Wednesday, June 8

A Letter to My Daughter

I'm going to take a little detour around writing today, dear wordwranglers, because...well, sometimes writing about writing just isn't enough.

Dear bebe,

Something happened last week, well, over a year ago actually, but the verdict was just handed down, that has kind of stopped me in my tracks. A man, who happens to be white and happened to be a great athlete, was convicted of raping an unconscious girl on the campus at Stanford. That man who was convicted on three felony charges was subsequently sentenced to six months in jail and to having his name put on the sex offender registry. The prosecutors had fought for a minimum of 6 years, but the charges could have gone as high as 14 years.

The judge sentencing him said, basically, that this athlete had been through enough, and that because there were no previous crimes, 6 months was enough.

For raping a young woman who was unconscious behind a dumpster.

My mind is a little blown by this. It's even more blown by the fact that this man hasn't, at this point, acknowledged that what he did to that girl wasn't okay. His own father has defended him, saying he shouldn't have to pay for '20 minutes of action'...that part makes me want to throw up a little.

I'm writing this letter to you because you're seven, and right now I can't talk to you about what rape means, or how to protect yourself, and it breaks my heart that all the protection in the world may not protect you from people like him. You're seven and I still hold your hand when we cross the street, and I annoy you when I ask a million times if you've buckled your seatbelt. I hold your hand because, if I don't hear that car coming down the street, I want to be able to push you out of its way when it bears down on us. I ask you a million times if you've buckled up because I want to know, if another vehicle crosses on a red, that you're protected.

You're seven, and right now I can protect you from most of life's worries and traumas, so you don't need to know about rape, but some day you will need to know, and that's why I'm writing this.

Because I want to tell you that I'm sorry.

I want to tell you that I'm sorry that you live in a world in which some men will push a woman behind a dumpster or into the back seat of his car or into her own bed because he feels entitled to her body. I am sorry these men feel no remorse after taking a woman's sense of security and well-being. I am sorry that of all the fights we, as women, have fought and won, that these men still feel it is their right to touch our bodies in the most invasive of ways, and that still others will vindicate them. Most of all, I am sorry that you live in a world in which the rights of the attacker are valued more highly than the rights of the victim. You shouldn't have to live in a world like this.

I am so sorry, kiddo, that there are going to be things, and people, in this life that will get past my Mom Radar, and they will try to hurt you. And they will succeed. It could be a boy who callously breaks your heart or a best friend who turns against you. Or it could be rape, in its many forms.

And I want to make you a promise that, when you're old enough, we will talk about this, and I will prepare you to the best of my ability to protect yourself.

I want to tell you one more thing.

I want to tell you that you are strong. At seven you're one of the strongest people I know. You have battled more obstacles at your age than I had fought by the time I was twenty, and because of those obstacles, you have taught me how to be strong.

Over the past seven years, you have taught me that there is very little that we cannot overcome. And I want you to know, no matter what happens, if ever you are at your weakest, that I will fight for you. I will be strong for you when you can't be strong for yourself.

If you are asked what you were wearing, I will ask why that matters. If you are asked if you'd been drinking, I will ask why he thought raping a woman who couldn't give consent was okay. And, if you are asked how many past partners you have had, I will ask how many rapes the man you face has committed.

My dear, sweet, funny, strong seven year old, I hope you are still this sweet and funny and strong when you are seventy-seven. But, if the worst does happen to you when you grow up, know that I will do everything in my power to walk with you through the darkness and the fear until you find your strength once more.

And I will still be holding your hand.

Love, Mom.

8 comments:

  1. This is powerful and important and strong, just like Shelby is. Like all our daughters are. Thanks for sharing it, Kristi.

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    1. thanks, liz, this horrifying story has been on my mind a lot over the past few days. I'm also very angry, but the sad needed to have a voice, too.

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  2. I read the victim's letter to her attacker yesterday. Just reading that changed me in ways I don't even care to discuss. The father's statement was almost as bad. That "20 minutes" thing totally floored me. What kind of justification is that? It only takes a second to pull a trigger.

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    1. I know, the whole thing is just horrifying. It sounds as if the victim has a support system around her, but what is happening to her still breaks my heart.

      And I don't have words for the anger I feel toward the attacker or his father or his friends. Being a good person in the past doesn't excuse present actions.

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  3. I can't wrap my head around any of this--how a judge can excuse a non-contested rape. It isn't even a case of he said/she said, there were actual witnesses/saviors--how a parent can chalk his sons depravity to "twenty minutes of action"--

    It's all so whacked. And I find it extremely sad that in this day and age, we still have to explain to our daughters that the boogeyman could be her classmate.

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    1. the excusing, I think, bugs me most of all, Margie...I just can't with the whole lack of humanity from him/his camp/the judge. I just want.

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  4. Oh, Kristi--what a wonderful letter--you made me cry, mostly because of how very much you love your daughter and how much you want her to be strong. But also because I have a son that I'm so very proud of--a son who will be teaching his son how to treat women with respect and dignity. To honor them--just like we taught him. Good for you and may all parents be this aware of the world around their children... thank you.

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    1. xo, Nan! Thank YOU for being a strong mom for your son!

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