The shocking rape by Stanford University student Brock Turner has received international attention both for the rape vicitm’s powerful statement describing the trauma she experienced and the outrageous letter written by the Dad calling it “20 minutes of action”

 

As a mother of a son, I shudder. Yes, we are all outraged like we were when the Delhi Nirbhaya incident happened.There is a strong need for parents of boys to instill a sense of respect for women..to not objectify them, to not treat them like a conquest, to learn to respect their wishes and words. Our whole culture needs a change. 

Now, in the wake of this heinous crime, we should certainly talk to boys on respect and consent. Yes, I need to teach my son the meaning of consent in this male dominated society… Yet, I was reminded of a small muscle, often overlooked, …one missing link called self restraint

“The usual makeup of the human system is such that it has a tendency to express itself, rather than retain itself in any given condition.If this control over the self is not to be exercised, we would be giving a long rope to this habit which compels us to go beyond ourselves, to cross limits of decency and break the boundaries of etiquette.”-Swami Krishnananda

Before you assume restraint is about  drinking alone, and about pointing fingers at poor Emily Doe.., or absolving Brock of guilt because he was intoxicated. There is no connection between drinking and getting raped.  The fact that  we assume self restraint is only for the girl exposes our mindset. 

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While self control with drinking and smoking and drugs is often discussed, self control with sex is not a topic of discussion..I think restraint is also vital when you talk about consent ..for our boys, sons,friends, fiances and husbands…

RESTRAINT AND CONSENT AND RAPE

Consent is a easy to understand..as easy as drinking tea (Do watch it)

Firstly, in the Brock turner rape case,  there is no question of consent.. because  consent means agreed to proceed. I strongly doubt that Brock Turner had difficulty figuring out consent! An unconscious woman cannot give consent. He knew what he was doing. It was a rape and a crime. Excuses like “her skirt was too short, her top was too low, she was drunk or she was asking for it”….are just the male dominated society making pathetic excuses for their unacceptable behaviour. Rape, as a crime, also goes beyond consent , because it is not just a sexual offense. It has many connotations of gender based violence and power embedded deep in our patriarchal system. No matter what the circumstances, it is never the victim’s fault.Which is why there are laws to punish rapists

But when we we talk to consent to our boys..who don’t intend to rape a unknown women…lets talk about consent in a lot of rape cases in colleges that are not talked about. It involves an acquaintance, a friend or even a boyfriend.It occurs with no clear consent.. (i.e., the woman agrees to a certain point, but the man wants to continue). Then he cannot stop. There are cases where a “best friend” drugged their his girlfriend ‘s drink because she was taking too long to be ready. Did he not know about consent? He did, but had lacked the muscle to wait anymore.

But even when it is not a crime by law..a husband does not have the right to force sex on her wife, without consent. (marital rape is not even crime in India) And we women are okay with giving the “headache” excuse, rather than talk about consent.

To say that “no means no” and truly understand consent means we expect that someone can and will halt sexual advances at any point when the other person says “stop” or “no”.  . Do all men, boyfriends, fiances and husbands included, have the self control to be able to do that ? While we teach our boys to respect a woman’s choice, and  make sure our sons exercise and accept this completely and truly, lets work on strengthening that muscle as well please.

RESTRAINT IN THE OBVIOUS: DRINKING, DRUGS ET AL

A dear friend once told me how her father had taken her out on her first drinking spree. She had drunk until she almost passed out. When she woke up the next day, obviously aware she had no recollection of she got to her bed, her dad told her “5 drinks, that’s when this happens. Remember your limit and stay well under”.

He had beautifully taught her, when she reached the 5 drink point, she needed to exercise self control.

Indulgences like alcohol, drugs, smoking etc have a limit and excesses both render you (irrespective of boy or girl) vulnerable to horrendous criminals that exist in this society.. ( assault, robbery and road accidents and many other dangers).

Yet, we have to acknowledge what Stuart Dunnings III, a county prosecutor in Michigan whose purview includes 50,000-student Michigan State University in East Lansing says, “Alcohol is the new date rape drug”. In the Brock Turner case, the fact that if the two bikers had not come and pinned him down, that girl would have woken up raped, next to dumpster and Brock Turner would have walked away scott free ….sends a chill down my spine. The fact that brock turner got away with 6 months and the dad calls rape- 20 mins of action is proof that there is enough of these horrible people walking around..

