article needed to be written. Thank you. I have always said that people are not born murderers, drug dealers or rapist. I do believe it starts in childhood with what children are being taught about sex, about other peoples feelings, about respect.

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