« Filters and Lenses | Main | The Useless Figurehead Blamer Sellout, Pt 2. »

19 de Abril, 2007

How to Create a Rape Victim

Categorized under Parenting , Stories | Tags: ,

Update 2009: This post was controversial. Or perhaps just the title. Some felt my poetic use of the title How To Create A Rape Victim ultimately points blame at a woman for being raped by harshly reminding parents not to trod over their childrens' sense of boundaries and right to withhold affection. I did not intend that implication, though I did come to understand why some readers came away with it. I think the nuance is hashed out in the comments. Still, I would remove the post if I felt it gave that message overall, and if I didnt also get more than a couple comments (here and in other places, like culturekitchen.com where women and parents, both, felt the opposite.

But in case it is needed, let me be clear up front about my thoughts. A man who rapes a woman is to blame 100%, regardless of the woman's saying "no" loud enough, or in some other way defending or not defending from an attack. I do not feel that message is contradicted in this post. But it is a sensitive area and maybe not one to get too poetic with, titlewise. I'm not sure; I am not trying to say the post as it stands is 100 defensible. I grow through all the days I write and think out loud here. Often my thoughts evolve. I mean...I hope that's the point of some of this. What happened here is that I had an experience, it spurred thoughts in me about how I would and do raise my daughter and I wrote a post on it.

Please read through all of the comments attached to this post before making up your mind about it, figuring in this update last.

I WAS WAITING FOR MY SANDWICH at Subway®, and I heard a woman on the phone with her daughter. I knew it was her daughter because she was on the phone from the time my bread was cut in half to the time it was slid into a wax paper bag. It was all I could do to keep from interrupting her and telling her how to raise her daughter. But I have found in the past that people are not always happy to get this kind of input. And I was unsure as to whether my message would get through to her at all, given our differences in class and race. So I bit my tongue and listened to another child being slowly murdered with the toxic sweetness of a parent's insecurities.

My sandwich was delicious. But I did not enjoy it.

The Conversation from my end:

Mom: "...okay, then we'll talk more about then when I get there. Okay, bye. I love you!"

Silence-

Mom: "I love you, I said."

Silence-

Mom: "Honey. When someone tells you I love you, you are supposed to say it back."

Silence-

Mom: "Because it's rude. So...bye, I love you."

Silence-

Mom: "It's rude because it hurts peoples' feelings. Now say 'I love you'. I love you!"

Silence-

Mom: "Okay, bye now."

Now, don't get me wrong. This is not a post on women, nor on how mothers ruin daughters. It is a comment on a couple things, though. It is a post, first and foremost, about how parents use their children to fulfill their own emotional needs at the expense of the children. This is not exclusive to mothers by any means, but practiced by mother or father, it is a very dangerous and harmful behavior. It is abuse, in fact, of a very insidious and societally acceptable sort.

In this particular example, it teaches the little girl that her feelings and her personal boundaries are secondary to the feelings and wants of the person who wants to get some lovin' from her. Years of this, and how easy will it be to say "no" to some guy with a boner who gets her alone after the prom? You know all the lines he'll drop on her, and I bet they won't sound too different than her parent's. She'll be inculcated from years of forced affection ("Give your grandpa a kiss...don't be rude," "Tell me you love me, now" "You're hurting my feelings by not saying you love me") and the idea that her own body and feelings are inconsequential in the face of someone else's desires and wants. And then god forbid, should a day ever come when a man forces himself on her, or even coerces her when she'd rather say NO but doesn't feel empowered to—and she comes home absolutely wrecked over it...will the parent ever put 2 and 2 together?

No.

And who will be made to own those feelings of guilt and shame, despite any consequences to the male? The girl who was never taught that her love and her display and expression of that love is HERS to give out at her OWN discretion. And why? So the parent didn't have their poor feelings hurt.

