I am more than woman, more than mother, more than what is between my legs and I will not be defined nor minimized by it. I keep asking the same question over and over, a question no one can seem to answer definitively. “Where are women safe?” not on college campuses where 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, where they must carry the weight of sexual assault like a mattress. Where are women safe? Not at home since approximately 4 out of 5 rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization crunched the numbers
Here’s the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)–there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.
There are 525,600 minutes in a non-leap year. That makes 31,536,000 seconds/year. So, 31,536,000 divided by 293,066 comes out to 1 sexual assault every 107 seconds.
One sexual assault every 107 seconds…Where are women safe?
I have two daughters, 14 and 7, they are both at risk. I am raising them in a world where they can at any moment become victims of some kind of sexual harassment or assault. Preparing for this is not possible. There is no real way to explain the risks of just existing in a space without instilling a traumatic amount of fear and paranoia inside of them. On the flip side, you are doing a disservice as a parent and by your children if you don’t speak to them about it.
No amount of wishing the world wasn’t the way it was is going to prevent ugly things from existing. Ideally, my girls and I would be able to go anywhere without ever feeling even an inkling of fear for our bodies or lives. This is the way I want the world to be for all women but reality paints a different picture, a picture in which a woman or girl is victimized every 107 seconds.
Where are women safe? My immediate answer is “With me, at arm’s length or closer,” but that ever agitating “reality” insists I can’t possibly be everywhere, always, forever. So we talk, we tell the truth and we do it compassionately. I am not an expert at sexual or child psychology, I am a mom – I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and then some, I’m an expert at momming. Here’s how I address the dangers of sexual assault with my children.
- Sexual assault is not a “girl’s problem” – this isn’t a burden for us to carry, this is a reality for us to be aware of. Our girls are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior but their own. Men and boys are responsible for their own impulses, desires, and behaviors. That’s the first basic lesson I provide my children – we are responsible for our own choices and the consequences.
- Nothing you wear, say, own, no place you go, nothing you do justifies unwanted attention. Sexual predators are bullies. Recognize them and stay away. This is a good opportunity to point them out on TV, in video games, current events where applicable (i.e. the Chris Brown assault of Rihanna was a serious teaching moment about violence against women).
- I will believe you, I will not shame you, nothing you do, now or in the future, will ever stop me from loving and protecting you. Never be afraid or ashamed of my judgement because I will not judge you. If someone hurts you, touches you, makes your insides feel yucky, even if it’s someone you love and trust, tell me, I will believe you. I trust you implicitly.
- The world is a patriarchy and women have to demand respect and equality unapologetically. This is neither fair nor right but until we figure out how to fix it we must face it. There are some men who look at women as objects, there are some women who look at themselves as objects. Expect more for yourself without judging others and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected.
- Don’t be afraid to protect yourself, at all times. No means no and if you say it and it isn’t heard then you are within all of your rights to defend yourself with any and every tool/weapon at your disposal.
- You don’t have to smile at anyone, at any time of day, no matter who is asking you. You don’t have to shake a hand, give a hug, or kiss unless you want to. You are in charge of your body and everything you do with it until the end of time. The choice is up to you and only you.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up, use your words and boldly identify your feelings. “No thank you, I don’t want to,” or “I’m sorry to hurt your feelings but I am not interested”. Hurt feelings aren’t permanent but the shame of being manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do lingers for quite a while.
- Be responsible for yourself and responsible for each other. Women (and the brothers, fathers, cousins and guys who respect and love us) absolutely should stick together and look out for each other in the world out there. According to the statistics I mentioned above, no one else is really doing that for us. Be aware, talk to each other, talk about sex and love and trust with each other.
- Raise your sons to be responsible for their mother’s, their brothers, their sisters. Teach them to be courageous citizens of the world. Teach them to respect themselves and women and honor the individual above the gender or any other superficial thing.
- You are precious, you are valuable, you are worthy, and you matter to me. Your mind, your soul, and your presence is a blessing to the world. Carry yourself through the life carefully but unapologetically.
Where are women safe? Are they safe in your heart, in your home, in your community, where you work, or play? If you are having a hard time confidently answering that question then follow it up with “How can I help ensure women are safe everywhere?” because in the time it took me to write this post more than 68 women were sexually assaulted. Our girls deserve better, we all do.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) – Free. Confidential. 24/7. You can find more support or learn more at RAINN.
feature photo Keep my heart safe by MoonlessNightGirl Deviant Art