09 June, 2016

Be a lighthouse - Stop rape culture !!


(Image courtesy : spitfiregals.wordpress.com via Google)

There is outrage again – and rightly so.  With the Stanford Rape Case out in the open, the focus, the spotlight has once again landed on the problem that is endemic, worldwide, one which is undoubtedly rampant.   Misogyny reigned supreme yet again as Brock Turner (charged with rape and sexual assault) was let off with a minor sentence. 

There are protests, there are petitions on for removing Aaron Persky from the bench.  I signed a petition myself because I do personally believe that misogynistic people like Persky have no place in the legal framework, let alone on the bench.  How can women even hope for justice to prevail with such people around ?  He was in an official position to make a statement by endorsing accountability and doing his part in stubbing misogyny.  He did exactly the opposite.

I read a letter by the rape survivor – one she read out in court.  It was horrifying, it made me sick to the stomach and mad as hell.  Yet, despite all the lady in question went through, it was she that was being questioned, it was her life that was being dissected at will by Turner’s legal representatives, it was her word that was being questioned – all the while with the perpetrator in plain view in the courtroom. 

In fact, Turner’s father is said to have gone way ahead of himself and described the rape as his son’s ’20 minutes of action’.  With that kind of attitude in his head, it is small wonder that his son thinks raping women is a done thing, is perfectly ok and that it is his god given birthright (perhaps).  These people belong to a band that considers themselves unaccountable for anything and everything they do. These people belong to a band of people that consider it their birthright to get what they want, when they want – a shameful faction of the human populace who believe they are unaccountable for their actions, who bring up their children with the idea that they too are totally unaccountable for their actions and then there are friends and neighbours who contribute to such rotten standards.  Then you have judges like Persky who let these criminals off lightly, thus granting their own passive approval to the crime committed.   I’ve often heard people say that it takes a village to raise a child.  In this case, Brock Allen Turner is a rotten apple in the basket which has been tended to, catered to, raised and now supported by a whole village that has putrid standards.
Just because he is a swimming star at Stanford does not give him the right to rape, it does not give the judge or people to justify what he did.  What  he did was wrong.  Period.  He should pay with his freedom, commensurate to what he did.  Period.

I go back to what I’d said quite some time back.  If parents don’t fulfil their responsibilities and duties in educating their children, what hope do we have for the future ? 

The one undisputable fact parents all over the world need to attempt to bear in mind is the fact that children are the future.  So, if there is no endeavor on the part of parents, to educate the future generations about issues like sexual abuse, rape, being sensitive towards the needs and feelings of others, understanding that a NO means a NO and that a NO does not mean a MAYBE or a YES, what foundations do we hope to build ?  If this does not start at the family level, how can we even begin to hope for a safer, more secure world for the future generations to grow up in ?

Whether we like it or not, we live in a society that is evolving by the minute.  The pace of change affects children even more so because they, at this age, have minds that are more gullible than ours.  We are bringing up our kids in a society in which peer pressure has more of a push now than it did when we were children.  What peers say, matters.  What peers think about them, matters to them a great deal.  We are bringing up our kids in times when information is there for the taking.  Newspapers, the internet, magazines or social media websites – are all open fields, waiting for information to be sought and gleaned.

Take movies or TV serials, for instance.   There is no denying the fact that as things stand now, girls and women are still viewed as a conquest of sorts in many movies or serials.  Falling in love or being sexually active are viewed more as a victory or a triumph, a conquest, if you may, rather than something that is born out of consent, mutual affection and desire.  There are books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” where the main protagonist in the book “agrees to take” the female protagonist’s virginity without the two of them “signing an agreement”.   Makes it sound like a favor that the male protagonist is bestowing on the female.  There are scores of youngsters who have ready access to books like these or many of the movies, where male superiority and dominance over females is clearly the underlying theme.

Every single time a child picks up a newspaper or a magazine that asks “what was the women doing out so late at night ?” “Was she drunk ?” “Was she improperly clothed ?” “Did she have a lot of boyfriends ?”  “Was she already sexually active ?” – thought processes are unconsciously being implanted in those susceptible minds.  Their minds are automatically being driven towards associating these notions with the idea that if these conditions were present then it was the woman that was asking for it, that it was the woman that was to blame.  We, as adults, are comprehensive enough to realize that no woman ever asks to be sexually assaulted or raped.  No woman ever asks to be violated.  How about the younger generation ?  Who’s going to teach them to read between the lines here and get the point across that if it has happened, it is not the woman who is the instigator, as the media and people rather conveniently seem to deem and assume.

Society gives boys a lot many more concessions than it does the girls.  Things like sensitivity and empathy are not a “requirement” in a boy’s psyche, simply because they are males.  Boys need to be educated, they have to be taught about consent, they have to be taught about respecting others’ feelings and sentiments, they have to be educated about the evils of peer pressure.  They have to be taught that there are lines which are not meant to be crossed.  I do know, as my own son grows up, that this is easier said than done.  When those teen hormones are raging through them, it takes very little to drown out the parents’ voices and replace them with those of other teens who are equally testosterone driven.  But that is no excuse for not trying to educate them in the first place. 

It is a parental responsibility and one that needs to be taken just as seriously as we take their education and the many other aspects of their lives that we deem important.  Apparently, Turner’s parents thought otherwise, what with his father still going around making absolutely crass statements.  If there’s anyone out there who goes around giving some excuse for his behavior as lame as ‘boys will be boys’, I have just this to say.  Boys who learn to respect consent are boys, Brook Allen Turner just had his credentials changed – He is a rapist !!

I loved what the survivor said at the end of her letter.  While I am terribly terrible sorry for the ordeal she went through, a part of me is proud of her for having stood up in a courtroom full of people who were trying and doing their level best to malign her, in a courtroom with her rapist in it, in a courtroom with a misogynistic judge presiding – she stood and she said what she had to say.  I have just one word for her. 

Respect.

Towards the end of her letter, the survivor quotes Anne Lamott when she says
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” 

Yes, lighthouses shine.  They guide.  They show the path towards avoiding danger.  They ‘prevent’ disasters. 

For every parent all over the world – Be the lighthouse !

We need to be a lighthouse in standing up for right and wrong, even when it involves our own kids.  More importantly, we need to be a lighthouse in guiding our kids as they grow, teaching them the value and importance of consent and more importantly, to respect a ‘NO’.  We need to be a lighthouse in teaching them that a NO means a NO and not a MAYBE or a YES.

We, as parents, have a parental responsibility in believing and carrying forward on the premise that we need to actively do our bit in raising our children to be more responsible citizens and more importantly, more caring and empathetic human beings.  We, as a collective, as parents, need to make serious changes in the manner in which we talk to and convey to our children the importance of sex, consent, empathy and respect and how they are inextricably interlinked.

Be a lighthouse.  Stop the spread of rape culture.