There are  violent criminals who prey on the most vulnerable. No one asks to be a victim of a crime.  Drunkenness should never be a justification for being victimized.

 All we can do, is be on the lookout and recognize when indulgence has crossed a line. Having a sober mind at least allows you to be able face that danger as best as you can

Even harder for a parent to think…your child may cause danger to others. Just yesterday a drunken 21 year old mowed down 3 people..

We need to face the dangers of excesses head on before we set these children out into a world.

TEACHING SELF RESTRAINT AS A VALUE FOR OUR CHILDREN :

Thus, Self restraint-simply put it is the ability to stop and think before acting. Yes, Laws are there for crime. Our value systems are there to know right and wrong. But what will the choice be at that crucial moment? 
Self restraint gives your child a much better chance of making a good choice in a every situation, from the acceptance of delayed gratification to not straying off course in the face of temptation.  The difference between immediately acting on the feeling to pausing to think, whether that is the right choice…and the possible consequences.

It is not gender based. And it is certainly not limited to consent and drinking but many many everyday occasions, where our children need to stop and evaluate the  choices and true consequences of their action.

We as parents need to develop that ability to think and to teach self discipline and tough right choices… right from the childhood. Remember the intent is never to punish but to make them realise by themselves that not obeying the feeling at the top of their minds has benefits. (When you have time, do check out the TEDx talk on the marshmallow test andbehavioral economist Dan Ariely talk on self control )Here are a few simple thoughts .. from seemingly simple everyday tasks  to  the important ones.

  • Instead of handing over the ipad at the first sign of a tantrum, make them earn it. If 30 mins is their screen time, as mine is, then they skip their ipad for 2 days to watch a movie or play a longer game over the weekend.
  • Teach them to eat a small portion of dessert and save it for the next meal. Then the child gets to eat dessert twice, albeit a smaller portion.
  • Putting toys away or completing their homework, especially when they don’t really feel like doing it. Or if they do not finish, let them face the consequences at school once.
  • Instead of buying them the toy they saw in the shop right away, make them save money or earn behaviour points to get it…so they learn to wait a bit and do not expect instant gratification of wants.
  • This is a bit harder..As a family, give up one item, say pizza or potatoes or watching a movie..just for a month. (We learnt this at arecent Balvihar camp. It is part of a process called Sattva-Samsuddhi…increasing the good and restraining the indulgences. It is indeed a simple way of strengthening our self restraint…and it shows that you can walk the talk)

The obvious ones..

  • Share stories ofdrunken driving. And those lives lost for no fault of theirsthat can never return, so they deeply understand the consequences
  • Kids (Not just girls) think they need to drink at parties to fit in or to make friends or try cigarettes or drugs and succumb to peer pressure.Our news is filled with stories that detail the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. Awareness is vital. Talk to your child about the boy who drugged his girl’s drink. Talk to your child about the teen who used drugs and was arrested. How will her life in jail be? Did she make a good decision when she used drugs?

And the most important…

  • Lets make sure our boys and men understand the true implications of consent, that the women in front of them needs to be completely respected and accepted for her choice.That includes not pressurizing the girlfriend, not getting mad with your wife if she doesn’t feel like having sex , not throwing acid on her face because she did not love you back…and yes, not raping an unconscious girl.And you better well be able to make that choice.

Regular practice of self control, making the tougher choice and a deep awareness of consequences of these choices, entrenched deep in their minds alone can make a change.  

Will self control stop you from being a victim of rape? No..like many said, gender based violence is huge ugly monster with many many facets, and we need to keep working to change the mindset in this crime against humanity. 


Will self control help your child to take a step back and check for hidden dangers or disastrous consequences..and choose the right thing to do? Yes.Let’s give our children the inner strength to draw the line when needed.

 

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Other Links:

Steubenville High School rape case

Drinking is central to college culture – and to sexual assault

 

 

 

 

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