We all want to believe it’s not my son. Not my son who is the 1 in 3 college men who would rape if he could get away with it. Not my son who is the 1 in 9 college men who have admitted to raping a woman. Not my son who ruined a young woman’s (or man’s) life, because he didn’t know right from wrong. But the hard truth is this: someone’s son is doing the raping!
We all have a basic instinct to justify the actions of people we love and idolize. We don’t want to believe others who claim that these people–friends, family members, favorite celebrities–have done something wrong. This is understandable. Unfortunately, people we enjoy and care about are capable of doing bad things and must be held accountable for their actions–no matter how hard that is for us, as bystanders . If a person says they were sexually violated by someone we know and love, we have to be willing to consider the possibility of that harsh reality. We must lean into that discomfort in order to do the right thing .
Even though it’s happening slowly, norms and standards are shifting toward a systemic response that holds accountable those who commit sexual assault. This is one of the many reasons we should be engaging others (especially our teenage children) in a dialogue about consent and healthy sexuality. There is a real possibility that your son or daughter can be misinformed about what is acceptable behavior and could potentially hurt someone–and then be held responsible for it. Having difficult conversations with your children (and adult peers!) may be awkward for a moment, but could benefit them in the long-run.
Ending sexual violence is possible. Through education, open communication, and a serious face lift of our social norms, we can stop this epidemic. It starts with individuals, but eventually has to move toward a systemic approach. A parent-to-child conversation is important, but a holistic educational approach across schools, churches, and community organizations will make an even larger impact. If we demand this change, we can make it happen.