As I have said before, I'm very big on not standing by when I see what I think of abuse to kids. As I've written earlier in this blog, I once went downstairs and confronted my own landlord on their screaming, incessant screaming, at their small children. I was scared, yeah. Anything could have happened. I could have lost my apartment, or far worse. Once upon a time I knocked on a neighbor's door because his screaming at his girlfriend was getting absolutely scary and they were right next to my bedroom wall. The man absolutely flipped out and threatened to kill me when I dared approach him about it (although at least this derailed the topic). Then, I had to listen for hours, him ranting in the next room about going to get his gun and shooting me. I lay there terrified out of my mind with seven size D batteries in a pillowcase wrapped in my fist in case I had to get up and swing it at someone. So you never know what will happen when you step into someone's sphere of abuse. But when it comes to children, it is our duty to disregard our own health and think of theirs. Especially if they are our own children.

Love is not a gun. Don't stick up your kids for a feelgood. Don't aim it like a weapon. Love is a flower. Shower it with care and light and nourishment, and it will bend to you and radiate beauty in response.

crossposted at culturekitchen and correntewire

digg | | delish

Comentarios (44)


Ill Do Chay dijo:

GRVTR

Mr Vonnegut discussed the gun-to-the-head aspect of "I love you". I wish I remembered which book, but damn he was prolofic and it's been too long for my aging brain.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

well, what an apropos time, then, to pay the great writer such a tribute.


annie dijo:

GRVTR


not completely sure, although i think it was in his book Slapstick.
i have the book someplace, i'll have to find it to be 100% sure.


Cero dijo:

GRVTR

Yes - this sort of training is really insidious. Good post!


Midgetqueen dijo:

GRVTR

I've lurked for a while but I don't think I've commented before. Just wanted to say that you're friggin' awesome. Gracias.



Trin dijo:

GRVTR

thank you nez. YES.


Amanda Marcotte dijo:

GRVTR

Thank you. Your ray of self-assured truth is what I needed today.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank you, trin. ==!

--

thank you for your words, amanda. they mean a lot.


kcb dijo:

GRVTR

Damn, you're absolutely right. Scary. It reminded me of the time years ago when an in-law of mine told his ornery two-year-old son, "We don't say 'no.'" His wife went ballistic on the spot and insisted on the kid's right to set boundaries. Today he's a happily nonconformist child, and I give a lot of the credit to his mom.


Clinton Fein dijo:

GRVTR

There's always the Alec Baldwin approach. A message he left for his daughter. Horribly sad.


Kyle dijo:

GRVTR

Hey Nez,

I know this was not the intent of your post, but is the effect that we always must be concerned about. We always put an emphasis on the victim when it comes to sexual assault, when the only people that can prevent sexual assault from occurring are the perpetrators. This is not the intent, but the effect of your post is that it puts an undue emphasis on the victim.


Sylvia dijo:

GRVTR

Oh dear God. I knew something about this post was bothering me, and you hit part of it on the head, Kyle. I couldn't articulate it.

I read this yesterday after you posted it and I recoiled, but I didn't want to start speaking because I didn't know what made me pause on it. I still think there's something else...but...thanks, Kyle. And Nez, to a limited extent I think you do touch on important points, but...I'm still thinking something's not quite right here.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

i don't really understand, kyle, or sylvia. how is the parent the victim? how is talking to parents about what boundaries they set up or knock down in their child not relevant or important to my goal? i stand behind my post until you can explain to me why parents are not partly responsible for a child's sense of owning their own body and affections. clearly i'm not talking about a person getting knocked down and beat up and dragged somewhere! that is not the victims' nor the parents' responsibility, and i think people know that when they read this.

i also understand that it is not helpful to tell the girl who is raped after the fact that she should have been firmer or said "no" in some stronger way. this letter is not to children (or to anyone's inner child), and not for rape victims to batter themselves with second thoughts. i tagged it under "parenting" for a very specific reason. and i hoped it came across as talking to parents.

kyle, i'm very concerened with the effect. that's why posts like this are validating. parents are thinking. that's exactly what i hoped for.

please feel free to expand.


