On Monday we all sat down in front of our TV to watch the Oscar’s. We laughed, we were moved, we clapped and we even cried.
But during the awards it was Lady Gaga’s incredibly powerful performance of her Best Original Song nominee “Til It Happens To You”, which she wrote with songwriter Diane Warren for the documentary, The Hunting Ground, that shook me to the core. Not only because all the emotions of my own ordeal as a victim of rape 30 years ago came rushing in, but because the daughter of dear friends, a girl with the most beautiful laugh I have ever seen, was among the victims on that stage. As a mother and survivor I felt connected to these girls, upset this had happened to them and inevitably heartbroken.
For many of us parents just the thought a piece of human garbage could harm our beloved child like that, keeps us awake at night. For those of us who survived the unbelievable difficult ordeal of being raped, is even worse, as we are emotionally and physically invested for life. For those parents whose children have been victims of sexual violence it is devastating.
Behind every rapist, chances are there is a parent that miserably failed at its most important job.
In quite a large number of cases the parents of those who commit sexual violence are often times the ones to be blamed, not society, not video games, not biology, but us. Until we parents change the way we raise our boys things won’t change. Until we recognize the signs of a sexual predator in our own kids and take charge to prevent future attacks, things won’t change. We must correct bad behavior before it’s too late.
As parents we have a huge responsibility in our hands. We are the biggest and most important educators our kids will ever have, and we must take the task seriously. It isn’t enough to tell a kid not to do something, or praise them when they get good grades, we must teach them how to behave in every possible scenario in life, from their childhood all the way to adulthood. We must teach them to respect both girls and boys equally, but we must above all teach our kids right from wrong. For boys, that it is not ok to force themselves onto anyone, No means NO! We must equally teach girls accusing someone of rape, if it isn’t true, isn’t right either, and can have devastating consequences for life.
Falsely accusing someone of rape is as damaging as rape itself.
Just as damaging as sexual violence is, falsely accusing someone of rape can have devastating consequences as well. Between 2% and 8% of sexual assaults are false according to a report by The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. Many men that have been falsely accused of rape out of anger, bad breakups, monetary gain or just to get back at them, have had their lives completely destroyed, some landing in jail for a crime they never committed.
Sex that is consensual isn’t rape, even if you wake up the next morning regretting the act, it still isn’t rape. Cheating on your boyfriend and one night stands if consensual aren’t rape either. Spreading the rumor your boyfriend or roommate raped you when no sexual encounter even took place, isn’t rape either. If you know someone who is wrongly being accused of sexual assault, and you have proof, speak up.
Sexual violence can be prevented, but that can only happen if we all act.
1. Learn to recognize the signals.
2. No means NO! Get it?!
3. Travel in groups to minimize the risks.
4. If you see someone being molested, act! Say something, call the police, make noise, do anything in your power, while remaining safe of course, to stop the assault.
5. If your friends are the ones about to commit an attack, speak up, tell them it isn’t right, try to stop it, seek help.
6. I know it might sound so 70’s but don’t accept drinks from anyone! In most cases of sexual assault, drugs are involved, which are given without the consent or knowledge of the victim.
7. In most cases those who commit sexual attacks walk out without facing any consequences at all, but that can change, if you speak up, and as hard as it is gather all evidence. Go to your nearest hospital and request a rape kit. Make sure all evidence gets collected, and don’t be afraid to report your abuser to the police.
8. If you hear someone gloating after committing a sexual assault, report it! Talk to the police. By not saying anything you not only become part of the problem you become an accessory to the fact.
9. Just because someone is passed out or too drunk, doesn’t mean you can take advantage of them. It isn’t right to sexually abuse anyone!
10. Often times we hear people saying “she got rapped because she was looking for it”, which is idiotic in itself. A short skirt or shorts aren’t an invitation to rapists, or the green light for boys and men to force themselves.
Only if we join together we can stop sexual violence in campuses and everywhere else. It’s time we all become part of the solution and stop been part of the problem! Take the pledge to stop sexual violence now, at www.itsonus.org.
You have not done anything wrong!
To the courageous girls and boys victims of sexual violence next to Lady Gaga, Fabiana Diaz, my friend’s daughter, the girl with the most beautiful smile, and to all the victims of sexual violence, if you haven’t done it yet, seek help, don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to tell your story, don’t be afraid to speak up! But above all, keep your chins up and don’t let anyone tell you is your fault because it isn’t!
I know you will have nightmares, I know you will burst into tears for no apparent reason, I know there will be times you just want to hide from the world and not shower, I know it will be hard to trust again, and to live life as you used to, but I promise with the support of family and friends, it does get better, I promise you will all survive, I promise the nightmares will stop, and the anxiety will go away, but above everything I promise you will all thrive!