I came at my son with a yellow legal pad a week before he was scheduled to go away to college.
I didn’t want to wait until the day before or burden him while he was imprisoned in the car with me for the long ride. I needed to do my duty, read him his rights, duties, and responsibilities. I needed to know that he knows stuff — because he heard it from me.
One of the many topics I addressed was the issue of college campus sexual assaults on women. Fun, huh?
I started with saying that I have no reason to think that he would do any of this stuff I was about to talk about, but that
I have to have said it, and
He has to listen.
The boy shook his head, gave the kind of chuckle that told he knew he didn’t have a choice, and I talked. This is what I said, and I hope, I so hope, that he really heard me:
1. If she’s too drunk to say no, then she’s too drunk to say yes. If anyone does anything to a woman while she is incapable of consenting, it’s rape.
2. If she appears to be consenting, but also appears to be inebriated (or drugged) to the extent that her spoken consent, even her requests or begging for physical attention, are not made wisely, then walk away. Guys can say no, too. It’s not passing up on the only opportunity. Some situations are just not right and absolutely not worth it. “Nope, you’re too drunk.” Wise words.
3. Consent can be withdrawn, at any time. And it can have limits. A person can consent to one thing, but not another. She can consent to one guy, but not another. If there’s ever a no, everything stops.
4. No matter what a women wears, or what she has done in the past, or how she dances, or even if she flashes, or offers to put on a show for the guys, no one has the right to touch her in any way unless she gives consent, real consent, anew, each time.
5. Be a hero. “You think you’re a superhero anyway, so be a hero,” is what I said.
If you see other guys violating these rules , do not walk away.
Women usually travel in packs. If a girl is in trouble or heading that way, find one of her girlfriends and tell her. It can be as simple as,
“Go get your girl, she needs to get out of here.”
Her true friends will take her back to her dorm. If there’s no time for that, you can, I told him, directly stop the guy or guys from crossing the line. It doesn’t have to be a big scene or physical, just a,
“Dude, she’s too drunk, she said no, let her go,” should suffice.
And, get her out of there.
Now, as an attorney mother of a boy, I must say that I’m not entirely comfortable with him being the one last seen leaving alone with a woman — drunk or sober — who was about to be or has been assaulted. The real perpetrators or their buddies might try to redirect the blame to my son, the one who was actually the hero, as the man last seen with a victim of assault.
“She was fine when she was here, but she left with him,”
— is not something I want my superhero son to have to defend or discredit. There is safety in numbers — and witnesses.
So I advised him to go ahead and remove a woman from harm — publicly — then find girlfriends and if necessary call someone with authority — a Resident Advisor, Campus Police, or Security, or actual police. Do the right thing, be a hero, but do it safely for her and for yourself.
I told him that it’s just not okay to allow, ignore, or leave someone in danger. Remaining silent is morally wrong, encouraging it can be criminal.
Yes, I re-watched The Accused over the Summer. Thanks, Netflix. I think.
I want my son to learn and have fun in college, and be respectful, mindful, helpful, do the right thing, and be a hero if necessary. That’s not so much to ask.
Just Me With . . . words of advice for my son.
This was only one part of the multi-page outline I approached him with, poor kid.
I pray he never has to use this advice, but if a bad situation presents itself, I hope he remembers what his mama taught him, and also what Shawn Spencer said in one of his favorite shows, Psych:
You know that’s right.
Here’s a fun fact: As children grow they develop fine motor skills.
So I did what everybody does, I told him, scolded him really:
“Do not ever unbuckle your car seat. It is not safe. Do you understand me? You will get a time-out for that! It is very, very, very important. Do you understand? ”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Him: “Yes, Momma.” He still called me Momma then.
He could tell when Momma wasn’t messing around. I was using my stern voice, my serious face and my angry eyes. Mission accomplished.
But my little Houdini is not my only kid. I had had five kids in all. The three-year-old was just the oldest. Twin girls, twice, came after. Yes, They are Twins, Yes, they are Twins, Too. Consequently, we didn’t get out much. Taking a preschooler, two toddlers and two infants to any store — well, this was not an outing that a person takes lightly. So sometimes when I had to run errands and my mother was with me we would buckle the kids in the car and my mom would stay with them while I would run in and out of stores. It got us out of the house, sometimes the kids would get their naps using this method, and it gave me a little break.
The very next day after the car seat unbuckling incident and lecture, my mom and I decided to load the kids and run some errands. We pulled into the local pharmacy and I ran in. As per usual, my Mom stayed with them in the car. I was gone only a few minutes.
When I came out, my mom was standing outside of the car, all five kids were still strapped in — inside.
The doors were closed.
“This can’t be good,” I thought.
My mother was distraught. Almost in tears.
“I can’t get in.” She said. “The babies started to cry and I got out to calm them down. I — I — I — closed the door . . . and now it’s locked.”
We, the adults, were locked out. The children were locked in. Turns out I was right. This wasn’t good. The keys were in the car.
I tried not to panic. After all, the car was running and the air conditioning was on, so they wouldn’t cook in there . . . but still, it’s not good to leave five children alone in a car and I didn’t know how much gas I had.
Options: I could run home and get an extra set of keys. But that would take too long, and my mother was losing it. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the kids. My husband was never really available during the day and worked too far away, anyway. I could call my Dad to do it, but he’s hard to get a hold of . . . so . . . I guess I’d have to call the police to break into the car. This was not a proud moment. “Why? Why, do I ever leave the house?” I wondered.
Well, hello there, Mr. Panic.
Then I remembered — my son — the big boy, the one who has motor skills!!! The boy can get out of his car seat and unlock the door!!! He has the ability. He has the manual dexterity. I’ve seen him do it — just yesterday. “It was worth a try,” I thought.
And so . . . one day after having scolded the boy for unbuckling his car seat and making him promise never to do it again —
I begged, “Honey,” I spoke kindly but loudly through the closed window, “Momma wants you to UNBUCKLE YOUR CAR SEAT and UNLOCK the door!”
He looked away from me. “Clearly,” his three-year-old mind must have reasoned, “This is some sort of test and I’m not going to fall for it, nope nope.”
I cooed, “No Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay, really, Momma says it’s okay, PLEASE get out and let us in. Please, you won’t be in trouble!!!! I promise!!!!”
I saw him roll his eyes toward the ceiling, away from me. His hands stayed at his sides. He was more still than any three-year-old could possibly be. It was impressive, really.
My mother was crying by this time and apologizing, she felt really, really badly. But I had to get to the kids.
Me to my statue-like son, “Honey, please. Please!!!!!! It’s okay, I promise. Get out of your car seat. Momma needs you to get out of your car seat! PLEASE!!!”
This child would not even acknowledge that I was talking to him. Again, it was impressive. And comical. I had literally just made him promise never to get himself out of his car seat and here I was begging him to do just that. It was like a sitcom.
“Pleeeeeeease!!!! Momma says it’s okay.” But that boy was NOT going to fall for my obvious trickery. “Momma said no,” he must have thought, “Momma said no.”
We had started to draw a crowd. I was beginning to tear up, too. The girls were useless, too young to manipulate their car seats, arms to short to reach the locks. And . . . they’d started to cry again.
This was not good.
In the end, my obedient son never unbuckled his car seat. Some nice gentleman drove me home (I wasn’t far, and thankfully I’d left the house unlocked). I got my spare keys and everybody was fine.
—- Except my mother. It took her a long time to recover.
We didn’t go out for a while after that and when we did, no matter what the kids were doing, my mother never got out of the car again.
Just Me With . . . five car seats, a mom, and a son who had learned his lesson, damn it.