Sylvia dijo:

GRVTR

I don't think anyone's painting the parents as victims, Nez. And I understand you're intending to speak to a specific audience. However, I think there is something problematic in its delivery, and the dynamic you're describing...perhaps I'm not prepared to peg it as only a parent/daughter dynamic? You construct it yourself as socially acceptable, but the depths of it...it's coupled with indoctrination in all its forms. You're speaking on a specific form, but...

You know what, never mind. I'll leave this conversation to you and Ken and parents.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

no, sylvia, please. i am not here to bully you. you can feel free to disagree, it is your right, and i want to hear your views. you did bring it up. or kyle did, actually. so i certainly am waiting to hear back from him.

you said:

I don't think anyone's painting the parents as victims, Nez.

well, the reason i stated that the parents are not the victims is because kyle said:

We always put an emphasis on the victim when it comes to sexual assault, when the only people that can prevent sexual assault from occurring are the perpetrators.

but my post does not, as i see it, put the emphasis on the child, but on the parent. this is the point of the post specifically. thus, my response "how is the parent the victim?" and while kyle's response is the textbook one and very helpful to keep in mind, i do not agree with the scope of his vision. because the very point of this post is that parents help set up some of these things. if one is going to disagree with that thesis, they ought to address it specifically and tell me why that is not true.

you say:

there is something problematic in its delivery, and the dynamic you're describing.

okay. please be specific.

you say:
perhaps I'm not prepared to peg it as only a parent/daughter dynamic?

and i would not disagree...nor ask a reader to "peg" it as such. nor did i, right?

from my post:

This is not exclusive to mothers by any means, but practiced by mother or father, it is a very dangerous and harmful behavior.

you say:

You construct it yourself as socially acceptable, but the depths of it...it's coupled with indoctrination in all its forms. You're speaking on a specific form, but...

i feel like you are getting at something, but i can make no sense of it yet. it may be helpful for me to hear all of it.

now, please don't take my directness as anger. i am not angry. but if a person is going to come here and tell me i am hurting rape victims or hurting a dialogue on rape, then i respectfully demand that they back that up fully because it hurts me to be told this when the point of my post was to try and do the opposite. i'm willing to look at a counterpoint, but i dont think vague assertions or kneejerk responses like kyle 's help. as i said, kyle, feel free to disagree. but please engage the thesis.

while i may be offering an unconventional or unusual approach to the topic, that doesn't mean i am "blaming the victim." but i would like to understand anyone's dissent to the fullest. maybe you are right. maybe i am missing something. maybe i should have fictionalized the story so that it was a father speaking to his daughter. but that's not what i heard or lived, and i didn't think to change it. all i could think to do was to say that this reality i overheard was not exclusive to mothers.

i think often in terms of family of origin. i think there is a lot we don't mind that we ought to, as keeper of the future heart, eyes, and mind of the world. this is one. this wearing away of boundaries for a parent's own feelgood.


herm dijo:

GRVTR

maybe sylvia and kyle are reacting because rape is such a strong word, and we don't ever want to feel like somehow the victim is even partially culpable. what i took from this post is that children (but i think much more often girls) are given messages from their family, even in a case that is seemingly innocuous, like telling a child to repeat "i love you"...that her feelings are secondary, or her wants are not as important if someone else has a want or a need or a feeling.

i think more than anything, it sets up a pattern that is easy for an abuser to capitalize on, and as parents we need to be very aware of all the messages we are teaching our daughters and sons. i think it is important to keep that frame of reference in mind for this post.

as a parent, i want to be extremely conscious of all the messages i'm giving my child. that does not mean, at all, that an abuser has no responsibility for his or her own actions. that also doesn't mean that i feel that i can somehow magically safeguard my daughter from abuse through assertiveness training. but rape and abuse can take many forms, and i know that someone who has already learned to feel "okay" with feeling uncomfortable or being pressured is more susceptible to that again. does that make sense?


Didi dijo:

GRVTR

Thanks for this post, Nezua. One thing I've been adamant about while raising Noodle (who just turned 5 this week) is that I've never forced her to hug or kiss anyone that she doesn't want to. I fully agree that girls are taught from a very young age that their bodies aren't their own, that they have to let people in past their boundaries or else they're evil man-hating ice-queen bitches.

