Thursday, June 13, 2013

If Girls Must... What Must Boys?

Recently, a friend posted a link to Just Yell Fire, an organization that purports to address the widespread violence against women in our world by teaching girls to stand up for themselves...

At first I felt intrigued. As I read, I realized there it was... That same pervasive idea that girls are responsible for the actions of others. Girls must change their lives to stay safe. Girls must act differently to not be assaulted. Girls must limit themselves to not be targeted. Girls must...

Here we go again...

When do we begin to teach boys to not rape? To not abuse? To not commit violence against women? To take no for an answer? To respect girls’ right to say no? To listen for an explicit yes? To respect boundaries? When do we say boys must be responsible for doing the right thing?

It is all good and well to teach girls to stand up for themselves, to empower themselves, to be safe, to create boundaries, etc., but it only goes so far.

Until we move the message to the whole of society and begin to teach both boys and girls they are equal and to respect one another’s boundaries, we are only fixing part of the problem.

Girls sometimes, far too often, do everything right and still get raped. Often those girls then feel like they didn’t do enough to keep from getting raped. They are even less likely to report because they feel they failed not only themselves but women in general.

Just Yell Fire's efforts, as holds true with many other organizations, to empower girls come from good intentions, but we have to move away from a place where we only address part of the issue.

I am deeply troubled that society continues to teach girls to not get raped without ever bothering to at least attempt to teach boys not to rape. And, then questions the girls when their efforts to not get raped don’t work thereby reinforcing the idea that girls get raped because they didn’t stop the rape while excusing the rapists for their behavior.

Jackson Katz addresses the idea of bringing men into the equation when discussing violence against women quite well in his TedX Talk, Violence Against Women - It's a Men's Issue. Even Katz's words are only a start, but they show us what is possible if we are willing to see it. We have the power to change the paradigms that perpetuate the roles we currently inhabit. It is our choice...



Recently in the course of a conversation about rape, the person I was speaking with said "I would never let that happen to me." My hackles rose immediately. Shame statements come in many forms. This statement implies that others do let it happen. The person to whom I was speaking went to great lengths to convince me that's not what the statement means. But, if a person thinks he/she can somehow keep rape from happening to him/her, he/she either thinks he/she somehow has special powers or strength or intelligence that the victims of rape don't have or he/she thinks the victims somehow let it happen. Bringing me the point, no rape victim lets rape happen. By definition, rape is a forcible act. There is no "letting" it happen.

As long as we keep teaching girls how to not get raped, we also send the message that if their efforts fail, they somehow let it happen. That is unacceptable.

We have to stop putting girls and women in a position to feel like they are responsible for being raped even in the course of attempting to empower them. There is only so much one can do to stop a rape. The time has come - is past due actually - when we must recognize the rapist is responsible for committing the rape. Period.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... Surviving Rape is not a crime...


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