I don’t remember ever being taught about consent.
Surely I must have been. At some point.
Otherwise, why didn’t I ever push past slow down? Grabbed a co-worker inappropriately? Why haven’t I violated a passed-out date? Never thought that my satisfaction was more important than my companion’s well-being?
Is it because I have a mysterious genetic predisposition for decency? Is it the happy result of growing up in the era of peace, love and happiness?
Damned if I know, but somewhere along the way I learned not to inflict my baser desires on other people. Perhaps it sounds like I think I deserve congratulations or that I think that I’m the fortunate exception, but you know what?
Most every other man I have ever known learned the same damned thing.
And still, there are those who will take what they want, regardless of the consequences.
Did you read that last sentence and immediately think what consequences, as if the perpetrator was the one who was damaged? Interesting.
The primary, ongoing, and permanent cost of these assaults is borne by the victim. At what point are we as a society going to see their suffering as the consequence of import? Why do discussions of life going forward invariably focus on the rapist and not the raped? How is it that we blindly reframe sexual crimes presenting the violator as victim?
All of us know people who have been harassed, assaulted, abused, raped. The fact that the acts are so common that this sentence sounds dismissive feels like ground glass in my digestive tract.
My generation is now of the age where not only have these been assaults against our friends, wives, mothers, partners, but against our daughters as well.
Our kids all know somebody who has been harassed, assaulted, abused, raped.
Forget ground glass, that sentence fills me with absolute, overwhelming, reduce-a-fucker-to-a-crimson-stain-on-the-wall rage. As parents, we have responsibilities. We’re supposed to protect children. All children. We’re supposed to keep them safe.
All of us know (or have been) parents who have ignored, reframed, dismissed these crimes against our children. We might not see it, we might not see it as an issue, but they’re there, in our lives, and we need to do better. Call them on it, stop letting shit go. A parent’s example is the primary determinant of a child’s behaviour. Amplify that with the confusion and pressure of peer groups and the result is horrific.
Our kids all know (or have been) somebody who has ignored, reframed, dismissed these crimes. Perhaps they are assailants-after-the-fact, unable or unwilling to see the pain they inflict. Perhaps they are simply sitting silent, unsure what to do and merely grateful not to be part of the maelstrom. And it’s our fault.
I’ve tried to teach my kids — with my words and by example – to do the right thing, to treat others as they would like to be treated, to stand with the injured, that I’d have their backs when they do.
I’d like to say that I hope it worked, but fact that I don’t know means the job’s not done.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go talk to my kids. About consent, about courage, about compassion.
Because I have a father’s rage and a parent’s responsibilities.
EDIT: On October 14, I ‘ll be running in the Toronto Run & Roll Against Violence in support of Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. Please consider making a donation or, if you are in the Toronto area, register yourself and come join us. https://www.canadahelps.org/me/j43MpFF