Consider this short New York Times essay by Allison Wood, “‘Get Home Safe,’ My Rapist Said.”
As a writer, the essay’s potent, unadorned intimacy impressed me; as a human being, I was disheartened by the harsh reality of how routinely crimes like Wood’s rape go unpunished; and as a father of two young women in similar life settings, I was left with a sense of dread that anything remotely similar would ever happen to them.
But also a sense of appreciation for what is in fact a teaching tool. However, one problem with thinking about it as a teaching tool is that when your “children” are in fact young adults of 20 and 23, they’re unlikely to take parental advice unless it’s solicited. And I’m not expecting them to ask my thoughts on sexual assault at Christmas dinner.
But I feel fortunate that they read the humble blog, so the rest is with them in mind. Feel free to eavesdrop.
The part of Wood’s essay that jumped off the page for me was this:
“Looking back, I blame myself, in that typical victimized woman way. I never should have let myself be alone with him. I should have run the second he stood up. I should have grabbed a knife and started screaming.
Of course Woods shouldn’t even think about blaming herself, nonetheless, her thought, “I never should have let myself be alone with him,” is an important one. It would be understandable if any woman who reads Wood’s essay overcompensates and begins thinking about every male semi-stranger as a serious threat, thus limiting their prospects for life-enhancing friendships with caring and kind males, of whom there are still many.
The challenge is two-fold, to trust some males a lot less than at present and others more. That requires working together to develop threat-detecting antennae by initially erring on the side of safety by doing everything in your power to avoid being alone with strangers while simultaneously assessing that acquaintances are, in fact, in the caring and kind majority.
An unfortunate, delicate dance.