A 17 year old teenager, a high school senior, was out with some friends who decided to go drinking and bar hopping. They end up at a frat party at a nearby college campus. By the time they arrived at the party, they had already consumed 2 or 3 drinks-rum and coca cola-like their parents enjoy with from time to time.
At the party, the college boys were also drinking alcoholic beverages and offered drinks to the girl and her friends. Not wanting to look like ‘nerds’ or ‘babies’, they accepted. One more drink led to one more drink, and so forth. One of the college boys seemed to be really attracted to Diane, the 17 year old. In fact, all of her friends were the same age and soon to be high school graduates. The boys were older, slightly, but over 18. The college where they were partying was a rather prestigious school with a student body whose parents were financially a part of the infamous ‘1%’.
The young man who approached Diane was a legacy fraternity member, a football player, and an ‘A’ student who also played the trumpet. An all around ‘good guy’, on the surface. He kept offering Diane more drinks, even though she was clearly already inebriated. He led her to a bedroom, insisting on privacy, and started groping her and coming on really strong. Diane tried to refuse his advances, but he continued and then forced himself on her until,…. we know the rest.
She cried out for help for as long and as loudly as she could, but eventually she passed out in that room. The boy who had his way with her was gone, by the time she awakened and she was a mess. Some of her clothes were off, some torn and clearly, there was some sexual activity that had taken place. This young man, she could hear in the distance, was bragging to his friends about how good she was and how much she enjoyed him. Diane is hurt, embarrassed and abruptly leaves the party with her friends who had been looking for her the entire time she was out of their sight.
Thinking sex was consensual, they were almost congratulating her on her conquest. She was not feeling congratulatory, celebratory or any such thing. She knew that she was raped, even though she went into the room with him seemingly willingly. What happened in that room was not consensual at all. She was drunk and unable to reasonably give consent to sex. He should have known that, and chances are, he did know it.
Diane arrives at home later that night and immediately begins to cry and starts to tell her parents what happened to her. She is thinking that she should go to the police and report what happened to her. What do you think happened when she started telling her story-the truth- to her parents?Who will they blame? What questions do they ask of her? Do they support her and seek justice for their little girl or will they ultimately treat her as the ‘bad guy’ in this scenario?
FACTS: Sure, she was only 17. Sure, she should not have been drinking. Sure, she should not have gone to a college frat house party. Sure, she may have been wearing ‘provocative’ clothing which may have sent the wrong signal to a boy. And, sure, she probably broke many of her parents’ rules. But, did she deserve what happened to her? Should she be made to feel as though it were all her fault?
Shouldn’t she be genuinely supported first. Ensure that she is physically well, mentally unbroken, spiritually still whole and still loved and supported by the people that she loves most?Shouldn’t she be encouraged to report the incident to the authorities, beginning with the campus security, and then the local police? Shouldn’t this be after or while receiving proper medical attention?
One cannot forget her age and the circumstances which led to her presence in that location, but one should not forget that she is still someone’s little girl, a loved one, and a person who, no matter what, deserves respect in all situations. This is a 17 year old who will probably be the first person to blame herself for what happened to her, but that is the absolute last thing that she needs to feel or hear from someone who loves her. She needs advocacy and unconditional love and support. That;s it. She needs someone who will understand and make her feel unashamed and brave enough to withstand all of the blaming and name-calling that may come from outsiders-those who don’t give a crap about this person or her feelings.
When the storm has died down, there will definitely be time to discuss the rules broken and the mistakes made. While in the midst of the storm, she needs to be armed with the auxiliary strength and support from her parents to see her through. Certainly parents don’t want to tell their child that it was her fault, she is a bad person or turn her away. Consider this incident as one of those times when a parent is challenged most to send the best messages to their child, and remember that she is their child-or anyone else’s child. It could be you or I-your child or mine.
What we don’t wish to accomplish be our words and actions is to alienate her when she is most vulnerable, very fragile and lost in a state of confusion. Somebody’s child has been violated, and why it happened is not as important as the fact that it did happen. Help her forgive herself, not internalize this negatively and tell her, show her that she can bounce back. The fact that she made it home relatively safely-alive, is reason to be thankful. Don’t blame the victim and normalize sexual violence or violence of any kind The time for teaching lessons and preaching and punishing if necessary will come later, but don’t you think that she has been punished enough already and learned a lesson that no teenage girl should learn so unfairly
Don’t think of your child as a victim to villify and blame, but a survivor to support and surround with unconditional love and strength to see her through.Offer a listening ear focusing on her mental and physical well-being. Allow her time to recover, offering psychological counseling and/or support groups as part of the recovery process. Meanwhile, no matter who the perpetrator is, go after the bastard and let it be known that it is never OK to violate your daughter, another woman or any other person’s physical space….ever! Otherwise, we show our beliefs in the myths about rape which inform us that…..
Rape myths tell us that people lie about being sexual assaulted.
When people believe in rape myths, they don’t believe survivors.
When people don’t believe survivors, survivors don’t get any support.
When survivors see that they won’t get support, they don’t report their experience.
If survivors don’t report, there’s no way to hold perpetrators responsible.
And if perpetrators can’t be held responsible, violence is normalized.
DON’T NORMALIZE VIOLENCE!