How to Keep Kids Safe, By a Woman Raped at 15

Passing nhisakayre
along this wisdom:
I was raped by a classmate when I was 15. There is nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. Obviously by age 15 I was going off places by myself or with friends, as 15-year-olds are supposed to do. And while I believe homeschooling is a valid educational choice, it would be silly to homeschool just to protect your kid from other kids.
You know what would have helped though? Being educated about consent. Learning how to protect myself. Learning when something is serious enough to get an adult involved.
I grew up in a certain community that at the time didn’t really talk about these things, with disastrous results. I am still part of the community, but things have gotten a lot better in this regard because people like me aren’t silent anymore and we demanded change. It is so important to educate and empower rather than pile on precautions.
Sure, some precautions are necessary. But if you rely on prevention, there will always be that exception, that moment where the stars align in exactly the wrong way. You can never prevent 100%. But if we teach our kids to look out for themselves and insist on their boundaries being respected, they can either avoid sticky situations  themselves, or handle them early on before things get out of control. And if God forbid something terrible happens, if they know what to do, they can help bring the perp to justice.
Lastly, we need to stop acting like sexual abuse/assault is the worst and most damaging thing that can happen. Of course it’s horrible. I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy and pray every day my kids should never know from anything even close to what happened to me. But sometimes $hit happens, really awful $hit, and we have to keep on keeping on.
Yes, I suffered from depression in the aftermath and to work through my issues. But I’m really mostly fine. I picked up the pieces and moved on. I went to college and got married young and had kids and live a normal life, generally free of fear. What happened didn’t break me and doesn’t usually interfere with my life.
That doesn’t mean what happened was okay. It wasn’t and I wish it hadn’t happened. But it didn’t ruin me. Not any more than my parents divorcing, or being in a scary car accident, or having a special needs child, or nearly dying in childbirth, or various other difficult things that have happened to me.  – A Mom in Favor of Empowering Young People
I’m a MIFOEYP, too. This note is so powerful because of its double hook: 1 – Teaching kids to recognize and resist abuse is more helpful than simply trying to keep them constantly supervised. And 2 – As horrible as an experience can be, we do not need to define the person by it and assume they are forever broken.  It’s an insult to them and the human spirit. Let people define themselves the way they see fit, not by something that happened TO them.  – L


Wisdom comes from experience, and that doesn’t mean only GOOD experience.


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29 Responses to How to Keep Kids Safe, By a Woman Raped at 15

  1. theresa May 22, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    It might help to teach them what sexual assault is and isn’t. I heard of a teacher comforting a small sad child and because he rub his face in her chest it was time cry sexual assault. They change their tune after the dad complained not that the new label on the kid’s crime was much better.

  2. Catherine Caldwell-Harris May 22, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    @theresa — I appreciate Theresa’s note about teacher accursed of sexual assault because of comforting a child: Because of such fears, teachers are now trained to take care with hugging children and to restrict themselves to the ‘side hug.’

  3. Free range kid, free range mom May 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    I grew up in the older era. I walked to 1st grade by myself, and rode my bike around town wherever I wanted by age 7 (a mixed income neighbor with plenty of rough spots in northeast L.A.). But there little help about how to stand up for myself or insist my boundaries be respected. The bad things that happened to me as teenager were not because I ran free with little parental supervision, but because I hadn’t learned enough about having my boundaries respected. And it was the boundary setting problem that set me up for problems later, including being financially exploited for years by my husband when in my 40s.

    We protect children best when we teach them to protect themselves.

  4. Anne May 22, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    This is a powerful message. All the emphasis on “stranger danger” is ignoring the real dangers to kids that can come from people they know and trust — and the ways to decrease the risk and make sure that, if something happens, the perpetrator is reported and the kids are supported. Kids ARE abused by teachers, classmates, doctors, employers, group leaders, family members. This doesn’t mean every male in those positions should be treated with suspicion, but it does mean that kids need to learn to enforce their boundaries, trust their gut, don’t assume adults are always right, and TELL SOMEONE. It can be easier for kids to do that if they have confidence in themselves. And we, as adults, need to learn to put aside our own biases and presumptions and listen to the kids.

