How Parents Can Teach Their Kids Not To Be Rapists When They Grow Up

I was out of the loop on a lot of news stories at the beginning of last week, so the first I heard of the frenzy regarding convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner was a report where his father suggested that even the six month sentence, basically the minimum possible, was too harsh.

I read that story and went backwards, catching up on everything, and my opinion ended up seeming to match the majority, was that Turner got off way too lightly.  Way, WAY too lightly.

The Defense

mb-2016-06-newspapersThe father argued that his son shouldn’t be punished that harshly for an act that took 20 minutes, completely setting aside that the victim, while maybe unable to remember those 20 minutes, has to live now with what happened every single day for the rest of her life.  Yeah, even six years, which I think was the maximum sentence, is too light.

The dad making his statement is what I couldn’t got over, and it got me to wondering if better parenting could have maybe prevented the whole thing from happening.  I started comparing it against the context of my own life, and three different events struck me that ended up giving me my answer.

I present these three events.  Note, they are given in reverse chronological order.

Event 1: A Drunken Frat Party, roughly 1995

I went to a pretty small college. One of the big things to do when people wanted to go out on the weekends was go to one of the fraternity parties.  I was never in a frat but I was close to a lot of members of one of the houses, so when they had a party, I decided I’d go.  I don’t remember the specifics of who I went with or what, but at a certain point of the night, as often happens, I found that I was feeling pretty good.

No, I’ll take that back.  I was drunk.  (But feeling good)

I ended up in a room with a few people, including a girl that I had seen around and said hi to on a few occasions but that I definitely wasn’t close with.  Somehow, we started flirting and it was going well.  At a certain point, probably by some unspoken rule, the other people in the room filtered out.  It was just us left.

We started kissing and making out a little.  I was always a pretty shy and nervous guy, and this type of thing just didn’t happen all that often.  So, I remember thinking that this was going well.  In fact, it seemed to be going REALLY well.  In fact, I probably could have gone over, engaged the lock on the door, and continued on.

But I didn’t.

Because as I had these thoughts, I also had a realization that, like me, this girl was not exactly sober.  She was probably less sober than I was, and I was, well, not sober at all.  So, it occurred to me that, as much fun as I was having and as much fun as she was exhibiting that she was having, there was just too much alcohol involved.  Anything that happened after that would be a bad idea.  I knew that I’d be taking advantage of her.

I stopped.  Yes, I, a guy, stopped things.  And I didn’t just stop things and walk out, because I think a part of me knew that it might absolve me of any personal guilt for that night, it wouldn’t necessarily stop her from being taken advantage of.  So, I not only stopped, but I insisted on walking her back to her room.  I did.  I got her to her room, got her out a bottle of water, and left, making sure that I heard the lock latch behind me.

Event 2: My First High School Date, circa 1991

I went to an all boy high school, and the school would put on dances on a Friday night every couple of months.  Girls from different areas were invited, and it was usually pretty fun.  I mentioned how I was pretty shy, so for me these events were largely standing around with my equally shy friends watching the activities, occasionally venturing out in hopes that some girl would fall into my path somehow and we’d end up dancing together.

That never happened, except for the one time that it actually did.  I found myself dancing with someone, and we danced more than a few songs and exchanged numbers and agreed to go out the following weekend.

We talked and set up plans, and as we did so, I kept my parents in the loop.

As I was getting ready to go, my step-mom pulled me aside for a conversation.  At the end of it a few points had been drilled home.  I’m pretty sure I had to even repeat them word for word:

  • I was going to the door to get her (no honking the horn)
  • It was expected that I would meet her parents
  • Her mother would be given at least one compliment
  • My date’s car door was to be opened by me
  • My date would arrive home at least 15 minutes before the time she was due
  • She would be treated with respect
  • I was going to remember that I barely knew her
  • Nothing would be expected to ‘happen’

And there may have been a few other things.

And I’m also pretty sure this happened on just about every date I went on through high school.

Event 3: Sixth grade detention, circa 1985

I had three awesome teachers in a row between 3rd-5th grade, where I connected with them, got along with them, and felt that they always had my back and understood me, even when I’d be a pain in the rear.

Not so much with my sixth grade teacher.  He didn’t put up with any nonsense, and now that I look back, I think he was more getting us ready for the eventual realities of junior high more than anything, but I found myself in trouble with him more than once.  Unfortunately, one time I got myself in so much trouble that I was issued detention, so that I had to stay 15 minutes past dismissal, and I had to be picked up by a parent when it was done.

