When I was young — maybe 8 or 10 — my mom got into a fender-bender with another driver, and the front of her car got pretty messed up. She was upset and crying when she came home, and I remember my dad was trying to comfort her. I didn’t know exactly what had happened on the road, but after I went outside and looked at that damage, I felt the need to say something negative about whoever had done this to my mom’s car. Of course, little did I know that it had been her fault. So I walked back inside, and loudly proclaimed, “Who’s the stupid bimbo who wrecked mom’s car?”
This was obviously a bad idea. Now, I didn’t know what a bimbo was. I just knew it was a mean word, and I was angry at this unknown third-party who I assumed had caused the situation. But you can imagine how my thoughtless statement came off anyway.
The next thing I knew, my dad turned and slapped me right in the face. It wasn’t hard, and it didn’t leave a mark or anything like that, but it sure got my attention. Then he looked at me and said, “Your mother wrecked the car.” Immediately I knew that I deserved it — that I had said something incredibly stupid and hurtful (even though it wasn’t my intention), and that the slap I received was entirely warranted. Now, I don’t remember a lot of punishments over my childhood years, but I’ll always remember that one pretty vividly. Partially because it was one of the rare occasions where I instantly knew I was wrong, and partially because it was one of the first examples I can recall of seeing my dad defend my mom, even if it was just from a dumb kid who didn’t think before he spoke. I remember it because I learned something that day, beyond knowing when to keep my mouth shut. I learned something that I hadn’t understood before about the relationship between a man and a woman. My dad loved us kids — I never doubted that, of course — but he loved my mom first. He chose her. And I knew then that he would make sure we (and everyone else) respected her.
So why did I tell that story? Oddly enough, it wasn’t to talk about marriage. Rather, it’s because I have two young sons, and above anything else, I pray that I can raise them to be men who respect women and treat them with love, honor, and courtesy. For the past couple of days, I’ve been seeing a number of posts on Facebook from different women in my life — friends, family, acquaintances — that begin like this:
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. P.S. It’s meaningful to see ‘me too’ in the comments to this post, of course, but please copy this to your own status as well. We need to come out of the shadows and whispers and show the magnitude of this issue.
Let me rephrase that. I’ve been seeing far too many Facebook posts that begin like this. It’s been eye-opening, disturbing, and saddening all at once. Despite hearing stories of harassment and abuse from my own wife, it’s difficult to realize how pervasive and widespread this issue really is today. I used to think stuff like that was rare, and that it only happened to a minority of unfortunate women. How very wrong I was. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have been raped during their lifetime. Only 16% of all rapes were reported to law enforcement. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network), 99% of perpetrators of sexual violence will walk free, and about 13% of female rape survivors will attempt suicide.
These are truly harrowing statistics. In fact, it’s statistics like these that kind of make me glad that I don’t have any daughters. I honestly don’t know what I would do or how I would react if I did have a daughter and something like this happened to her. But as I said before, I do have two young sons, and it’s my responsibility to teach them how to be good men — how not to be a part of those terrible statistics.
I wrote another blog post several years ago called Our Corruption Knows No Bounds, and it was primarily about a slew of news stories involving teenage girls who drank too much and passed out at parties, followed by male students sexually assaulting them and posting photos or videos of their deviant escapades on the internet. It’s sickening. How do we fight back against a popular culture in which young boys learn that masculinity is about being a “ladies man” who can get all the girls he wants? That you’re a loser and a prude if you’re not having sex by the time you’re 16 years old? That being kind and attentive and respectful of a woman’s needs is somehow a sign of weakness or “being whipped”? That sex is not meant just to satisfy your own basic, carnal urges? That women are human beings with value and not objects meant for our sexual gratification?
I’ve seen and heard a lot of the years — more than I ever wanted to, honestly. When I was young and only really knew my own family and the people in my church youth group, I thought the kind of men who committed acts of sexual harassment and assault only existed on the fringes of society. After all, how could such deviants possibly be walking casually among us? Once again, how wrong I was. They are everywhere. They are many of us. One man might only go so far as to, say, grab a woman’s butt at a bar. While another may corner her in the parking lot and force himself upon her. One might openly hit on every woman he meets, including those who are married or in relationships. While another might wear the guise of a nice, friendly, non-threatening guy, merely to gain her trust and then strike when she lets her guard down. Like I said, I’ve seen it all, and it makes me weep for humanity. First and foremost, I weep for the women who have been hurt and victimized. But I also weep for the fact that it’s so hard to trust anyone anymore. I weep for our collective lost innocence. And I weep for all the young boys out there who don’t have good men in their lives to teach them how to treat women honorably.
This is too big of a problem for us to take it for granted. As fathers, we cannot be passive. We need to actively teach our sons the right ways to think and behave when it comes to women. We need to illustrate love and respect in our relationships with their mothers so they can experience it first-hand. And we need to specifically discourage and speak out against any behavior that even smacks of objectification or impropriety. We have to kill it in its infancy so it has no chance to grow.
I found this short article online entitled How Dads Can Teach Sons to Respect Women, and I’d like to conclude my post with an excerpt: “Early on, your son needs to learn about the importance of protecting a young woman’s integrity and well-being. A lot of this can happen during teachable moments that come up in the course of life, as you talk through different situations and how your son needs to handle himself. But please don’t let these conversations just happen. Take the initiative.”