  5. david zaitzeff May 22, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    In Japan and at one least school in Arizona, they teach the kids martial arts in PE class. There have been two high schools near to Seattle and both have been in the news about rapes being done in those high schools. One high school in Seattle–not one of the two with the publicized rapes–has a listing of the possible choices for PE and none of the choices include or seem to include “womens self defense” “martial arts” “escaping from wrist grabs, arm locks or chokeholds,” weapons law or use or anything similar. I believe that if the girls have some more classes in these things, that they will cut down the rate of successful rapes and turn some of them into attempted rapes.

  6. SarahMom May 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    Fabulous. I’m so glad she shared this. And that you shared this, Lenore. But that’s what you do…

    I want to put a plug out there for a class that is available at many Unitarian Universalist churches. In our city it’s called “Mind, Body, Soul”. More places call it “Our Whole Lives”. Yup, OWL. It teaches everything this writer recommends, and then some – including Theresa’s point of recognizing what is and what isn’t an assault. I’ve been teaching it for a few years, and my first born just finished the class. I can’t wait for my second one to get there.

    As to “resilience”, I’ve just watched the Netflix series “The Keepers”. Assuming the story is as true as the documentary implies, those women are amazing role models for what can be overcome. If we could handle strife, our species would have died out a long time ago…

  7. theresa May 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    Catherine the boy was the victim. Teacher accuse a small child of putting moves on her. Another boy stretch out his arms only teacher was behind him and got touch upstairs and of course threw a fit.

  8. Anne May 22, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    I would just warn that we be careful when teaching what isn’t sexual assault. Sometimes behavior that makes a child/teen uncomfortable is not assault but is, in fact, grooming for future assault. Sometimes what sounds okay on the surface (for example, a medical appointment), is actually sexual assault. And sometimes it’s not assault but is an invasion of personal boundaries that children, like adults, should be able to enforce. I would rather that my child feel comfortable telling me about anything questionable.

  9. marie May 22, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    Lastly, we need to stop acting like sexual abuse/assault is the worst and most damaging thing that can happen. Of course it’s horrible. I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy and pray every day my kids should never know from anything even close to what happened to me. But sometimes $hit happens, really awful $hit, and we have to keep on keeping on.

    Thank you for this.

    It was a long fight to turn society away from treating rape victims as damaged goods but now some are insisting again that assault victims have been ruined. People think they are standing up for the victims when they talk about how the victim’s life is “ruined.” They aren’t. They are making things worse.

  10. sexhysteria May 22, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

    I’ve read the accounts of other rape victims who said the same thing. The minority of hysterics who claim “severe and irreversible damage” are doing a dis-service to (most) rape victims who survived just fine. Some of those hysterics are selfishly profiting from the trauma rescue business.

  11. Caritas May 22, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    This was beautifully and eloquently stated… forwarding it to everyone I know! I’m an MIFOEYP, too (because I, too, am not defined by what has happened to me)!

    It occurs to me… perhaps this is a defining characteristic of those who would tend toward helicopter parenting as opposed to those embracing free range strategies. Perhaps, for whatever reason, helicopter people have chosen to allow themselves to be continually defined by whatever difficulties that have happened to them, or by association, those difficulties which have happened to people to whom they are close… to the point that the statistically rare tragedies that do happen naturally loom so much larger than they really are.

    My tween daughter came to me with her latest revelation yesterday: “Mom! I like this… F.E.A.R. has two meanings: forget everything and run, or face everything and RISE.”

    That’s the awareness free-range strategies engenders.

  12. pentamom May 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    I remember being in a conversation with someone about turning your back on your child in a grocery cart for a few seconds, and the person pointed out that if something happened during those few seconds, the child’s “life would be destroyed.”

    If a child is misused by an adult, that is a terrible thing and the child may need help in getting past whatever trauma might be associated with it. To say their “lives will be destroyed” by something that could happen in 20 seconds in a shopping cart is a complete loss of perspective on both reality and the use of language.

  13. Dienne May 22, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    Please could we have some balance? The field of trauma, including rape trauma, is quite well studied and documented. There are many verifiable short and long term consequences of rape, including nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, difficulty trusting, difficulty maintaining boundaries, physiological arousal/hyperawareness, generalized fear/anxiety, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and many others.

    No, of course not every rape survivor will experience any of these symptoms. And even among those who do, it does not mean that s/he is forever “ruined” or “damaged goods” or any such things. Of course most rape survivors go on to live reasonably normal healthy lives.

