A Letter to My Sons, June 2016

 

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Dear Boys,

Hello. The world feels like a strange and dark place right now to your mama, and so I want to write a letter to the future yous. Because right now, you are so little, you might not understand most of the words I have to say. And, because right now, the world exists in the arms of your mama and daddy, and it is good.

But one day, you will be big. Bigger than you are now. Big enough to reach the sink without a step stool; big enough to tower over your mama, and probably your daddy too. One day, you’ll be able to read the news, and you’ll learn all sorts of things. Like hate. And anger. And anguish. When you do, I hope you’ll be brave.

In high school or college, you may see a girl drinking too much. A girl who can’t stand up or answer your questions; I hope that you stand beside her. I hope that if she disappears outside, you find her. I hope that you protect her from any person who might intend her harm. I hope that you will find her phone, and call the last dialed number to get her a ride. If her phone is unreachable, stay with her. Keep her safe. [1.]

Because, my darling, little boys, you were born with great privilege. You were born white. You were born boys. And you were born rich. With all of those things comes a great deal of power, which requires a great deal of responsibility. You can pretend that you do not have this power, but you shouldn’t. Instead, I beg you to use your strength for people who have none, or for people who need to borrow yours for just a little while.

I need you to be brave when, in the midst of a strange and frightening day on your job, you have to choose between destroying something you swore to protect and fixing a situation  you hoped might never happen. With all the world watching, I hope you’ll be brave. [2.]

Someday, you might find yourself in a place where you finally feel safe, and accepted in ways you haven’t before. This place will feel like a home for your soul where people understand, love, and get you. If someone should come in and start to destroy that place, start taking lives you love, I hope you’ll be brave. I hope that you will protect, that you will fight for that space, and those you love. If you exist outside that space, if you are not a member of that soul home, I ask you to use your strength and power to give a voice to those who lost theirs. That you will not drown out their voices with your incomparable experiences. [3.]

I hope that you shout until your voice goes hoarse, that you parade in front of the Capitol to see changes you want. I dream of passion and power and grace in your futures.

I hope you’ll bravely defend parents and children who experience the painful outcomes of horrific accidents. I pray you not jump to hasty conclusions about the parenting abilities of your fellow humans; that you share grief, and fear, and compassion with others experiencing losses you could never imagine and I hope you never know.[4.] 

Be brave, boys. The world turns on its axis cruelly this June, and mama would like nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry, but you make me brave. I will do everything I can to help you be brave too.

Love,

Prickly Pear Mama

[1.] State of California v. Brock Turner sentencing, June 2. 

[2.]Gorilla killed after toddler falls in zoo enclosure, Cinncinnati, May 31.

[3.]Pulse Nightclub mass shooting, Orlando, June 12.  

[4.]Toddler Lane Graves attacked and killed by alligator, Orlando, June 14.

 

A Letter to Social Media Regarding Brock Turner

I promised myself to stay out of this, but my brain has been thinking about the Brock Turner sexual assault case for days now, and I can’t let it go. My heart breaks and rages simultaneously, and I know that yours does too. But, here’s the deal:

If this incident truly hammers at the core of your being, talking and screaming and fighting on Facebook about who was more wrong, about the inhumanity of Brock, about the injustice of it all, does not fix the problem. I do not know that the problem of Brock can be fixed (more on this soon), but slacktivism does not fix the problem. Tomorrow a new, heart-wrenching cover story will arrive to make us forget about all of this. I pray that you don’t.

I have been wracking my brain trying to determine what to do with this heartache of mine. I’ve come up with some thoughts. You can, of course, sign the petition for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky from the bench, but that is not enough, nor will it necessarily make the difference that you want it to. In fact, any of these suggestions alone are simply not enough. Do them anyway.

