The first time I read the statement from the victim in the Stanford rape case I was laying in bed scrolling through Facebook. My house was quiet, my two boys asleep in their bedrooms across the hall, my husband sleeping soundly beside me. My responsibility as a boy mom was brought into clear focus that night.
I found it difficult to breathe normally as I read through the victim’s detailed description of the night of her attack. I was overwhelmed with emotions. It started with me being outraged by what she had to endure and the attitude of the rapist, his never taking responsibility and what that caused her to feel as she endured months of torment during the attack and leading up to and throughout the trial.
I then felt proud of her for standing up to her attacker and going into detail like this in front of the court room. She was filled with courage. I am not sure that I would have been able to be so brave.
Finally, I became overwhelmed with responsibility as a mom of two boys. I began to feel panic rise up in my chest and wonder if my husband and I have done enough with our boys up to this point to teach them how important it is to respect women.
While I read the accounts of the letters that both the father and mother of the rapist wrote to the court asking that their son not serve jail time, I got angry. Really, really angry.
As parents, we have a soul responsibility to teach our children right from wrong, to hold them accountable for their actions, and to teach them how others deserve to be treated. Is it just me, or have we as a society decided that it is more important to teach our kids to “take care of themselves” instead of to “love and cherish others”?
Our sisters over in Memphis do a great job speaking up for parents and sharing how we refuse to be like Dan Turner. My husband and I refuse to be parents that justify and accept wrong behavior from our boys. Instead, we are committed to loving them unconditionally, but teaching them right from wrong without any gray lines.
I am reflecting on my role as a mom of boys and how it is my responsibility to teach my boys how to treat women. A lot of times, moms of boys can easily push this type of responsibility off on the dad, feeling like it is their job to teach boys such things.
I must pause here and be completely honest with you. I am a confident, independent woman. I am capable of taking care of myself and don’t feel that I need my husband to survive my day to day. Yes. I love and adore him. But I don’t feel inferior to him in any way.
With that being said…I do feel that as a woman, I am not able to defend myself against a man. Women are less physically strong than men. Although I feel that we women are strong creatures in many ways, we should NEVER be put in a situation where we must defend ourselves physically from a man. Therefore, this rape at Stanford all started with a man thinking he could dominate a woman and that she wasn’t worthy of more than that.
As a mom, it is my job to demonstrate, model, and set expectations for my boys. By expecting my boys to treat me with respect, love and admiration I am teaching them how to treat all women. This will teach them to honor women as young men, husbands and fathers.
Dads must “show” and not just “tell” their sons how to treat women. Boys are watching every move their fathers make and are mimicking them from the time they are very young. But it isn’t solely up to the father. And what about boys that don’t have a father in their life? Or even a father figure?
Moms, we have the responsibility to teach our sons how to respect not only us but all women. And we can do it!
From the time my boys could walk and talk, I began teaching them how to respect not only me, but all women.
Here are a few of the things that I have always insisted my boys do, even from a very young age:
- opening doors for me and others, especially women
- saying please and thank you to those that are helping us and serving us in some way
- looking women in the eyes and showing them gratitude
- letting girls go first at games and activities
Doing these and other small acts of kindness embed in young men the importance of respecting and appreciating women.
I then moved into conversations of always being respectful of teachers and Sunday school teachers. To always be respectful and gracious to baby sitters, grandmothers, and aunts and cousins. And the importance of always using kind words and words of gratitude.
As a mom, we must become comfortable talking with our boys about their bodies, about attraction, about permission and consent, about building love from friendship, and about accountability.
Moms…these conversations must become a part of our homes daily. Not just mentioned once and then marked off the list. Consistency, continued focus and honest and open conversations will guide our young boys and young men into loving, caring and safe places for women.
The Stanford rape case is heartbreaking. A young woman’s life and a young man’s life will never be the same.
But we as moms can make a difference. We can teach our boys how to treat women and empower them to be the kind of men that lift women up and respect them beyond measure. We can do it! And WE MUST!