    But many survivors have to deal with the aftermath of rape on a lifetime basis. Please let’s not minimize the very real negative effects, thereby shaming those who do experience such long-term effects as if they are just too “weak” to be a “real survivor”.

  14. Sheryl K. May 22, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    Hi, do you realize your blog is being listed in a blog put up by woman who’s husband is a convicted child molester?. She also downplays his and other pedaphiles actions saying they and their families are the true victims. I’m sure you don’t know this, or would appreciate having your blog and ordeal linked to such a trashy type person. Not to mention child molesters. I’m sorry if I’m wrong,
    The blog is called ” Notes from the handbasket ” it’s a blogger blog.her first name is marie

  15. James Pollock May 22, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    I think the single best defense a child can have against sexual assault is an open line of communication to responsible adults willing to listen. If they have that, they can get the rest of what they need.

    Unfortunately, for a large number of kids, they have parents who can’t or won’t talk about sex or anything related to sex. It should not be necessary for a university to have to tell people “look, don’t have sex with someone unless they want to have sex with you.”… but an alarming number of people reach university without ever having received this message. The corollary of “be clear in communicating what you want, and what you don’t want” is likewise lacking for far too many. Combine those two with alcohol for all participants, and it’s no wonder that you get a bit of chaos to unravel the next morning.
    You start with people who don’t necessarily know exactly what they want, and combine that with the fact that they have very limited experience in negotiating to get it. It is actually possible to have a negotiation wherein the the aggressor thinks they have negotiated consent, while the other believes they have communicated lack of consent.

  16. Christine May 22, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    I have a similar story and I couldn’t agree more. I wish that my parents had spent time focusing on helpng me learn how to listen to my gut feelings and to set boundaries. It’s more about empowering our children than defending them.

    Too often the parents focus on the “what ifs” and try to control the environment and end up controlling the kids to the point where the kids rebel against the so called safeguards that have been put in place. I would counsel parents to focus on helping the kids making good decisions that support their own instincts of safety.

  17. Kirsten May 22, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

    I was violently groped by an older boy on the school bus when I was 11 and never told anyone. No one had ever talked to me about boundaries with acquaintances or what to do in such circumstances. I simply moved to the front of the bus and when the boy followed and sat across from me making obscene gestures I finally mustered the courage to ask the driver to tell the boy to “stop bugging me.” The fact I spoke up even that much must have scared him off because he didn’t bother me again. But that was the 5th time it had happened. The other times I just kept moving seats. The point is I was on the incredibly safe door-to-door bus service from my private school and I was completely protected from strangers. I wish I had been told how to protect myself and how to be more assertive. The whole time all I could think was how humiliated I was and how I prayed no one would find out about it. I wouldn’t have gone to a teacher or my parents about this in a million years. But I was “safe.”

  18. Jennifer C May 22, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    @Sheryl K—I looked at the blog you referenced. And that woman’s husband is NOT a convicted child molester–he did not molest any children. You may disagree with that blog, but please don’t spread harmful lies about people.

  19. Jennifer C May 22, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

    @Sheryl K –also that woman downplays nothing. Her blog is not insensitive to victims of child sexual abuse.

  20. Sochii May 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    What blog are y’all looking at? Because if you go far back enough, her husband absolutely went to jail for child porn . I’m confused. Maybe I’m looking at something different.

  21. John B. May 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    As far as my experience being sexually assaulted, a 30-year-old man forcibly tried to fondle me in his beauty shop when I was 16. I pushed his hand away and obviously it was an uncomfortable situation but certainly nothing that came close to ruining me for life or even affecting me one way or the other. Compare that to my 65-year-old friend who was a victim of the stereotypical dirty old man in the park when he was 13. As a young teen, he lipped off to this adult in the city park just after sunset so the guy started beating him and dragged him to his apartment right across the street from the park where he raped him for the next few hours. Keith told me he bled for 2 weeks after. Obviously a horrible situation that caused Keith to suffer depression well into adulthood. Regardless, Keith became a successful school teacher and married man although he struggled with feelings of homosexuality that he would act upon from time to time at the local porno store.

    Despite of the horrible thing that happened to Keith when he was 13, he resents the “ruined for life” label with a passion! As if what he went thru was not bad enough, now he’s considered “ruined for life” as if that makes it all better.

