I have been putting off writing this post. Ever since the Rehtaeh Parsons case here in Nova Scotia and the Steubenville case in Ohio I have been seeing this slogan, ‘Don’t teach women not to be raped teach men not to rape.’ As a father of two boys and one girl I have been wanting to talk about this. But I have wanted to wait until the emotions in my own community settled down some. Now seems as good of a time as any to finally put my thoughts into words.
Let me start by promising I will do everything within my power to teach my two boys to respect women. I will go well beyond just teaching them not to rape. We will have the tough conversations around consent, the internet, text messaging, taking pictures and videos with your cellphone, everything. You have my word on it.
So with my sons well looked after what I want to talk about is the safety of my precious little girl. I am worried about her safety. And I am worried if it becomes unacceptable for us to teach young women ways to help keep themselves safe that my daughter will be at even greater risk.
A few weeks ago I read one commentator say this, “Does it seem absurd if I say we should teach our kids how not to be killed?” The implied answer is yes that does seem absurd. But I don’t think that is absurd at all, I am constantly teaching my children how not to be killed.
Take for example crossing the street. We teach our children road safety. However as a pedestrian you are fully within your rights to cross the street at any crosswalk, regardless of road condition, time of day, or level of traffic. Likewise you can cross the street without looking, without pressing the crossing button, and without taking your eyes off your text messages. Even if you were to cross the street at the height of rush hour blindfolded and wearing ear plugs drivers do not have the right to hit you. But if you do all that you are much more likely to be hit and killed by a car than if you had watched traffic carefully, pressed the crossing button, and then crossed the street.
Another example is home invasion. I have a right to be safe in my own home. I should be able to leave all of the doors and windows unlocked at all times and never have to worry about someone entering my home to steal my belongings or harming my family. And yet every night, and every time we go out I lock all of my doors. Because having the right to be safe in my home doesn’t mean someone will not try to break in.
I agree we should teach our sons not to rape. But I also want to teach my daughter ways to be safe.
I want to teach her to be safe for three reasons. First I don’t think every rape would have been prevented if every boy was taught not to rape. Second even if I did think we could teach every boy not to become a rapist, I know not every boy will receive that lesson. Thirdly even if every parent of every pre-teen boy decides today to teach their son(s) not to rape, and that education would prevent all of these boys from even considering raping there are still literally millions of men young and old that were not taught to ‘not rape’ out there, some of whom are already rapists.
I want my daughter to be safe. I want her to be safe crossing the street, I want her to be safe in our home, I want her to be safe walking down dark alleyways, and I want her to be safe from potential rapists. Because I want her to be safe I want to be able to do my best to teach her (and my sons) to be safe.
We need to stop rape. We need to stop victim blaming. We need to stop failing to prosecute rapists. We need to stop making women feel they cannot come forward to the authorities if they have been raped. But I don’t think we should stop teaching ways that can keep our daughters safer.