A Father’s Day Post on Protecting your Daughters – Part 1

A few times since sharing my story, parents have asked me what they can do to protect their daughters, nieces, or granddaughters from rape. My first reaction was that they can’t – no one can. But I thought about it some more, I thought about why some girls get raped and others don’t…I didn’t have an answer for them yet but I began to suspect there was one out there.

 

Last week, I saw an article with the heading “College Rape Prevention Program Proves a Rare Success” in the New York Times. It stated that the risk of rape was proven to be lower for women who had completed a newly developed rape prevention program.

Even before reading the article, I was annoyed. I figured it was referring to another self defence class or a lesson on not leaving drinks unattended – with ever present undertones of victim blaming.

I’m sure self defence is great. I’ve never taken a class, but I’ve seen it on TV so clearly I’m an expert. The attacker approaches you from behind in a dark alley and you flip him over your shoulder and then pepper spray him in the face. Okay, so maybe I’m not an expert but that’s okay because here’s the thing: self defence wouldn’t have prevented any of my rapes.

No one attacked me in an alley. I wasn’t walking with pepper spray in hand, on high alert because I was out alone at night in a dodgy part of town. I was drunk in a bed and before I knew what was happening there was a football player on top of me, a person I’d known most of my life.

I never left my drink unattended – I left it on my table, in a pub, where my friends were sitting. It was attended. I probably left my purse there too when I got up to use the restroom. No one stole my wallet but I still got drugged and I still got raped.

 

I grew up in a small town. No one locked their doors and everyone knew each other. Rape didn’t happen there – it couldn’t – because if there aren’t any strangers, how can you get raped by one?  And this is why upon actually reading the article, I think this program has the potential to be effective at preventing rapes: instead of focusing on stranger rape, it focuses on acquaintance rape.

The program taught women* how to assess risk in common situations, develop problem solving skills to reduce perpetrator advantages, acknowledge danger in situations that have turned coercive, explore ways to overcome emotional barriers to resisting the unwanted sexual behaviours of men who were known to them, practice resisting verbal coercion, and set personal and sexual boundaries. Most importantly: it taught women to trust their intuition.

Could these skills have prevented my first rape? Maybe.

My intuition told me I might not be safe, but I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t recognize that it may be a danger to stay in that house with those boys. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going – my friends didn’t even know where I was. I was more afraid of getting in trouble with my parents than for my own safety. What if I had personal boundaries? What if I had screamed for help, or told someone after it happened? (More on that in part 2 of this post).

What about the second rape? I’m confident it could have.

Maybe because if it had prevented my first one, it would have reduced the likelihood of another one:

Another study about sexual assaults of first-year college women, published this month in The Journal of Adolescent Health, noted that women who had been previously assaulted may be up to six times more likely to be revictimized during that first year than women who had never faced sexual violence.

My intuition was strong and clear that day, I knew I wasn’t safe. I was literally hiding in a closet. I was surrounded by men who considered it a brotherly pastime to one-up each other with the most offensive misogynistic comments. But I didn’t leave. And when he came in and raped me, I tried to fight back but I wasn’t strong enough. Maybe the class would have taught me a way to fend off someone at close range who was bigger than me.

What about the third one? Nope.

I was completely blindsided by that one. I still leave my drink on the table when I’m out with friends, and I’ve asked male friends to drive me home alone even when I’ve had too many drinks. As I write this it occurs to me that it’s probably because that’s the only one I don’t blame myself for.

 

The curriculum is here, I took a look and was very impressed and even learned a few things. I definitely didn’t have these tools back then. For those moms and dads out there looking for ways to protect their daughters, this is a start.

 

It’s hard not to end this post thinking “what could I have done differently?” My logical brain knows that I couldn’t have prevented my rapes. I was doing the best I could with the tools I had at the time. But thinking my nieces have a chance, that they’ll have tools to protect themselves…that makes me hopeful.

 

Read “A Father’s Day Post…” – Part 2

 

* This post is focused on the NYT article and the program it references. The program, the article, and the NEJM study referenced focus exclusively on female victims of male rapists. WYR recognizes that both men and women perpetrate rape and both men and women can be victims.

Author

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren Reid is the founder of When You're Ready.org, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they're not alone. When you're ready, I'll be here.

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