On April 27 Deandre Levy, linebacker for the Detroit Lions, published an article he'd written called "Man Up." If you haven't read it yet, take a minute right now. I'll wait. I've been toying with the idea of writing a post with this title for a few weeks. I've heard too many stories lately about young girls (my own daughter included) who have been hit by boys. And I'm not talking about young children who developmentally aren't able to express themselves through words, and so they act out - I'm talking about kids old enough to know better.
You're probably thinking that violence is never the answer, and that's what I should be teaching my daughter. You're not wrong. However, more important than that, to me, a victim of sexual assault, is that my daughter understands that she has a right not to be treated that way, that she has a right to defend herself, and that she knows that no matter what, I'll stand behind her. Too many people that I love have been victims of domestic and sexual assault, and too many of them, myself included, have the same story.
We were young, we were scared, we didn't know who to talk to, we didn't want people to judge us, and the worst reason: "the system" wasn't helpful or got in the way. So when I hear stories about unnecessary violence from young boys toward young girls, my response has been, "did you hit him back?"
I want to be very clear - I do not condone initiating violence in any way. And I accept that there will be consequences if my daughter physically retaliates. But I'll be standing right beside her in the principal's office. It's a fine line, and I realize that. You're supposed to just walk away. Turn the other cheek. But there's a difference a squabble with a friend in the lunch room and passively, or even unintentionally promoting a culture in which girls don't know how to appropriately respond to being attacked - or even worse, are discouraged from responding appropriately.
So what does this have to do with Levy's article? I also have sons. I have two sons, and while I'm having conversations with R about not accepting violent behavior from men, about always knowing that I will be there for her in any situation, we also need to know how to talk to our sons. Levy points out that we teach our daughters how to "avoid those situations." What we don't do is spend enough time talking to our sons about not creating those situations. Do I realize that it goes both ways? Sure. Men can be sexually assaulted, domestically abused. That's a conversation to have, as well. But if I'm thinking about statistics, knowing what I know, and having lived through what I've lived through, this is my focus for today.
Talk to your daughters about their rights. Talk to them about what a safe and loving relationship is. Talk to them about what is and is not acceptable behavior from and toward friends and loved ones. Talk to them about not only avoiding and preventing bad situations, but how to respond in bad situations. Talk to them about strength, and talk to them about what they deserve - from relationships and from life.
Talk to your sons about their rights. Talk to them about what a safe and loving relationship is. Talk to them about what is and is not acceptable behavior from and toward friends and loved ones. Talk to them about not only avoiding and preventing bad situations, but how to respond in bad situations. Talk to them about strength, and talk to them about what they deserve - from relationships and from life.