Did you know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness month? And today, April 23rd, the Army (or at least our base) has decided to honor that fact. Much of the base was ordered to wear jeans and a red shirt instead of a uniform.
It was so weird seeing soldiers walk by out of uniform.
Though victims of sexual assault can be female or male, almost 99% of sexual assault perpetrators (i.e. rapists) are male. I’m the mom of a boy. How do we teach our sons not to rape people?
There have been tongue-in-cheek lists made…
But in the end, I think preventing sexual assault really boils down to two key issues.
1. Men (and the 1% of female perpetrators) must be taught to respect women. (And humanity in general, if we’re talking about male victims.)
2. Men (and the 1% of female perpetrators) must be taught to respect the sexual act.
In countries governed by laws based upon the Islamic sharia code, the sexual act is greatly respected. Girls can face incredibly severe penalties if they are found to not be virgins on their wedding night. But there is no respect for females. Women can’t even drive. They aren’t allowed outside the house without a male’s permission. And forget marrying who you wish or pressing domestic violence charges against your husband. Unsurprisingly, Saudia Arabia has one of the highest percentage of rape cases per capita in the world.
The United States has a lot more respect for women. Women are CEOs, serve in high political offices, and compete as equals with men in most public and private spheres. But American citizens are fast losing any respect they had for the sexual act. Everyone has their “one-night-stand” story and movies glorify hooking up with a stranger at the bar as a way of “getting over” being dumped. Far from the 1950s morals of waiting until your wedding night, women are considered prudes if they make their boyfriend wait as “long” as six weeks for sex.
Advertising consensual sex as “no big deal,” also lowers the value people place on non-consensual sex i.e. rape. When I counseled kids in the juvenile jail, I was assigned to the sex offenders unit. I worked with thirteen through nineteen year old males who were primarily in there for statutory rape. Statutory rape means the rapist didn’t actually drug someone or physically force someone, but because of the age difference the victim’s consent did not count.
In Colorado, my state, the law says there can be no more than a 48 month age difference between children having sex. So if an almost 17-year-old has sex with his 13-year-old girlfriend, that’s great. That’s “healthy sexual exploration” and counselors applaud it. If, however, that 13-year-old girl is one month younger and now instead of a 3 years 11 months age difference, there’s a 4 year and 1 month age difference, that boyfriend is guilty of a felony. According to the law, he’s raped this 12 1/2-year-old girl.
See why the kids I counseled got confused? Either sex is a big deal and that almost 17-year-old is in BIG trouble for sleeping with the 13-year-old (he sure would be if I was his mom!), or sex isn’t a big deal and who cares about statutory rape when the girl’s one more month younger.
I support Sexual Assault Awareness month (hey, I wore red when the Army told me too; and I NEVER do what the Army tells me too. ;) But rape culture is never going to be eliminated in a country until both women and the sexual act are respected and taken seriously. Treat either of those casually, and you’re going to end up with Roofies slipped in drinks on your average night at the bar, or teens gang-raped at the side of the road like your average day in Saudi Arabia.