I took the detention slip home and presented it to my parents.  As I knew would be the case, they were very displeased.  But I felt a little bit of hope when one of the things my dad got upset about was that he would have to come and pick me up.  This meant him having to leave work early.

I was hopeful and I thought that, if he couldn’t come and get me that maybe he could call and get me out of the whole thing.  (After all, I’m pretty sure that whatever it was I got in trouble for wasn’t my fault, right? *lol*)

Well, I made that suggestion to him and he looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we all wear wigs and go travel around pretending to be The Grateful Dead (yeah, they were kind of big around this time, if memory serves).

In other words, it wasn’t going to happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my dad said something along the lines that, if anything, I would be staying LONGER than the 15 minutes I’d been written up for.

Bringing The Three Events Together

When you look at the first story of what happened in college, it’s pretty obvious that things could have gone a different way.  One of the things, as I look back on, is that I probably could have continued things and gone all the way with that girl that night.  After that, I’m not really sure.  Would she have seen it as having been taken advantage of and done something or would she have just attributed it to a drunken decision and moved on?

I’m not really sure and I’m glad that I did not put her or myself in the position to find out.

I went down a better path and it was because of two things that tie back to the other stories:

  • Respect

  • Consequences

Here’s the thing.  Even with what was probably a blood alcohol level way over what was legal, I realized that I would be doing this girl wrong.  She never said the word ‘No’, but I realized that I needed to stop anyway.  Why? Because the conversation as I headed out to my first real date was not just about that date.  It was about teaching me respect.  That’s why it wasn’t just a one time conversation. It was drilled into me, and though I dreaded the conversations each time they were going to happen, I also remember the feeling of surprise the first time I went out on a date and the conversation didn’t happen.  Looking back, I think that showed me that it worked.   The message had been received, and I only received it because my parents spent the time to teach me respect.

Now what if I had made a bad decision and had gotten in some sort of trouble for it?  What if I’d gotten her pregnant or what if she realized the next day that she wasn’t in the right state of mind to give consent?  Either one of these outcomes would have resulted in me having to tell my parents that I was in trouble.  What would they have said?  Well, I’m not going to speak for them on exactly what they would say, but I’m going to tell you exactly what they wouldn’t say.  Words I know I never would have heard would have included “We’ll get you out of this” or “We know it wasn’t your fault.”

Why do I know this?  Because I was taught that actions have consequences.   My first lesson in this was back in sixth grade.  Here I learned that my parents were not going to get me out of things.  If I got myself in trouble, it was on me to stand up and take responsibility for it.  I’ll tell you what, knowing these truths definitely guided me to different and better decisions.  This happened in the case of the drunken frat party, but also in many areas of my life.

What My Parents Got That The Stanford Rapist Parents Still Don’t

My parents love me.  Brock’s parents love him.  I’m sure of these truths.  But where my parents and Brock’s went different is that Brock’s parents try to shield him from the world.  This includes trying to shield him from his own mistakes.  My parents didn’t do that.  My parents didn’t want me to make mistakes and tried to steer me down the right path, and I’m going to give Brock’s parents the benefit of the doubt and think that may be they tried to do this too.

But the difference is how they reacted when mistakes were made.  See, all kids make mistakes.  No matter how much you teach them, kids make mistakes.  I see it every day.  But, my parents never took my mistakes on as their own burden.  My mistakes were made by me and it was up to me to live with what happened.  You can tell by the statement made by Brock’s dad that they didn’t follow that.  They likely saw him make mistakes along the way but would step in and shield him from the consequences.   My dad made sure I served my detention, no questions asked.  Do you think Brock’s dad ever tried to get him out of detention?  I kind of so.

And now his kid is going to jail.

So, parents, take this as a lesson.

Teach your children respect.  Make them say their pleases and thank yous.  Make your sons understand the importance of showing respect to their dates and their dates moms and everybody else.  Repeat it until they roll their eyes at you and then repeat it a few more times.

Teach your kids consequenses.  If your kids get in trouble by their teacher, don’t go complain to the principal.  If they come home with a black eye, don’t call the parents of the other kid and blame them for how they raised their kid.  Here’s the thing, you can support your children while letting them handle the consequenses of their own actions.  Let your kids know that mistakes are OK, but that if they make them, whatever happens next is something that they have to be prepared to deal with.  If you teach them this at a young age and reinforce it, they won’t like it, but I tell you, they’ll have a much higher likelihood to grow up and not rape people.  And, probably will do much better than that.

