In high school, I was fooling around with a guy after a party and wanted to stop. He didn’t listen to me and kept doing his thing. I asked again and he didn’t listen. The third time I had to ask I was pissed, I yelled and pushed him off me. He called me a “crazy cunt.”
This wasn’t someone I didn’t know, either. This was an ex-boyfriend of mine and we’d continued to be friends with benefits. This was someone I’d cared for and trusted. And, this was the first time I’d ever had to tell him to stop doing something. It was also the first time he’d ever talked to me that way.
What I learned that day was there is a first time for everything. I thought I knew him and I never thought I’d be in that situation with him. After that night he continued to call me things like “bitch” and “whore” when he saw me in public even though I stopped all communication with him.
While that situation is very minor compared to a lot of horrible situations girls and women find themselves in, I’ve always remembered it.
I knew his family, they seemed like good people and he had a stable home life. I think what he didn’t have was someone telling him how you treat women, even when they tell you ‘no’ or you don’t feel like you are in control.
With so much news surrounding the Gabby Petito case, we are all seeing a lot of information out there for women about how to recognize the red flags of abuse, how to educate girls to see if they are in toxic relationship, how to get out of a relationship, and seek help if you feel like you are in trouble.
I support all of this one thousand percent. It is needed, it will always be needed, and I will never stop fighting for our girls and talking to my own daughter about this.
But, there’s a huge piece missing from this puzzle: Not only do we need to teach our daughters to recognize and navigate toxic relationships, we need to raise our sons not to be abusers. We need to talk to them about how not to act when they get told “no” or when they are angry. We need to have these discussions with them all the damn time, and not leave it up to women and girls to figure out because we missed the boat with our own sons.
I have two boys. One of them is eighteen and he has a serious girlfriend. I have told him (since he was about eleven) the right and wrong way to treat someone. He has known since before his first kiss that you ask for permission, that being told “no” means no, not maybe. That if a girl is drunk, or passed out, this is not a free pass for him, it’s an automatic “no” — even if she said yes previously.
I have talked to him about expressing his feelings so he doesn’t bottle them up and take out his repressed emotions on anyone. I have told him (time and time again) you never, ever put your hands on anyone. That manipulating a woman to do what he wants is never all right. I tell him that I am proud of the way he treats his girlfriend even though he hates to talk about his relationship. I have gone as far as asking his girlfriend how he treats her and she knows I have her back.
I’ve told him about the importance of therapy and getting help if he feels like he can’t control his anger.
I have read him the statistics on abuse, he knows that over half of females who have been raped were assaulted by someone they knew. I’ve told him if he does something like this, I cannot save him. He will be on his own.
He knows that, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “95% of assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women. Nearly one-third of the women who seek care from hospital emergency rooms are there for injuries resulting from domestic violence.”
We have a big job to do here for our future generations. And yes, that does include warning and educating our daughters. But for fuck’s sake, stop leaving it up to girls and women to correct horrible behavior.
Stop leaving it up to our girls to do all the legwork and hope they make it through their relationships without being verbally or physically abused. We need to stop teaching them it is only up to them to make it out of a situation alive if they see the red flags.
Once again, we are putting it all on the female’s shoulders to take care of and we need to bridge the gap between parents and their sons.
Maybe you think your son isn’t capable of such things so you never talk to them about it. Maybe you think they have a perfect example sitting right in front of them on how to treat a partner. But no one, no one, is above being aware of the statistics and learning how not to treat a woman.
It infuriates me as a mother to a daughter, and as a mother to two sons, that there isn’t more dialogue on how not to raise someone who becomes emotionally or physically abusive.
Come on parents of sons — educating our girls on how to dodge relationships like this should only be half the work. The other work is between you and your sons, and it’s your freaking job to do it.