Much has been shared and posted and written and in both raw and eloquent form expressed about the Stanford swimmer’s sexual assault of an unconscious young woman. Personally, I have let my thoughts and feelings and decision to publicly address this or not percolate within my heart and mind and soul. I have taken a wait and pray posture on this one.
I want to scream when I read the rapist’s delusional claim, “she liked it.” The most offensive “20 minutes of action” perspective of a father making a lame attempt to defend the indefensible has inflamed anger and passion within. A legal system that protects the privileged and so easily disregards the pain and suffering and voice of a woman can almost make my head explode. This particular story would most surely have a radically different ending if the perpetrator embodied more melanin in his skin.
I have been reminded of what consent does and does not entail. The brave, vulnerable and honest letter that the victim wrote touches me deeply. And then to imagine the fortitude required for her to stand before her attacker and read it to his face paints a picture of brutal and raw courage. Especially when he continues to deny and justify and belittle his savage behavior. The actions of the two graduate students who came upon the crime scene and took action within this tale of darkness offer a sliver of light in a very gloomy space.
As mom, I experience this as both mom of male and female offspring. On the daughter side of this equation, stories like this can be terrifying if I let my mind spin out the worst-case scenarios for too long. Not a one of us is immune from the possibility of such destruction entering our life, our family, our children. We are delusional if we believe otherwise.
In response, I have landed upon the writing of a letter to my sons.
Dearest sons of mine,
When I held your infant selves, I sometimes dreamed of the men you would one day become. I have not been disappointed.
As you grew from child to adolescent to fully man, by sheer genetic and gender laws of nature, there was always a line that was crossed when you had the physical strength to take me down. Only one time in all your growing up years, did I think this actually might happen. Just for one terrifying fleeting second.
But you had a dad who demanded respect and honor at all times, but most especially if the object of your frustration or anger or any other of the passion flaming feelings rumbling deep down inside was of the female type. Especially when she was your mom.
You were born into privilege. My desire is that your random, lottery winning birthplace never leads to feelings or actions that scream out entitlement, particularly as you interact and live alongside those with a different beginning place.
I promise to never care about your swim times or your career performance or any other human measure concocted more than I care about your character. I hope you hold yourself to the same standard deep within your soul.
As you do life with your wives or girlfriends or the drunk lady in a bar, I beg of you to see them with the same eyes and heart that you would desire for any other male person to use as they interact with your sisters…or your mom.
If you ever find yourself in a space or place where you have done something that you deeply regret, I hope you will own it. As your mom, I believe that I could walk alongside you, love you deeply, but never ever try to justify any pain and suffering delivered to another.
The boys will be boys sentiment around the oft repeating stories of sexual assault makes my blood curdle. If you ever walk up on such a real life drama, my greatest wish is that you will be just like the boys, the boys on the bikes. Be like these honorable and decent men who stopped and helped and then wept tears of sorrow because of the pillage and pain to which they had become witness.
This devastated young woman whose life has exploded on so many levels wrote this to the men on the bikes: “Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another.”
Be the heroes. Look out for one another. Be the men on the bikes. I love you. Mom