  1. Donate your money or time to a sexual assault center in your area. Survivors like the one in Brock’s case utilize the services of these centers. The workers there support her in court, at the hospital, through counseling, and in a myriad of other life-advancing ways.
  1. If you do not have a local center, donate to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN.org) so they can keep running their hotline for survivors.
  1. Support sexual education in your schools. I could not be more serious about this. If we cannot even talk about sex, how can we ever address consent? If parents do not discuss this at home, it should be happening somewhere. These programs often suffer from low or no funding, but work diligently to educate thousands of students in a year. Support these programs.
  1. Support your state sexual assault organization. For example, in Texas, you can donate to Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA.org). They are often the clearinghouse for trainings all over your state, and lobby at the state and national levels for change. If you can, attend one of their trainings, try and stream it, or sign up on their website to do a virtual training.
  1. On that note, if the sentencing in this case burns a fire in you, pay attention when it’s time to elect judges.  Help fund the campaign of a judge you believe in. Learn about their judicial record.
  1. Find out if your local legal system requires sexual offenders to hear from Victim Impact Panels, if they require classes educating offenders about consent, or how the courts work with a local rape crisis or domestic violence center. If they don’t, advocate for these changes.
  1. Talk to your children about consent. Talk to them about sex. If you don’t know how to do this, look it up on the internet, where resources abound. Ask the sex educator in your school district. In our town, there’s actually a church that provides classes on this to teens. But do not pretend that your kid gets it. Even after you talk about it once, keep talking about it. It’s uncomfortable. So was birthing them. Some things just have to happen.
  1. On that note, talk to your kids about consent in front of their friends. Because you never know. Talk about consent as if you were trying to convert the nation to a culture of consent. Because you are.
  1.  Set limits for your children. Tell them no. When they are very young, teach them about personal space, about asking to give and receive hugs. Do not force them to hug and kiss when they do not want to or are uncomfortable, this teaches them that they have no control over their bodies.
  1. Pay attention to how you talk about this case, and other cases. She is a survivor. Rape survivors often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from not knowing whether they will live through their rape. They do not sleep the way you probably do. They do not have relationships the way you probably do, or at least, not for a very long time following their experience. If you know a rape survivor, call them that: Survivor. It is a powerful word. Understand that they may require hospitalization, therapy, medication. They are not crazy. They have survived. They are fighting for their lives. Still.
  1. If you disagree with someone’s opinion on Brock and the entire situation. If you think they are not strict enough, or cruel enough, or that Brock’s sexual organs should be removed because of his acts, try to have a civil conversation about it. Do not scream at them as if they were an idiot. If you feel the need to scream at them, do all of the action bulletins listed above first, and if you still have energy after that, feel free to yell. But civil discourse can lead to community action, rather than polarization. Talk about it.

And finally, let’s have an honest discussion about Brock and his future. These thoughts may not be popular, but before you rake me over the coals, read all of what I have to say. Brock raped a woman. Brock ended life as she knew it. No sentence received will change Brock or the survivor’s past. Brock and his family have received so much public attention regarding this case that I think his life is over in ways he could not have imagined. HOWEVER, he has money to change his name. He has connections to obtain a good job that pays well and provides him the lifestyle he is accustomed to. A life of privilege. We, collectively, have painted Brock as a vile, inhuman, animalistic rapist. Think about that. We make rape the verb of Brock’s life. We have decided this is who he is. In that decision, and despite a sexual offender website, we make it possible for him to rape again. Because that is who he is according to this universe.

Unless. Unless he were to be educated about consent. Made aware about the difference between wanting something and taking it. Educated about the difference between drinking to lower inhibition versus drinking for an excuse.  Unless, somehow, Brock could become a voice of education regarding consent, of awareness for campus sexual assault, a voice of change. Because that would truly be the only thing his survivor wants of him.

But it might be too late for him, because we decided that he’s not capable of that.

Do not decide for him. Push for him to survive as well; to meet the expectation, and regain his humanity. We are capable of change if we, and those around him believe.

Educate. Fight. Advocate. Listen. Do not let Brock of the past win. We cannot afford to lose.

PPM

 

(Also, just in case you have no idea what this case is about, or wonder how I really feel about it, read this.)