In Maryville, Missouri in 2012, a 14-year-old girl snuck some alcohol with her 13-year-old friend and later snuck out of the house to meet a boy that had been flirting with her.
The next morning her mother found her partially undressed, unconscious on the front lawn, frost covering her hair.
What happened in between the moment she snuck out her bedroom window and when her mother found her — I think we all know. They boy she liked had a bunch of his friends in attendance.
They supplied her with more and more alcohol — urging her to drink it. It’s possible that they drugged that alcohol as well.
And then, the 17-year-old star football player and grandson of a Republican state representative had sex with the 14-year-old incapacitated girl while his friend videotaped it.
Apparently, though, that is not rape.
Despite the fact that girl was later carried, crying and half unconscious to the boy’s car so he could dump her on her front lawn – to the local prosecutor, those events look like consensual sex between two minors.
I read this story – you can read more in the article titled “Nightmare in Maryville” published in The Kansas City Star on Oct. 12, 2013 — and I feel hopeless.
I look at my 7-year-old daughter and think that one of the girls involved that night was less than double her age. I’ve spent the last seven years teaching her to talk and walk and read and write and grow into the lovely, promising young woman she is. Do I have to spend the next seven teaching her how not to get raped?
If I don’t, will she end up like those young women, not just raped, but raped again by the judicial system that refuses to call what happened a crime? Raped by the community and online commenters who tell her that she deserved what happened? Will she end up in therapy, suffering flashbacks and anxiety, trying to kill herself when it gets to be too much?
The fact is, I can’t teach my daughter “how not to get raped.” Even if she never drinks, always dresses in frumpy clothes, never goes out alone, doesn’t walk down dark allies – there will always be some man or boy who can figure out some way to exploit a weakness of hers or take advantage.
I’ve spent the last seven years teaching her to talk and walk and read and write and grow into the lovely, promising young woman she is. Do I have to spend the next seven teaching her how not to get raped?
The possibility is always there, no matter how she conducts herself.
It’s hopeless, isn’t it? There is no way to prevent our daughters from getting raped.
Except, as a writer I look at avoiding passive voice. Girls don’t “get raped.” That sentence is lacking the person who completes the action. To rewrite an old adage: girls don’t get raped; boys rape girls.
So, I look at my sons. And that hope gains a little strength. Despite the fact that I can’t teach my daughter how not to get raped, I can teach my sons how not to rape.
I can teach them that they are never to have sex with a girl who is too drunk to know what she’s doing. I can teach them that taking advantage of younger girls, using friends to coerce her, and recording sex are all crimes in my book, no matter what the justice system says about it.
I can teach them that not only does “no mean no,” but “no yes means no.” I can teach them to be decent human beings who, like their sister, would not hurt another person for their own pleasure.
And if all parents did that, that none of us would have to worry about teaching our daughters how to protect themselves.
We wouldn’t have to worry that “teen antics” like underage drinking would lead to rape for our young girls.
Instead, we could just keep teaching them, and our sons, how to be beautiful, intelligent, happy human beings like we’re all doing now.
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