What Kind Of World Will There Be For Our Daughters?
By Katie Golway
Childish visions of evil are dragons and step-mothers. They are not your friends, your neighbors, your family. As children grow, they associate vulnerability with trust and love. My child will know evil as her mother’s former best friend. My child will know that I hate to be vulnerable.
I still sleep with a nightlight. I will for the foreseeable future. Evil takes advantage of the dark, and so did my attacker. I choked on my own scream as I pushed her off of me. I did not understand what she did. We were surrounded by people. We were in the happiest place on earth. She laughed. My mind processed all these details and deemed the act dismissible - if only for my own safety.
I learned well what she had done after the nightmares came. I reported my assault twice, and justice was not done. I do not want this to be the same world in which I raise my daughter. We expect our children to be protected as they grow and come into their own. Sadly, they must learn. I do not want my story to instill fear into my child. I want her, and every other child, to be aware. I want her to value herself enough to be careful with whom she shares her soul. I want her to be educated about her body and her boundaries in every way that I was not. I want to give her a voice that she knows to use if she ever feels unsafe. The world is not guaranteed to protect her, so I want to teach her to protect herself.
It is heart wrenching to me that nearly every person I have shared my story with has a similar one. They tell me of their betrayal but ultimately of their power. The beauty of human beings is that we are constantly moving forward. We persevere, we endure. I want my daughter to know that she can absolutely scream if she needs to. The strength inside of her will rival everything.
I have done quite a lot of research on the subject. I have listened to parents tell their children how they were wronged. They suggest that children should be enrolled in self-defense classes. I will sign my daughter up as soon as she is able. I intend to teach her the word consent, as well, just as soon as I can. I will tell her she is entitled to the word “no.” Her body is hers and hers alone to command. I will tell also tell her that she must give the same respect to others. Education is the solution. Children understand more than we give them credit for; I am just aggravated that I will have to teach my daughter how to defend herself in a world where people are not taught not to rape. She will have to constantly assume that the only person she can rely on is herself. Her keys will be wedged between her knuckles and the walk from her car to her apartment will become her enemy. It is inevitable unless we change, unless we teach the next generations instead of offering them a harmful rhetoric of shame and strict abstinence.
In my late night research of parenting blogs and articles, I have found a common thread of guardians teaching code words to their children. This applies primarily to public spaces and establishes conscious difference between safe and unsafe situations starting in childhood. The code alerts the guardian to act immediately. It gives the child that instinct to react when they feel threatened. I froze. I did not shout or fight. That still haunts me to this day. I hope that adding this to my various bookmarks on parenting techniques will give my child what I lacked. I hope that it will allow me to protect her until she can protect herself. My life, my traumas, all of it is for her to learn from.
I do know, though it is a long way away, that I will always be afraid for her - as I am afraid for myself. I am still recovering from what you did, but you did not take my power. You will not take hers, either. Time will defy your actions.