Breaking a Cultural Curse – Rape and Consent

I am quite sure that a large majority of you reading this have already read several think pieces and rants on the most recent Stanford rape case. If you have not, here is a link to an article describing the situation, and here is the viral statement written by the young woman in the case.

As a man, and a particularly white one at that, I cringe to the point of implosion when horrific situations like this arise and justice seems so far off the mark. Honestly, I cannot even contemplate what might have been going through the judge’s mind during the sentencing, but whatever it was we can say with some certainty that it probably was not justice.

Humanity has a long, brutal, grisly history with rape. We have famous, celebrated works of art with rape right in the title depicting scenes of almost gentile savagery. So what needs to happen? How can we, as parents, as a culture, begin to remove the stigma around rape and begin to fight back?

For one, we can educate our children about sexuality. And not just the mechanics. While the how-tos and basic safety are important, don’t get me wrong, there is more to sex than “how does it work?”

People may wonder why I hold a biblical view of sex and marriage. The reason is, a biblical view takes into account consent and relationship dynamics that can help people to avoid certain pitfalls.

So for Christian parents, the explanation may go something like this. Sex is a response to commitment, a response to a promise, a covenant, that is supposed to last. Marriage vows are those promises that sex is a response to. However, consent still needs to be present in the marriage relationship. Sex is a conversation, a give and take between spouses, consent is given, and can be withheld for a time (prayer, health, etc.).

And here is a the kicker in the conversation about sex and consent – no means no. Kids can learn consent at an early age through things like hugs. Children can be given the power to say “no” to a hug, and be taught that if someone else says “no” to honor that. To many people, hugs and other physical contact are intimate moments that need consent, and can be a learning tool to discuss and teach sexual consent. Also, an absence of “yes” does not mean consent has been given. A rule of positive consent should be present as we discuss this issue with our children, meaning that children should clearly hear “yes” before proceeding.

Our children need to learn that consent is a crucial social contract. It affects many areas of our lives and children need to learn earlier rather than later how to give and respond to consent. Giving children the power to give and understand consent might help them understand how to avoid abuse. Once they understand that they have the power to say no to touch that they do not want, they can respond appropriately when danger or threats arise.

Again, education about consent tackles both ends of the problem of rape. It does not victim blame by just forcing the person being touched to say “no” in as many ways as possible. Consent education also places responsibility on the person initiating the touch to be aware of positive consent, or the lack thereof before proceeding.

When we see situations like the Stanford case arise in the news, and maybe our older children begin asking questions, we can use those moments to educate and train. With younger children, we can take the reminder to proactively train them to avoid these situations by raising them into responsibility for their actions.

Again, this post will not lessen the impact or damage done in this case. But, as we grieve over injustice and pain, let us prepare our children for the world they live in today so that tomorrow they will have wisdom.

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