    But nowadays we consider ANY adult sexual advancement on a teenager as “ruining them for life”. Now an adult placing his or her hand on a teenagers private parts even while they’re fully clothed is lewd, lascivious, perverted and a crime and something I would never condone; however, it’s a HUGE stretch and assumption to claim an act like that will “ruin them for life”. There are a whole lot worse things of nonsexual nature that can happen to a teenager than being fondled with their clothes on and saying it is the worst thing actually cheapens what Keith went through.

    That is why it is refreshing to hear a victim of teenage sexual assault say that “we need to stop acting like sexual abuse/assault is the worst and most damaging thing that can happen.” Because when we do, more over reactionary laws are passed that cause more collateral damage than their worth.

  22. Jennifer C May 23, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    @sochii–he went to jail for looking at child porn and for having it in his possession. Not for making it himself–so no, while what he did was very bad, he did not molest a child.

  23. Anonymous May 23, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    This is not free range related but I felt I had to say. I was a victim multiple times of abuse and a witness to a crime. To say that abuse, rape, or being a victim of other crimes can’t ruin a person’s life is insulting. It ruined mine. For the few that fight back from what happened to them, I’m happy for you. But for a lot who can’t, don’t say there’s something wrong with them. The problem should be the crime or crimes that were committed. Not how the victim or victims are dealing with it.

  24. Vaughan Evans May 23, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    If I were raising a child, I would tell him/her that the laws are supposed to be shields, not swords.
    I would instruct a child-in a vocabulary-that he could use-if he/she is addressing(or bring addressed)by a teacher, policeman, swim instructor-or someone else in authority.

    -Suppose I had a 10year od boy and he received a “bloody nose” for calling another boy a”fag.”

    This boy would not dare crying to me(in his beer)for sympathy.
    You know why?
    _Because he would get another licking-from me.
    I would probably “ground him.”

  25. Anne May 24, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    “This is not free range related but I felt I had to say. I was a victim multiple times of abuse and a witness to a crime. To say that abuse, rape, or being a victim of other crimes can’t ruin a person’s life is insulting. It ruined mine. For the few that fight back from what happened to them, I’m happy for you. But for a lot who can’t, don’t say there’s something wrong with them. The problem should be the crime or crimes that were committed. Not how the victim or victims are dealing with it.”

    I am so sorry. I agree that the real problem is that these crimes are being committed — and victims are still not being listened to and believed. When people are still sweeping things under the rug and telling victims they misunderstood or they should keep quiet, I don’t think it’s the right time to go on a crusade to teach people that sexual assault is really not that bad. That is not a free range issue, in my opinion. I think victims should be given the power to define their own experiences and emotions. The real free range issue in the letter was the advice to teach kids to enforce their boundaries rather than trying to shelter them.

  26. pentamom May 24, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    Can’t speak for others, but I never meant to say abuse *can’t* ruin a person’s life. The point is that it doesn’t always, and certainly a momentary incident ought not to if the people who are responsible for the child respond appropriately.

  27. Dawn May 26, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

    First, I admire you for being brave enough to tell your story. Rape victims should not be shamed. They should speak up so the rapist gets punished. And I totally agree with you about educating about consent. Teens, specially, long for acceptance in a group or the community. They sometimes don’t know if a sexual assault is already happening. Worse, they let it happen to feel part of a “group”. Parents need to be open about discussing these issues with their kids, even the younger ones. And tell them the necessary actions on how to protect themselves when put in this predicament.

  28. Michelle May 28, 2017 at 2:24 am #

    I was “sexually assaulted” when I was eleven years old but not while I was running roaming the neighborhood, and not by a stranger but by someone my mother worked with, in my own home. He exposed to me his penis and placed my hand on top of it. I was freaked out, said no, and in all honestly? For many years I forgot about it completely. It didn’t keep me awake at night and I don’t think it effected what I did in life in the long run, other than I learned that people aren’t always what they seem to be. I thought he was a creep, and he is. Thankfully I wasn’t taught to obey adults unquestionably or it might have turned into something else completely.

  29. Pippi May 30, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    What a brave and wise woman. I have heard Elizabeth Smart speak on this subject as well ( kidnapped from her bedroom in Utah some years ago at age 14, raped daily for nine months before a STRANGER spotted her and saved her by contacting police.
    Like this woman, Elizabeth Smart advocates better instruction on prevention and what to do Rather than sheltering. Elizabeth Smart endorses a course called R. A. D. D. Training both for kids and adults.