For most of my adult life I’ve studied human behavior, in one form or another. I’ve either had school books stacked so high that and deadlines to meet as respects to the papers I’ve had to complete for school, reviewed cases that were brought before the court in which children were removed from their homes, or perhaps more importantly raised a child. My son is now twenty years old, and as many parents usually tend to do, I think he’s one of the best people on the planet. He’s kind, considerate, and thoughtful. He is also a man. Could it possibly be that those attributes can fit so well on someone of the opposite gender?
Years ago, I can recall, heading to the frame shop with some of my son’s creative works of art, that he completed when he was still in first grade. I wanted to capture the moment in time, and save forever the wonder and glory of the child he was, but more importantly it was what was pictured on the pages that meant so much. His first grade teacher was teaching the class about ethical behavior, and she had the children color pictures to show the meaning behind words such as friendship, kindness, etc., The artist behind the counter took my photos and gave me a sort of smirk, as if to imply some sort of judgment, and I realized I was probably not the first parent to show up with such masterpieces. As we proceeded to have a conversation, I explained that I wanted to save the artwork but it was the ethical behavior that I was more focused on, and her response to me was a bit shocking. “He’s a boy, and he’ll grow up to be a man, so I’m quite certain he’ll forget them.”
Was she serious? Did she truly think all men were unethical? Isn’t that a bit extreme and just as bad as some guy labeling all us females as (insert whatever word fits).
So here it is about fourteen years later, and I am still studying human behavior only my studies are quite different. I am no longer working toward that doctorate degree, or at least for now my dissertation is on hold. My son is no longer in first grade but a junior in college. College, the place where I failed to get to in my earlier years and the place where went straight from high school. I think about how lucky he is to be experiencing something I never had and although I do not live vicariously through him, I do imagine what it would be like to walk to class amongst the colored leaves with the scent of winter in the air. My vision is one that’s crisp and beautiful and there’s no thought of danger lurking in the shadows. Only, I am not there on campus, my experience is solely in my mind.
For my son, this is a time where he’s biding a bit and he’s anxious to get through these years so he can begin his journey. He’s not capable yet to realize just how amazing the present is, and he’s simply ready to move on. Although he’s enjoying the time there, he tells me often that he’s simply not a ‘partier’ and that he’s uncomfortable going out to the parties on campus. “I don’t trust people, Mom, and the world is crazy.” Of course, it’s crazy but what about the beautiful things that you can experience at school? I refrain from speaking and cherish the moment where my son takes time to share his inner thoughts. We are sitting in the car driving back from The Strip where his girlfriend is staying with friends. For now, Southern Nevada is where I’ve put up residency and The Strip has become familiar to me, as respects to knowing which hotel is where, but I don’t venture to the dark side. To me, there is no need to look for it, and I’m happy to enjoy the music, the sporting events and just hang amongst the people. Of course, Sin City has a dark side, but so too does everywhere if that’s what you seek, right?
My son’s boundaries seem firm and he seems wise beyond years. “Mom, it’s crazy in a sense that girls drink and get drunk and I don’t really want to be around that, because in all honesty you never know who is going to say you did something and then you’ll get charged with rape. Plus, it’s just nuts because when it comes to that kid at Stanford, I agree with the judge. If two people are drunk, and things happen then things happen. Why if you get charged with a crime when you drive drunk, should it be all one sided when you end up having sex ‘against your will’ when you are drunk? If two people are drunk, it should not be rape,” he said.
What is rape? Do we even know? If we are honest with ourselves, do we teach proper boundaries to both genders from day one, and do we ever take the time to speak about the ‘consent laws?’ Are they the same in each state? What about the federal laws that might compound matters?
Would it shock you to know I’ve been raped? Probably not. Would it shock you to know most women have? I did not realize that I was raped at the time though, and I never said a word to an adult. I was in the seventh grade, living in a house with limited supervision. My father was a raging alcoholic, but then again wasn’t everyones? He would be gone most of the day, and I would go to school, and then go home to take care of the house. Somehwere in the midst of chaos, I managed to get my school work done. I loved school. It was my safe haven. I can still remember what happened. He was seventeen and I was twelve. To this day I kick myself for putting myself in a vulnerable situation where I was victimized, and for the life of me I don’t understand why I’m not angry at him. He was seventeen and I was twelve. Why didn’t I tell anyone? Would he have been arrested? I felt dirty and disgusting and felt as though I had nowhere to turn. I was not drunk, and I was a good girl, only can you imagine what would have happened if I told someone? All the accusations that would have come my way?
Rape is tricky because it’s something that many believe is a harsh, violent crime where one person overpowers the other. It’s also something that can take place in groups. The visions we get often include violence but that’s not necessarily the way most rapes go down. What about consent? Thinking back to the first time I was raped, did I consent? Would the law be in my favor or would the set of circumstances be so gray and abstract that it would seem as though it was too hard to decipher what happened?
There are many variables that will be involved when someone looks to examine the reasons of rape, and many that might be involved in the role of victimization. My son was raised to honor himself, to protect himself, and to be mindful of danger. I was raised to think nothing of myself, to gravitate toward risk, and to accept responsibility for not only my own behavior but the behavior of those who violated me.
More than anything, I believe that our education system ought to be altered in a manner that includes continued lessons which involve those which we learn in kindergarten and first grade. There is of course that ‘golden rule’ and it would be so wonderful if the law was as simple. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. The only problem is that when we alter our brains or when our brains are impaired, our ability to reason in this manner can be off kilter.
Is there a directory of ‘rape laws’ and do we understand, ‘What is rape?’ Should we teach our children so that they can avoid victimization? Should the laws be amended to place comparative negligence on the victim when he or she is drunk?