Originally Published October 23, 2016
After publishing my blog post It Could Have Been Worse I got a tremendous amount of feedback and support. Much of it from friends, colleagues, acquaintances but also from complete strangers. This feedback and response came in the form of texts to me personally, emails from my blog, Facebook messages and comments, Instagram comments, retweets and responses on Twitter, etc. Many were men in shock and sadness apologizing for their gender (no need gentleman You keep doing You!), many were people saying "I know this, I lived this too - thanks for sharing", many were people just thanking me for being so candid and honest. My post was about self healing and awareness and if I helped one person feel not alone I am 1000x grateful I did it.
However, over and over I kept getting this question - what could have been different? This came from parents of young children asking - how do I protect my little one from this? Or what can I do to help prevent something like this (sexual assault) from happening?
And honestly....that's not something I had thought much about. In my instances, I wasn't drinking, I wasn't dressed slutty, I did - at the time - feel maybe I had "put myself in a situation" to allow that to happen (what a terrible excuse that anyone feels they have to justify sexual assault or assault of any kind but we do it). I sat on it, I meditated and I journaled and talked to friends and realized the answer was actually quite simple.
Talk About It. I think there are three crucial things to consider here....
1 - Talking about stuff like this is AWKWARD. Which that word is awkward.... especially when spelled out, just doesn't look right...I guess it's fitting.
But let's be real. Stuff like this is awkward and weird. I remember listening to my parents (our house was small and I have ears like an EAGLE when I need to) talk about giving me "the talk" and Dad saying, I already knew and Mom saying "How do you KNOW that?" - well, I being of infinite wisdom at the age of maybe 9 strolled all nonchalant through the kitchen and said "I DO have an older brother you know". Conversation. Ended.
Trust me, and if you know me, you know my parents don't shy away from much but we did shy away from talking about anything TOO in depth. I didn't need "the sex talk" I knew what that was about but I probably did need to know it shouldn't be so weird to talk about it. Now with hindsight being what it is - that was the answer....
Talk About It.
Talk about sex, talk about sexual feelings, normalize it, because well as it turns out - sex IS very normal and kind of important to sustaining human life. Talk about the good stuff but don't shy away from the bad. Obviously, this all has to be age appropriate depending on how old your children are but the earlier the better - because if you make it not weird - it won't be weird for your kids to say something to you.
Talking about those feelings (good and bad) and realizing that even if it's just a feeling and it doesn't feel justified - doesn't mean it shouldn't be talked about or paid attention to. NOT shrugging off those feelings (my Momma was/is always a big pusher of trusting your gut) AND telling someone else about them can make all the difference in the world.
People and/or predators don't usually come out of nowhere. There are warning signs, there are warning feelings.... giving your loved ones the space to talk without fear of judgement may be the best gift you can ever give them.
2 - Being polite and being liked is great and good and all....but damn....
As kids we are taught to be polite which is an amazing thing and that politeness will get you far in life - which I firmly believe is true. Being nice to people is one of my favorite things because sometimes people just need a smile, a look in the eye, a compliment, a door held, whatever and that can make someone's day. BUT - teaching kids that it's also OK to not be polite and kind when you have a feeling of being unsafe - is important beyond words.
When you're young you don't know that not everyone has your best interest at heart - you assume they all do. But if someone makes you uneasy - there is a reason. Trust it. Let your kids and loved ones know that's the right thing to do and most importantly let them know you will know you will back them up, you will believe them, not judge them.
Which brings me to number 3.......victim blaming
What are you saying that they are hearing? Do your kids, or others hear you blaming the victim? I don't know one person who wouldn't say "Oh no, I don't do that" ..... but take a look at yourself. You hear a headline and think - ya but why was she out that late? How do you "accidentally" drink too much"? I mean if she can't remember part of the night what makes you think she remembered going for it with him? Etc. Etc. Etc. That is victim blaming.
Trust me. When something like this happens personally we do it to ourselves enough. I shouldn't have been running in such short shorts, my dress was too tight, I stayed out too late..... We do it to ourselves over and over again....We don't need other people doing it too.
But we all have. I know I have. And wow...when I looked back in self study (in yoga we call it svadhyaya) toward a headline, toward a story, etc. I too realized I had been defaulting to..... well, she could be making it up, she's just saying that to get attention, she might just be embarrassed b/c she had been drinking.....
Holy Shit....that realization about myself left me feeling empty. I couldn't believe that I had been doing the same thing that I feared others would have done to me if I had said something or even if I were to name names today.
This is not a political post, but there is a very timely example of this happening right now..... with 11 women coming forward on Donald Trump's inexcusable, indefensible acts. I've known people like him and they can and do take advantage. The accounts I've read I relate to far too well. You're looking for sanctity of human life? Well treat those lives around you with some actual respect.
I'm not asking you what you believe - I'm asking what are you saying, posting, spreading? What does your daughter/granddaughter/niece/neighbor or son/grandson/nephew/neighbor hear you say? Trust me, they listen (kids have eagle ears). They take it in and keep it in the back of their heads for years to come. It forms them and shapes them. Watch what you say. They hear more than you know and take it in. You are their hero. They will never want to disappoint you or have you question something so deeply personal and real.
So in summary - this is really all about Talking About It.
1- Don't make it awkward - it doesn't have to be and you have the power and control to help that.
2- Being polite isn't everything - being true to yourself and well being is everything
3- Pay attention to what you say, how you react. What do they hear? What do they hear you - their biggest fan saying?
Talk About It. The more we talk about it - the less stigma surrounds it, the less incidents there will be. That is my goal.