As y’all know, I’m not afraid of chucking a few 4-letter words out there in my blog.
But today I’m going some place different — it’s dark, it’s scary, and it’s not often the subject of an otherwise (relatively) lighthearted “mom” blog like Bitch’in Suburbia.
And that is exactly why I am going there:
Because I am a mother.
Because I am a woman.
Because I stand with Kesha, whose case against Dr. Luke will go well into 2017 if not beyond.
Because I am still outraged about UVA rape case, which thanks to horrendous reporting and a gross, potential “catfishing” scenario at its core, now makes it much harder for women to come forward AND be believed when they claim that they have been sexually assaulted or raped.
And while there is an endless amount of more becauses, I’ll go right to the one that makes it personal: Because I am a victim.
Which I was reminded of when I made a video recently for a contest aimed at igniting the conversation about feminism called #TheFWord, sponsored by SheKnows Media and the Ms. Foundation.
First, a quick overview of the video (which you can watch below): While I’ve always been a feminist, I know that if we’re ever going to level the playing field, we MUST ignite the passion in our daughters to fight for equality. And so I dropped some “F Bombs” — statistics that illustrate gender-based inequities in all aspects of our society — on my daughter’s softball team.
The visual of the girls hitting those balls with all their might makes the case, I feel, in a very powerful, moving way.
F Bombs included things like the fact that only 20% of our congress is female (which means 80% of the laws here in the good ol’ USA are made by men); more than 280 pieces of legislation have been passed at the state level since 2011 that limits or even effectively blocks a woman’s right to choose; women make 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, etc.
But the one F Bomb that incited me most was this: 1 in 6 women will be the victim of rape or sexual assault in her lifetime. (Source: RAINN | Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
In the context of the video, that means that at least 2 girls on my daughter’s team, statistically speaking, will be raped or assaulted. For college girls, that statistic is actually 1 in 4. This happens most when the woman is incapacitated in some way or another.
And actually, that’s my story. I was working as a camp counselor the summer before I was a senior in college, enjoying a night out at a local watering hole towards the end of an otherwise great season. During the course of the evening, a guy I had known for years struck up a flirty conversation with me, and I flirted back.
While I wasn’t obliterated, I certainly had had a few drinks. Eventually I excused myself to go to the bathroom. As I turned to shut the door, I realized the dude had followed me in. I gave him a playful shove and told him to get out. He shoved me back.
Not so playfully.
I stumbled backwards, and landed on the ground. A second later he was kneeling over me, fumbling with his belt buckle. At that point I yelled, “What the hell are you doing?” and kicked him where it counted, hard. He seemed as stunned as I was and quickly ran out of the bathroom. I locked the door behind him, my heart pounding.
As I left the bar, I told a friend what had happened. She must’ve told another friend, who told another… and so on… because the next morning I was called into the camp office.
I figured I was in trouble, so once again, my heartbeat kicked up into high gear.
Instead, I was met with kindness and compassion as the camp director gently asked me what had happened. After protesting that nothing really went down — that I maybe had a little too much to drink and that it was no biggie because I handled it — she quieted me down and said to me the words that every woman who has gone through something like that should hear. “It wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t your fault. We’re going to take care of this.”
After that, the enormity of the situation hit me, and a barrage of emotions overcame me. The shame and guilt was replaced by tears and anger. Still, knowing my bosses were on my side gave me great comfort and hope that justice would be served. The directors of my camp did talk to the directors of the boy’s camp where guy worked.
And while my people asked that they do the right thing and fire him, the directors of the boy’s camp decided otherwise. Because there were only a few days left at camp, and perhaps because in the end, no physical harm had befallen me, the dude was disciplined (no more nights out, poor baby!) but not let go. I was told he was very well liked by the campers, and if he left abruptly, it would be upsetting for the children.
I’m guessing the boy’s camp directors also didn’t want the word to get out that they had a potential rapist on their staff.
And this is exactly why rape — attempted, completed, etc. — is a 4-letter word. It’s just too loaded for so many people, particularly those in power, and so it’s suppressed, minimized, bastardized and often, worst of all, ignored.
(Footnote: I had a vigilante BBF [Best Bastard Forever] that took matters into his own hands and keyed my attacker’s car. So some kind of justice was served.)
And that was that — a story from decades ago. But then a funny thing happened on the way to creating the video I called “#TheFBombs.”
When I described what I was doing to some friends, I couldn’t help but pause when I mentioned the 1 in 6 and 1 in 4. I felt compelled to say I was part of those statistics.
And in every single instance — at least a half dozen times — the woman I was talking to said, “Oh yeah, me too.” And then she’d tell her story.
2 out of 2.
2 out of 2.
2 out of 2.
2 out of 2.
2 out of 2.
2 out of 2.
Which in my itty, bitty poll made it 100%. We’d all experienced some unwanted sexual something — from inappropriate touching all the way to rape.
I knew I had to write about this in my blog, but there was another precipitating event that made it that much more urgent. And no, it wasn’t just noticing how both of my teens — a girl (15) and a boy (16) — are coming into their own. I see their posts on Instagram — cute, sexy, strong, posing, posturing, etc. — and know they’re starting to experience their sexuality and experiment with things as teens are wont to do.
It took opening this week’s Lenny letter and reading the story of author Jessica Knoll’s gang rape at AGE 15(!) — THE SAME AGE AS MY DAUGHTER — which informed her novel Luckiest Girl Alive, to make me realize that NOW is the time to talk to my children about sexual assault and rape.
To teach them what that 4-letter word means to girls and guys alike.
To watch films like The Hunting Ground together and discuss.
And to make the story personal, because unfortunately pretty much everyone has their own story about times when NO didn’t seem to mean NO. This applies to all parties — from innocent bystanders to perpetrators and victims.
Thing is, NO always means NO. If not to someone else, then to yourself — and so if you have that knowledge, you might just say NO I don’t wanna be here and get the hell out of a bad situation before it turns horrendous.
There are no guarantees and no givens — thanks to shame, fear, peer pressure, guilt and a whole host of other complicating scenarios — and that’s why the statistics are so grim.
So if you see me dropping atomic F bombs (R bombs?) just know that I don’t think anyone is a statistic, and that everyone has a story. TELL is also a 4-letter word, as is STOP and NOOO. (That last one is just for effect but you get my drift).
Now — here’s my #TheFBombs video. It didn’t make it to the final 6 BUT there are some amazing videos that did and that deserve your time and attention. Voting goes through April 3rd, so go VOTE NOW!
Blog image: David M.