I recently finished reading an extremely disturbing book, Missoula, by John Krakauer. Krakauer is the author of two other fascinating, non-fiction books I had read, Into Thin Air and Into the Wild.
While Missoula was disturbing, I couldn’t put it down. Subtitled “Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” the book recounts several stories of acquaintance rape (or alleged rape, though it’s clear the author believes each of the cases were rape, and as a reader it’s hard to disagree).
This is a book for anyone who wants to be more informed on the subject and perhaps to advocate for the betterment of society; and/or to protect your own family members. I hope many people read Missoula so more awareness is brought to this important issue. I caution: parents of college-aged women need to be prepared to have the stories leave you feeling particularly haunted.
While it’s essential that innocent men are not thrown in jail for a crime they do not commit (“A Rape on Campus,” is an article you may have heard about—published in the December 2014 issue of Rolling Stone—which was debunked, and then retracted by the publisher), Missoula dramatically illustrates the difficulty women can have in proving a case because of the (what seems to me as often patently unfair) hoops they have to jump through to do so, even with plenty of evidence. And all this happens after they have just experienced the most traumatic event in their life.
Before our daughters left for college, Marcie and I spoke with them about avoiding dangers. Among other things, we knew they would likely participate in underage drinking, and while we were not condoning that behavior, we told them not to accept open drinks, not to leave their drinks lying around where they could be tampered with, and not to binge drink. We also reiterated things we told them in high school about being sure to travel in groups.
We also spoke with our son before he left for college. We explained when a woman says no, he must understand “no means no.” There was nothing about him that caused us to be concerned about his potential behavior, but as we have generally done with our kids, we decided over-communicating was better than under-communicating.
In a recent New York Times piece about the courts and consensual sex, I read a powerful, clear way to explain “no means no”. It was something like this…
Just as you wouldn’t take a precious object from someone’s home without her permission, you shouldn’t have sex with someone if she hasn’t explicitly said she wants to.
How are you protecting your kids from dangers like these? How are you helping the world become a safer place? Join the conversation with your comments…
Note: Though written from one perspective, everything above applies to every gender and sexual orientation.