I'll never forget when I was 12 and we were staying with a friend of my father's, and the friend and his teenaged nephew held me down and tickled me against my will, in front of everyone out in the yard. I was screaming for them to stop, but no one helped me, and it went on for what seemed forever, but was probably only 5 or 10 minutes. Afterwards, I told my mother how upset I was about it, and she blew it off and said "Oh, they were just having fun!". No concern about how I felt, or my self-consciousness about my just-entering-puberty body, just another lesson in how my body isn't my own.

WRT to using the word rape, I think a lot of people still think that all rape has to be violent. In reality, I think the majority of rapes are coersive. Just because someone doesn't have a gun to your head, it's still very possible to be intimidated into giving in and having sex when you don't want to. Sounds terrible, but sometimes the fastest way to get a guy to leave is to sleep with him. I suppose one could argue that that's consenting in a way, but if you think it's the only choice you have to get out of a shitty situation, it's not really a choice.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Nez, unfortunately I'm just about to run out the door so can't say much but I just thought I'd mention that I do agree with Sylvia that something bothered me ever-so-slightly about the title of this post. To me, the response to the question of "how to create a rape victim" would begin with and focus on the conditioning of boys in their violence and misogyny rather than the conditioning of girls. This doesn't detract from your message, which I think is entirely valid and very positive, for me it's strictly a matter of the title. But I'm not a parent so I don't feel I have much of a right to speak on this issue, which is why I initially chose not to, but with this comment I'm just trying to be helpful! Hope it's not too misguided! Peace.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Didl, thank you for your experience as a child and as a parent raising a child. This is exactly what I am talking about.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

kai, it's a valid point. that's another post, perhaps titled "how to create a rapist."


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

kai, after thinking on this, i agree that the title could possibly be read by some as "the only way to create a rape victim," and of course, that is not the message i intend. perhaps the title was a bit poetic or sensationalized to snag the reader's interest or zone in hard on the parents' responsibility as it applies to a growing child's sense of helplessness. because an instilled sense of helplessness does precipitate and inspire participation in events that can lead to rape, esp of the "date-rape" variety, as i speak of above.

i am glad that nonetheless, it seems more than a couple parents have understood right away what i meant. and i will also say that it seems a divide does happen when you begin thinking of the world as it applies to yourself and your own childraising vs a childless person.

i thank you for your thoughts on this, i find them useful.


Trin dijo:

GRVTR

I understand the criticism now. But personally, I didn't read the post that way. I read it as talking about the way that we encourage women to ignore their wants and needs in order to be adequately feminine, adequately kind, adequately nice. I don't think that being trained to do that makes something that happens to your own fault. I think it's the fault of the people who train you the way.

Part of the reason it took so long for me to get out of abusive and harmful situations was because they happened at the hand of helping professionals, and the adults around me told me "This person is doing this to help you. We know it's painful and upsetting, but we can't help that. Don't trust your instincts. Be brave. Trust us, and endure this. " So I did. I understood how to stop adults that did other things--I was never tested in those ways, so I don't know if I could have done it. But I suspect that I would've had, at the very least, a higher likelihood of trusting my instincts, because in respect to those forms of assault I was told that it's good to refuse, told that I have a right over my own body.

It's not my fault for not refusing the things that happened to me. People twisted my mind such that I couldn't even conceive of trying to stop it beyond asking "Do you have to go this far? Can you be nice to me today?" I don't think it's my fault that I didn't see through it all. How could I have?

But I do think it would've been better if people had told me that sometimes "I'm here to help you" doesn't actually mean what it says. Or that sometimes it's appropriate to respond with "I don't feel helped. If I need help with this, I need to go to someone else. This person is hurting me and I am afraid of her."


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank you for your input, trin.

We know it's painful and upsetting, but we can't help that. Don't trust your instincts. Be brave. Trust us, and endure this.

Bang.

