I Cannot Protect My Daughter From Being Raped

by Navarre Overton
altanaka / Shutterstock

altanaka / Shutterstock

The statistics say that 1 in 5 women are raped at least once in their lifetime. This used to make me feel less alone. It was depressing but comforting. Other women experienced what I did. But now I can’t stop thinking about what it means for my daughter. She has a 20-percent chance of being sexually assaulted. I want nothing more than to be able to protect her forever, but I know I can’t.

I suppose I could tell her how to avoid being raped. Here’s what I could say:

Trust no one. Always have your guard up. Never date. Never have sex with another person. Never live with another person. Only drink alone. Never give out a single piece of personal information online. Never use the internet. Never show any skin. Swim in sweatpants and a sweater. Never wear a ponytail. In fact, don’t have any hair at all. Never leave the house alone. Surround yourself with all the people you don’t really trust. They will protect you from rapists, if they aren’t rapists themselves. Remember anyone could be a rapist. Just lock yourself up at home, alone, forever. Never let anyone lay their eyes on you.

Maybe if I told her these things, she’d take my advice and never be raped. But, she’d also never be loved. She’d be invisible. She’d never feel the energy of a first embrace. She’d never feel the warm sun on her skin or the breeze through her hair. She’d never experience true friendship, support, trust or vulnerability. Her life would be empty. She wouldn’t be living.

Or, maybe she’d get raped despite my warnings. Maybe she’d choose to live, instead of locking herself away. Maybe she’d go to a party and have a couple of drinks with friends. Maybe a friend would betray her trust. Maybe she’d eventually give in when she realized lack of consent wasn’t stopping him. Maybe she’d remember all I told her and blame herself. Maybe she would think that because she chose to have fun, it would be all her fault. She should’ve stayed home. She shouldn’t have trusted anyone. She chose to leave her house—knowing the risks—and must accept the consequences. She wore a skirt and a ponytail. She’d think it was her fault. If only she would’ve done absolutely everything differently. If only she’d done nothing at all. And she’d stay silent. She’d never report it. She’d blame herself, and it would eat her up. Her life as she knew it would be taken away. She’d live in fear. She’d stop living.

But I want her to live.

So instead of telling her how to avoid being raped, I’ll tell her this:

Your body is yours. Consent matters. Yes means yes, and no means no. Silence means no. Only yes without coercion means yes. Trust people. Trust yourself. Be vulnerable. Rape is never your fault unless you are the perpetrator. Don’t be the perpetrator. Live without fear. Go outside. Make new friends. Surround yourself with people you trust. Be trusting. And when you’re old enough, go ahead and have a few drinks. Date. Cohabitate. Get married. Be polyamorous. Do whatever you feel comfortable and safe with. Live.

You might get raped, mugged, robbed, shot, stabbed or end up in an abusive relationship, but it will never be your fault.

I’m sorry, I cannot protect you. A life worth living is dangerous.