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Over the past couple years there has been a lot of media attention on sexual assaults on college Campuses. Stories from schools across the nation have made headlines. Documentaries like “the Hunting Ground” have shocked audiences across the country and schools are taking steps to change. Yet this problem is so much bigger than people realize because the media only tells part of the story. It isn’t just Columbia and Stanford. It’s not just young women on college campuses, sexual assault and violence against women happens everywhere, all the time, to girls and women of all ages.
Statistics say 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This fact hangs over the heads of women everywhere. It’s the little voice in our heads that makes us travel in packs. It reminds us to never walk alone. It’s the instinct to change directions when we notice a man walking behind us. It’s something all women have to live with.
Every day we walk down city streets with our heads down as men holler, whistle and stare. In school we have to make sure we wear clothes that aren’t distracting to boys. No shorts can be too short, no stomach or bra straps can be showing. When we go out, we make sure to turn guys down as politely as possible. We make up excuse and tell lies. We defend ourselves and try to escape their advances. We say we have a boyfriend because saying no is never enough. We think it’s our responsibility to take care of ourselves in a world where 50% of the people aren’t held to the same standard.
We teach young girls how to dress, how to act and what to say. We explain that there are bad men out there. We tell them to be careful. We teach them all these things in hopes that they do not become another statistic. All women can remember the warnings they’ve received from family members, teachers and friends over the years. Women remember being told to be careful at parties when they go to college, be on guard when they do something alone and carefully consider venturing to the city themselves. The pressure is put on women to protect themselves from rape. Why is this? What if instead of teaching girls how to avoid being raped, we could instead teach boys how not to rape?
What if we taught young men to be considerate, cautious and respectful to women before they go out in the world? We could instead put extreme focus on how women should and need to be treated. We have the power to raise this next generation differently. Instead of telling girls to cover up, we should teach boys not to stare. We need to teach boys not to catcall, instead of teaching our girls how to avoid them. We need boys to learn that a girl can wear whatever she wants whenever she wants. We need to teach boys that no means no and there is no excuse for violating another person.We need to demand more from boys. We need to teach the next generation of boys to respect girls so they grown into men who respect women.
I am not having kids anytime soon, but when I do I will make sure to raise them differently. Things do not have to stay the way they are. Our generation has the power to change things. We can make sure the next generation of boys are taught to understand and respect girls. We can make sure the ones those who do not are held accountable for their actions. We can make sure the system is set up to protect the victim, not the culprit. We can fight for the future generations of girls, so they don’t have to know what it feels like to live in fear.