We’ve all seen #metoo stories in the news and our social media feeds. I want to share my own story as I hope my experience can help others understand that we are never alone, despite what we might tell ourselves and that there is true strength and healing in speaking out. As painful and scary as it has been, I am using my own experiences to raise good and decent men – beautiful little boys who will mature into strong, confident, respectful men.
The most empowered I have ever felt was during graduate school working as the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Coordinator at KU. Presenting to incoming college first-year students on the importance of consent, safety, awareness and knowing what resources exist for reporting and healing – it was my passion.
My job included speaking in classes and forums, presenting to fraternities and sororities, providing literature, answering questions, and advocating for the importance of speaking out. I never missed a Take Back the Night event. I didn’t leave bars alone and always watched my drink; I knew the drill. But my confidence was shaken one night that I can’t and won’t forget.
I traveled to visit a university in New Jersey, and a stranger raped me. I never reported it.
I walked with the shame and humiliation every day. How could I not have prevented it with all I knew? After years of work, tears, and therapy, I am proud to report that I am no longer afraid and now live life fully as I’ve come so far. My story is one of redemption and power. I embrace who I am and where I’ve been; I see that my experiences do not define me but give me a darn great impetus to teach my children to respect all people.
I am now married to a respectful, kind, and gentle man, who is my best friend. Together we are raising two boys.
And here are three simple things we do to help teach our sons to respect people:
Changing How We Think About Boys
We need to encourage and help our boys to shun the idea of what masculinity looks like in today’s world. I remember reading Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence almost 15 years ago, and I’m not sure we’ve come far enough as a society. But in our house, we love deeply. We know it’s okay to cry and feel. Our boys don’t have to “be a man” and “suck it up.” We reach out and help ourselves and others by embracing our humanity.
Modeling Healthy Relationships
We model healthy relationships. We discuss how relationships need respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, and support. We communicate and talk about our emotions. The boys know that good partners and friends will accept you as you are, support your personal choices, and be thrilled for your success.
We work on “no means no” now, so that when they both grow up, they understand boundaries and listen to everyone. It’s a good life lesson but a difficult one to learn. And in this, I trust that we’ve laid the foundation so they won’t ever feel entitled to anyone else’s body. Raising compassionate and big-hearted boys (and girls) in this world isn’t easy. But my #metoo experiences have taught me that it is worth the work.
I hope you’ll join me in speaking out and empowering our children to always treat others with respect and dignity. And I trust that we will raise men and women who demonstrate their compassion and support for everyone. I want our sons and daughters to live in a world free from sexual assualt, harrassment and explotation; it is their right (and our responsiblity).
I would love to invite you to join me at the Take Back the Night March on April 27th! I’ll be a featured speaker and would love to share more about my story with you. Click here for more details.
*If you have experienced rape, sexual assault or harassment and need help, please contact the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center at their 24-hour crisis line at 316.263.3002.
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