Epilogue – Event 1

A few days after the frat party, the girl sought me out.  She thanked me for having taken the high road and for having made sure that she got home safely.  She was glad that nothing happened that she would later have regretted.   We actually got to be friends.  I found out she has a greater gift of sarcasm than I do, which I never would have otherwise learned.  Even though we’re in different parts of the country, we still keep up via social media to this day.  I cherish this and know that it turned out for the best.

Readers, what do think about the Stanford rape story?  Parents don’t likely actually say “Don’t rape people” as a way to teach their kids not to be rapists.  Still, how do we do our part to guide them down the right path?

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14 thoughts on “How Parents Can Teach Their Kids Not To Be Rapists When They Grow Up

  1. I’ll have to come back with a more thoughtful comment later but I wanted to thank you for writing this at all and saying what I’m sick of hearing parents refuse to say: it’s on us to teach our kids about respect. I’m sick of parents claim that rape is what a girl should expect when she drinks, what do boys expect? A hangover. Why on earth should women have to “expect” to be raped and have it be so ingrained in social consciousness that she would have to come back and thank you for being a decent and respectful human being who is considerate of others? How you and I expect to conduct ourselves, and how we expect our kids to conduct themselves, with respect and consideration for others, and understanding that violating that has consequences, should be the basic level of conduct, not the outlier. But the fact is, we are outliers and you can see that when a woman knows that she was LUCKY that you were not a scuzzball and didn’t take advantage of her being drunk to do things she couldn’t consent to. I’m glad that your parents did their job and that you’re likewise doing your own, and that you’re talking about this because we need more good people, and especially men, speaking out against this atrocious behavior and making it clear that it’s unacceptable and should be punished appropriately.
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  2. This story infuriates. As though the length of the rape has ANYTHING to do with trauma. And as though the man’s child shouldn’t be punished for anything. And the judge worrying that the kid’s life would be unduly affected if the sentence were longer. (Um… isn’t that the point? Also, what about the victim’s life?!)

    Reading the victim’s letter just made it exponentially worse for me. But worst of all? It looks like he’ll only serve 3 months of the 6 months sentence. All we can do is keep referring to him as convicted rapist Brock Turner to remind people that this wasn’t all in good fun. This wasn’t a case of a girl being drunk and saying yes. (Still not okay, but easier for many men to rationalize.) This was her, unconsciously, with things being inserted into her body.

    Like you said, teach kids respect. Teach them not only that no means no, but that a overly-drunken yes should be considered a no. Tech then that not fighting back is NOT a sign of consent, and that no woman would want to be fingered while unconscious, let alone behind a dumpster.
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    • I think part of it, as well, is that we have to teach our kids to try to look for people that need help and give them help. We have to do that by example. Otherwise we teach them to take advantage of people.

  3. I think respect is huge. Also for me, learning that not everything is FOR you. Brock Turner is one of many men who have been raised hearing ‘here, the world is yours.’ We idolize athletes, we give them expectations they ask for, and we grant them gifts not everyone else gets. That feeds into the mindset that they can do what they want.

    Brock felt entitled to the victim’s body. He saw an unconscious woman and thought ‘yeah, I can touch her, that’s fine.’ You’re right in that his parents shielded him from repercussions. So too does our society- we saw that clearly with the judge. The judge wanted to shield him from any more pain or stress.

    So yes, I agree with you. Teach your kids respect. Teach them responsibility. And remind them they share this world with 7 billion other people, all of whom are just as important as they are.

    • Unfortunately so many people are taught to believe that they’re more important than others. But where do they learn that? Likely from their parents at least as the biggest opportunity to teach that lesson.

  4. I think the girl bears some responsibility here. There are always kooks about who will take advantage of a passed out girl in public. We wish it were otherwise, but everyone knows it is true.

    • In her letter, she very much took responsibility for her actions, but made the point that such irresponsibility should not lead to the expectation that she’d be raped.

