The Key To Preventing Rape Is Really Very Simple — Here It Is
There's a lot more to "don't rape" than what meets the eye.
This week, a particularly infuriating episode of Law & Order SVU aired.
Two college men raped one of their female peers. Because she had participated in the making of porn movies prior to the incident, the men told the jury that they thought she wanted it. One of them even confessed that they had no idea that what they had done was rape.
While this scenario was a fictional one, these situations repeat themselves over and over and over again. And it's the same old story: Boy rapes girl. Girl cries rape. Everyone blames girl. The rapists receive little to no penalties. Instead, the questions that immediatley follow are What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Don't we need him for this team? While the accused rapists get to live their lives, the victims carry the weight of it all, including the guilt, shame and yes, sometimes the mattress for justice. Clearly, the way our system has chosen to handle rape doesn't help anyone but the rapist.
But even more infuriating is the idea that rape prevention should come from women. Yes, women should take precaution to be safe, as should men, but we need to stop acting as if this is the only way. Date rape nail polish detector, the buddy system, walking during the daylight, holding keys between your knuckles, covering up a revealing outfit, walking quickly past aggressive street harrassers, even toting a gun etc. is barely stratching the service of a much, much deeper issue. They're bandaids on a wound that's already deeply infected.
Campain after campaign has surfaced over the years urging parents to talk to their teens, boys and girls, about protection from STDS, about drinking and driving and about seatbelts. What we don't hear too often is the urgency for parents to talk to their sons about rape — until now.
It's really simple: Don't rape.
Now, people whose cognitive dissonance tells them that this world will always have rape will dismiss this method, but don't let them. We need more faith than that. We need to give men more credit than that. What these critics can't see beyond the simple command of teaching "don't rape" is the act of putting focus back on the perpetrator instead of the victim.
Teaching the concept of "don't rape" — in more age-appropriate terms of course — starts when our children are on the playground and your son (or daughter, because men can be raped, too) pulls another child's hair. It means telling your child to respect other's personal space. It means teaching your middle school son to keep his hands to himself no matter what his crush is wearing; to not say "atta boy" when he whistles at his classmate on the street. It means teaching him in high school to always ask permission to touch, respect boundaries and garner pride from having someone that shares themselves with you, not bragging about how they gave it away afterwards.
Perhaps the boys in the SVU episode, or the real boys and men, who have committed rape over the last decade would have still raped despite being taught otherwise by their parents, teachers and other supervising adults. Perhaps rape will always be around.
But taking those answers as fact will never convince me or the 237,868 victims raped or sexually assaulted every year until we try, really try. Teaching "no means no" is different than just trying to tell them to "be a good person" and "respect women." As tweeter Phoenix Arn-Horn put it: "Because if you talk to your daughter about safety, you should talk to your son about consent." The line has become too blurry and the consequences too great, otherwise.
Imagine that — a world where victims didn't take blame and we taught men that rape will never be tolerated. That's the world I want my son to live in.
I saw a quote on a Chipotle bag once, and after getting over the shock from seeing something so profound on a fast-food bag, I snapped a photo of it. I think, at this moment, it rings true now more than ever.
"We will never have a perfect world, but it's not romantic or naive to work toward a better one."
If anything, it would be foolish not to.