This post is about teaching your children (girls) to embrace their own instincts and about instilling in them a sense of the right to draw their own boundaries and NOT using them to feed your own need for a feelgood.

of course i don't think this will prevent all rape from happening. nor am i pointing at girls to be responsible for cruel, abusive acts perpetrated against them. jesus, no. and yes, we need to look at other angles. but i find it very important to NOT raise little subjects of authoritarian rule, ready to transfer their inculcated obeisance onto any who swagger in exuding "authority" vibes.


Trin dijo:

GRVTR

"of course i don't think this will prevent all rape from happening. nor am i pointing at girls to be responsible for cruel, abusive acts perpetrated against them. jesus, no. and yes, we need to look at other angles. but i find it very important to NOT raise little subjects of authoritarian rule, ready to transfer their inculcated obeisance onto any who swagger in exuding "authority" vibes."

Yes. That's exactly how I read you.


Kyle de Beausset dijo:

GRVTR

Hey Nez,

Sorry I've missed a lot of this conversation. I didn't mean for my comment to be a knee-jerk reaction, it was very carefully worded. The intent of your post is to make a comment about parenthood an how children are raised, but I still think the effect of your post is to focus on the victims of sexual assault when we should all be focusing on the perpetrator. I used to be an educator on this subject and what they teach you is that the only people that can prevent rape are the perpetrators. Victims can do everything in the book to avoid sexual assault, dress conservatively, stay away from mind-altering substances, get home earlier, even receive better parenting, but that simply reduces their risk, it is not prevention. I sincerely believe that by focusing on the victim instead of the reasons that perpetrators are driven to sexual assault you contribute to the systemic inequality between women and men. By putting the onus on women to express themselves, or in this case the parents of women to teach them to express themselves, instead of putting the onus on potential perpetrators to reign themselves in, or maybe in this case how parents can teach potential perpetrators to reign themselves in, then its a problem.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

i understand your angle kyle. it's a well-understood paradigm in the field of treatment, etc. it makes a lot of sense given the context of a victim's treatment or a person's analysis of their own "blame" in an assault/rape aftermath.

my audience here for this post is parents. my focus here is a psychological/childrearing angle. not a law angle, not a counseling after-the-fact angle.

again, if you read my post and the comments i've made after, i think it's clear i do not intend that this will prevent rape. nor that women who don't have boundaries are to blame. it is addressed to parents who tear away or wear away their childrens' boundaries in the name of their own feelings, thus teaching their children that their own boundaries are secondary to someone else's wants.

it's fine that we disagree here. i stand behind the post and its' effects, partially guided in my conviction by the voices of women and parents who have responded. though i always thank you for your respectfully-worded, thought-out comments.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Nez, thanks for your comments. Having read enough of your stuff, I actually had no question in my mind about what you were saying, there's no way I thought you were blaming rape on victims. I think my reaction was pretty isolated to a linguistic quibble in the framing of the title, between writers, so to speak. I think I can even break it down to a single word: "create" (only rapists can create rape victims). Then again, as you point out, part of the purpose of a title is to get your attention, and your title certainly succeeds at that, with a jolt; and I'm not too sure about a title such as "How To Condition Young Women To Submit To Unilateral Affection And Disempower Their Self-Assertion Thereby Increasing Their Vulnerability To Date Rape", if you know what I mean. So I hear ya.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

i think we are on the same page, kai. in fact, me and someone else were talking this out in person today, and i said the same thing. that if i actually didn't take a bit of license with the post's title (as titles are marketing/attention-grabbing devices), and were razor-sharp literal (i used a hilarious example just as you gave me here!), even i wouldn't have read the post. i do understand your semantic quibble to tha bone.


Sylvia dijo:

GRVTR

Okay, after reading the conversation and thinking on it for a while, I think I can explain why it threw me -- the juxtaposition of the bothersome "create a rapist" phrasing (which Kyle touched on, but Kai explained slightly better) with the idea of that form of parenting/indoctrination as abuse. I had no problem understanding the purpose of the post, and I think you made very important points that parents should consider.