  5. OK, my respect for you has just shot through the roof. The way you handled that frat party was extremely commendable. Making the effort to walk that girl to her home so that nobody would take advantage of her. Stellar! Your parents did the right thing, and no doubt, you’ll do the right thing as a parent in the years to come.
    Protecting our children from the consequences of their actions is so damaging. As natural jelly fish, I find it a challenge to asset a backbone in this area. But I do. And from what I see, it’s leading to good results.
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  6. If you don’t know someone well enough for them to give you a signed consent form agreeing to whatever it is you want to do , you don’t know them well enough to sleep with them. I think that view would prevent any of the stories that come up in the news

    • I see your point but even then, someone could argue that they were drunk when they signed it, and at that point, what happens? I really think it just boils down to people, men and women, having respect for themselves, for others, and staying in control.

  7. With the word “Respect,” you nailed it. Excellent post!

    Here’s what I think about this dreadful fiasco. Mr. Turner likely has no respect for anyone, particularly not for drunken women, because his father likely has no such respect. I spent 20 years of married life in this social circle: among the kind of affluent social climbers who start grooming their kids to get into Harvard before preschool. And I can assure you, for many of them “respect” is a vocabulary word from Intermediate Martian.

    Oh, they’re very polished and smooth and they make you think they’re respectful enough. But give them enough to drink and pay out enough rope, and sooner or later they’ll let their guard down.

    Like begets like. That is why the young Mr. Turner feels entitled to do as he pleases and feels no “respect” for anyone, least of all a drunk woman who has passed out on the ground next to a trash bin. He has not been brought up to be a caring man. He’s been brought up to be an acquiring man. In his booze-fuzzed mind, you can be pretty sure, he would have seen the young woman as another acquisition. He probably thought no one would see him and she would be none the wiser — so why not?

    I’ve known a lot of men like this. My brother-in-law had tendencies along those lines. I’ve heard a man say of his wife that she was very stupid but she could cook fine and that was all that mattered. He wasn’t trying to be funny or cute, BTW. After one of the firm wives almost bled out during a childbirth and was told by a doctor that she would probably die if she got pregnant again, her husband told her that her tubes had been tied during the surgery performed to save her life; he lied specifically because he wanted more another child. I’ve had a colleague who happened to be the father of my son’s best friend report to me what the husbands of our sons’ friends’ mothers were saying about those mothers when they were hanging around the campfire at Boy Scout outings — things so repellent that this man, who was raised with some respect and who had spent half his adult life as a Boy Scout leader, quit the organization in disgust. I’ve had neighbors who threw bashes for their teenaged kids at which the liquor flowed freely. A lot of lip service is given to morals and ethics in these circles, but in the end those are inconveniences that apply to someone else.

    A decent man brings his son up to be a decent man. But…well, you’d be surprised how many men (and women) who can afford to send their high-rolling sons to places like Stanford are just not decent.

    This is a fact of life. A 23-year-old woman, such as Mr. Turner’s victim, should be aware of it, especially if she’s bright enough to get into a school like Stanford. And so I have to agree with Carole: we all bear some degree of responsibility for our own safety. Getting falling-down drunk abdicates that responsibility.

    No, I most certainly do not think any woman “deserves” to be raped (or robbed, or beaten, or murdered) because she drinks herself into oblivion at a frat party. It’s not a matter of “deserving.” It’s a matter of common sense and taking responsibility for yourself. And you know…rape is a fact of life for women. There are plenty of men who are happy to oblige. You don’t “deserve” it, but you’re foolish to ignore the risks.

    A man who gets bat-brained drunk, stumbles off into a forest, and is attacked by a hungry cougar could be said to bear some responsibility for the outcome of his unwise actions. Why should a woman not be expected to bear some responsibility of the outcome of her unwise actions?

    That doesn’t mean I don’t think the guy should go to jail. He certainly should. But while we’re teaching our boys respect, we should also be teaching our girls reasonable caution and good sense.
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    • I agree with what you’re saying and I’m not saying that anybody can expect to get rip-roaring drunk and expect no consequences, because that’s foolish. My point is that many people don’t intend to get rip-roaring drunk in the first place…and often times they don’t realize that they are, in fact, rip-roaring drunk. How many times have you seen someone claim they’re “fine” while knocking down picture frames from the table or “tripping” over that rug that nobody else was bothered by all night? It’s a slippery slope, and the thought of getting a “little buzz” can turn into something more sinister without the person acknowledging, or being able to realize it. I think that’s where people need to make sure they have others around to look out for them. There’s power in numbers, and the bigger group of people you go out with, the better chance you have of someone being able to step in on your behalf…or in some cases, being the person to step in on the behalf of someone whose night has gotten away from them.

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