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 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.
The Sober Reality
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:
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.
What If There Had Been Consequences?
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 consequences
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?