I was startled because:

1) the title does dance dangerously close to sounding like victim blaming, or even parent blaming for rape. I understood what you were explaining when I read the whole post through, but initially I felt a knot in my stomach.

2) I suppose I understand what "triggering" means now? I'd rather not explain because I'm not sure there's any way you could consciously have prevented the trigger. But I'd feel dishonest if I didn't mention that and had you thinking you'd crossed some line in your reasoning; you didn't. This explanation was very spot-on.

3) I began recognizing indoctrination patterns in our society that reinforces this parental imposition in children's lives, and I suppose I never thought about that form of violence in such a concrete way. You exposed one mechanism, and my mind started thinking of other, similar power dynamics. In the end, I think you're talking about power and expressing to parents to be careful how they use it over children. And I wholeheartedly agree with that notion.

I'm sorry if my comments read as disoriented or skewed, but I had three different thought processes cycling around what you were describing.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

no, sylvia. it makes sense what you say. and i had to talk it out with a smart woman on my own end to get a double check. and we came to similar conclusions...that the post has some people completing an argument i am not making and responding to that. and that this is a very certain context i bring this up in. i may need to do a follow-up. just to address any ambiguity.

my post is saying to a parent "if you do A, you are aiding in the possibility of B." but it is not saying "if you don't do A, you can avoid B happening." if you get me.

and i understand triggers...i have my own. i'm sorry. and you are right...sometimes there's no way to avoid them. but i am sensitive to the idea.

thank you for your thoughtful input. and for caring to let me know that my reasoning had merit.


Kyle de Beausset dijo:

GRVTR

Check out this in the Harvard Crimson today it deals with a lot of what we're talking about.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

No, Kyle. That is not what we are talking about. But if you don't get me by now, can we please let it lie? As I said, it's okay if we disagree on this.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Kyle, I'm afraid you've just demonstrated that you're simply not listening to the conversation. Not a good way to interact with folks.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

midgetqueen, i'm sorry i missed your comment. i wanted to say thank you for your effusive sentiment. really, it means a lot. i'm glad youre hangin' around.


Cero dijo:

GRVTR

I think the title is fine. And it isn't just that boys are brought up to be rapists, it is also that girls are brought up to wonder whether rape really is rape, whether they have the right to resist or whether it is 'polite' to do so, etc. People who wonder what the title means, could read the post, maybe that would clear things up? It is about parenting, indoctrination, etc., not about putting the onus on women.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Cero, i really appreciate hearing your take on this, thanks.


Changeseeker dijo:

GRVTR

Every time somebody urges a little child to hug me or accept my hug past the child's reticence, I always say clearly, firmly, and with great pointedness to the child (hoping that the parent/auntie/grandmother/whatever will get it, too), "You never have to hug anybody you don't want to." It makes my skin crawl to have somebody try to turn me into some sort of a monster that way. I don't want to violate children and forcing them to "give love" is a violation in my book. But you're the first one I've ever seen bring this up. Kudos.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

yeah....that's what i'm talking about, changeseeker. kudos to you.

and gracias for the backup.


Michelle dijo:

GRVTR

Amazing take unapologetic mexican. As an adult victim of childhood sexual abuse, I can tell you, you are dead on. Thanks for writing this.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank you, michelle.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Cero, okay...so Sylvia and I did not read the post? Our response is invalid not because of any argumentation you've presented but simply because this is your strong assertion? Interesting. Got it.


Katie dijo:

GRVTR
my post is saying to a parent "if you do A, you are aiding in the possibility of B." but it is not saying "if you don't do A, you can avoid B happening." if you get me.

I like this quote.


Amanda dijo:

GRVTR

I thank you for posting this. The mother of this child may think she was doing well by teaching her daughter that it is rude not to give back when someone gives you what they think may be affection. Naturally, she will grow up thinking that she will be a bad person if she does not comply. I know because I grew up the same way, having much trouble saying "no, that is not okay" or "I don't want to", and getting hurt in the process. This is an issue that spans all cultures and races, and the fact that you have posted it online gives people easier acess to the information that might save them from such pain. Thanks again.