Yesterday, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan announced a Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign. The impetus? The Department of Education acknowledges a grave threat to this generation: 20 percent of college women will be victims of rape or sexual assault!
We live in a civilized country, after all. Who is assaulting these young women? The answer, of course, is our college men! Ponder this: roughly 20% of our college men will rape or sexually assault a college woman before they graduate.
Let me put this another way. This weekend, when you go to your son's little league or lacrosse game, watch his team take the field. Two of the boys on his team will grow up to rape or sexually assault a college classmate. How did we let it get to this?
When I read the Department of Education stats, I felt a knot in my stomach. My daughter will enter college and have a 20 percent chance of being a victim? What are mothers and fathers to do to protect our daughters? We can't send chaperones on campus. Or lock our daughters up in their dorm room. But, we certainly can use this information as a teachable moment to arm our daughters with information.
But if that's all we do as parents, it's a cop-out! We have failed this generation. We as parents must arm our sons with information too! Bluntly stated: we need to explain sexual boundaries to this generation of boys and young men.
A story yesterday at The Daily Beast about the Title IX Complaint Against Yale crystallized, for me, just how misinformed this generation of young men has become. One of the Yale women involved in filing the complaint describes a freshman orientation sex ed seminar:
The subject was date rape; the teaching model two actors on a stage, play-acting a sex scene. "Everyone in the audience was given paper STOP signs, and we were supposed to raise them when we thought a crime was being committed... I put mine up first. But most of the rest didn't go up until after the crime had been committed."
Parents, if you are gasping, you should be!
We need to recognize that life is different today. Our children are bombarded with messaging in our popular culture which not only sexualizes young girls, but also puts girls in the role of victims. Our young children are fed a steady diet of this in music, video games, movies and of course, all over television. From 2004 to 2009, there was a 400 percent increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims of violence. If you want a sampling of what your children see, watch this.
Armed with this information, what's next? Take action! It's time for a conversation with our sons.
It is incumbent for us as parents to explain boundaries to our sons. To use teachable moments to open a dialogue with our sons about what is permissible, and what is not. The old, quaint adage: "No, means no!" Explained in detail of what that actually means.
Even if you as a parent cannot do it for the 'right' reason -- that rape and sexual assault are unforgivable, uncivilized and completely, unequivocally wrong -- then buy off on this: if you do not educate your son, he could ruin his life.
A young man convicted of rape or sexual assault will find his life forever altered. Of course, he will have his own internal nightmares, but that's just the start. His ability to find a job will diminish. His career trajectory will be deflated. His social circle will look at him differently, or exclude him altogether. His prospects of romance will erode.
And know this: courtesy of the New Administration Effort announced yesterday, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan have:
...introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault.
You read that right: "obligations." Sound threatening? Yes. And, not a moment too soon!