I haven’t written and posted anything in here in years. I have been motivated to a few times, last when the synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked, but life got in the way. Tonight I could no more ignore my need to write than I could forsake my children.
I am so grateful tonight that the open, honest relationship I have worked so hard to cultivate with my children, now both teens, is still open enough with my almost 17-year-old daughter that she could come to me with an important issue.
Not 6 months ago I had a serious discussion with her about reporting sexual assault, if it should ever occur. I still pray it never does. However, tonight she told me that twice this week a boy in her science class sexually harassed her. From what I understand, when it happened Monday she blew it off. When it happened again today, it rattled her. Badly.
Tomorrow morning I will be starting my day at her high school, planning to speak with her principal. My daughter and I had a long talk about what happened, and whether she would report it. She wants to, she understands the importance of reporting sexual misconduct, in this case harassment. I told her I would support whatever decision she made, whether to report it or not.
How is it that today, in 2019, this is still even a concern? How is it that the lessons of the past are so ingrained in me that my biggest concern about her reporting something that left her shaken and feeling threatened and unsafe, was that if she faced retribution it could be more damaging to her psyche than the harassment itself?
I trust in her school, in her counselor and principal and teachers, that they will have her back, as I know her friends and community and I will. I plan to keep my cool when I go into the school tomorrow but if I find out afterward there is any retribution, I will go all mama bear on them.
I fully understand that no matter how far we think we’ve come as a society, some boys are just boys ruled by their hormones and lack of respect. But that’s still not acceptable. It’s bad enough it happens in dating situations, but for it to happen in a classroom, twice, is beyond unacceptable. In what universe is it remotely acceptable for a senior boy in high school to tell a junior girl he wants to fuck her? To repeatedly ask her why she’s still a virgin and to tell her at least he’ll still be nice to her afterwards? And how in the hell can other students not say anything when he says he likes to take girls’ virginities? How is that even something that can not have other kids chiming in, coming to her defense? Again, this is 2019, not 1989. We’ve had the #metoo movement and the #timesup movement. We watched, as a nation, as a victim of sexual assault which occurred during my teenage years was repeatedly verbally attacked, harassed, and threatened for coming forward about that attack. We were outraged and swore that wouldn’t happen again. And that was what prompted the discussion with my daughter 6 months ago.
At that time, my inclination was to tell her if it ever happened to her, not to report it, because she would be victimized again, verbally, as a result. But instead, I told her the importance of reporting it, if not for herself, than for the next girl. In part, in hopes that by reporting it there wouldn’t be a next girl for that boy to assault.
And tonight, I sit here hoping that lesson, now hitting so close to home, is not the wrong one. I pray and trust that those in power in her school will do the right thing, not only in dealing with what happened already, but in protecting her from any fallout.
Tonight I sit with tears in my eyes that my very grown up 16-year-old, who is still so very young, is having to deal with this, when she should be more worried about her college English class or her next pre-cal test, not whether she should report sexual harassment from one of the boys who sits at her table in science class.
The #metoo movement should have given way already to the #notmydaughter movement (no, not yet a real thing) in the hopes of stressing that we’ve had enough and aren’t going to allow this culture to continue to affect our next generation. They’re the ones who will be shaping the future. They’re the ones who already worry about safety in school from mass shootings. This should not be happening.
Hold your babies close. Even if they’re now taller than you. Empower them with the knowledge that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do, although it’s often by far not the easiest thing to do. Teach them to stick up for themselves, as she did today. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her for standing up for herself and not backing down. It makes my heart swell with pride even as it’s breaking that she had to stand up for herself in the first place.
Keep the lines of communication open. We as parents must always be a safe place for our kids to come when they aren’t feeling safe. And teach your kids to stand up for themselves and others. There will always be bad eggs out there, but if enough of our kids are standing up against what’s wrong, the future will right itself.