Sexual Assault is not a Women's Issue

A while back, I was talking with a friend about the somewhat recent rash of women stepping forward and naming their abusers. My friend and I sat and talked about the horror of it all while watching my son and her daughter run and play around us. We looked at them, their innocence, their joy, and we both sighed. I turned to her and said, "It's every parent's nightmare. I am so terrified that something like that will happen." 

She looked at me and actually scoffed. "Well, you don't really have to worry about that. You have a boy."

This floored me. In some respects, I get it. As a woman, I walk around with the fear of being overpowered. I have walked with my keys between my fingers. I have checked behind me to see who's following. I have scanned the room for exits. I have made up a boyfriend to get away from someone. I have given a fake name. I have lived with that fear. I know that this is not a fear that my husband or my male friends usually walk around with. I get it. 

Categorically, girls and women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than boys and men. But here's the thing - sexual assault is not a women's issue. The women are often the ones being assaulted. They're not the ones with the problem to fix. They're the ones falling victim to it. If we want to fix the problems surrounding assault and sexual harassment, it is not our girls and women who need to change. It is our boys. It is our men. And here's the rub - it is up to us parents to raise our children so they do better.

If we can raise our children with awareness on boundaries and respect, it will be second nature to them when they go out into the world and interact with others. If having their boundaries respected, if respecting the boundaries of others is seen as the norm, then they won't have to wonder if that encounter with their date was consensual. 

I never want your daughter to be assaulted by anyone. I never want my son to violate anyone. I want us to raise them so that they will never have to say "no" more than once. I want us to raise them so that they know how to give and receive consent.

Sexual assault is not a women's issue - it's an issue that needs to be addressed by everyone. It's an issues that parents need to begin teaching to at an early age.