Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pick your battles, and FIGHT them

Usually when we use the phrase "pick your battles," especially in the parenting realm, we think more about letting go of the battles that are unimportant, rather than digging in on those issues that matter.

Today I felt very frustrated as I crafted a response to an insensitive, poorly written article in our local newspaper, The Chapel Hill News. The article minimized the concerns that local parents had about a convicted sex offender that had moved into the neighborhood. I felt so tired, seeing yet another instance of our culture and media not taking child abuse seriously. I somehow found the time to write a letter to the editor, and I wondered if they'd print yet another letter from me on gender issues.

In the midst of my frustration I realized I have to keep fighting this battle, because no one else is going to fight it for me. This is one of the great lessons of growing up: if I want something to change, I have to work to make change come about, because there is no father/authority/prince/white knight who is going to show up to fix things. As mothers, we are the grown-ups now. We can't let the fear of stepping on someone else's toes--heaven forbid they might not like us--keep us from speaking out.

When you think about what is truly important to you, you will discern the important work that won't get done unless you get involved. How can you get started by taking small one step to create the world you want your children to grow up in?

Here is the letter I sent to my newspaper, with a link to the original article--

Careless reporting perpetuates rape myths
by Amy Tiemann, founder of SPARK Seminars

If you are looking for evidence that the danger of child molestation is still routinely dismissed in our culture, you need look no farther than The Chapel Hill News' August 14th article entitled "Sex offender upsets residents." To be sure, the article covers the worries and objections of residents who found out that a registered sex offender had moved to their neighborhood, but what really struck me was the extent to which the piece minimized those fears and in fact perpetuated dangerous myths about sexual assault.

The body of the article states that the offender "was originally charged with first-degree statuatory rape of a child under the age of 13." The convicted offender himself, James Michael Walters, is quoted to rebut this as saying "he never raped the girl but merely fondled her with her consent when she was 13." This dangerous rationalization from an admitted child molester goes unchallenged by the rest of the article and is in fact supported by the article's subheading: "Detective says man was 21 when he had a consensual relationship with an underage girl."

The fact is that a 13-year-old girl cannot give consent to sexual contact with a 21-year-old man. Molesters frequently use a process of coercion and seduction to draw victims into their web, cementing their compliance with a bond of secrecy and shame. Nowhere in the article is there any acknowledgment that children are not to blame for abuse. No interview with a representative from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. Just outraged parents being told that the authorities "didn't think there was anything for the neighbors to be extremely worried about."

Our children will never be safe as long as our society, law enforcement, and media insist on minimizing the harm done by all forms of sexual exploitation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your opinion stated in the Letter to the Editor I just read. I saw this minimizing first hand when my daughter was sexually assaulted at a church. She was 4. He was 17. The Children's Pastor told me my daughter "shouldn't have been sitting on his lap." My jaw dropped to the floor and stayed there for months after that comment.

I've thought about this tendency to minimize often...could one reason why we minimize sexual assault on children is that it is so repulsive to think an "adult" would do such a thing to a child? Our minds can't/won't process the information so we reject even the possibility of such a thing happening by minimizing it? (Am I making any sense?) I was shocked by the reaction of my "friends". Over and over again, they sympathized with the offender.

Don't know the solution. Don't have any tested suggestions. I do know that IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. When it does, you will never again minimize it. (That comment is directed at the media and all others who "don't think a sex offender living in a family neighborhood is any big deal."

11:13 PM  

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