35 Things We’d Better Tell Our Sons About Harassment, Assault & “Boys will be Boys”

When the kid just up and said it, I choked on my drink, spit the water clear across the table.

“I think assault culture is an assault against humanity.”

Sure, when you’re the mother of four sons anything can happen at the dinner table, and you can count on it, we’ve about seen and heard it all.

Yessiireee, this here is our little circus to love, these are our crazy monkeys to love.

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But when it comes up at the dinner table as the dark settles in, our own young men looking up from their dinner plates right at you and asking you —

about men  who joke about drugging women so they can take advantage of them (and the audience laughs), then what?

When they ask about a national radio host who turns out to be a host for mutating violence against women, with these allegations of decades of punching women, violently assaulting them behind closed doors — or groping them quite publicly while others’ turned their eyes the other way…

When they mention having heard about bare frontal photos arrogantly flaunting themselves around with the announcement that they can break the internet (sorry, but don’t ever underestimate every parent out there who is fixed on fixing the internet)

Yeah, you’d have to be Rip Van Winkle, sawing slumbering logs for the last couple weeks, not to feel like the whole world’s a circus gone a bit mad.

And yes’m, I’d like to be an ostrich as much as anyone and stick my head in the sand. Let the pundits and the public jesters juggle this mess. Not my circus, not my monkeys. But when you have kids? When you have kids at university? Who stumble into whatever’s trending right there in their Facebook streams, their Twitter torrents? Yeah — When you’re a mother, your circus involves whatever clowns are jockeying for your kid’s attention, and your monkeys include whoever’s aping in front of your kids.

You can sit at the dinner table, the candles flickering with your sigh, and you can just step up and say it to the kids, what you’d rather not talk about — but can’t afford not to:

Look — what matters here? What matter is us being the change that matters. We don’t turn to other’s stories so much as to reproach them — but to reform us. This isn’t about some story out there, Sons — this is a story that begins with us. 

No news story suddenly just begins as a headlines — every single one begins as a line of thought running through somebody’s heart.

And better stories begin around our dinner tables and our kitchen sinks. Cultural change doesn’t happen by us throwing stones but by us becoming rock solid in our commitment to personal change.

I pass the water pitcher down to the boys and yeah, spill a bit into the boys’ questions:

When a man doesn’t respect a woman, he disrespects what it means to be a man. 

Let me be clear: I definitely don’t know what any man did or didn’t do, or what a radio host’s is innocent or guilty of, or why exposing skin has become this mainstream way of maintaining attention instead of contributing to society with creativity or generosity. Let me repeat: That’s not what this is about — this is about us.  Yeah, there’s lot I very clearly don’t have answers for, nor am I going to pretend I do…. But I’ve got questions for you, young men, and I’m praying you won’t get defensive, but just real sensitive:

What if your car was broken into and everyone accused you of lying about it? Why, unlike any other crime, do we often treat women’s reports of abuse with suspicion instead of with protection? When we are quick to dismiss the suffering — we are quick to ignore the Suffering Savior.

It is the scarred ones who make the Body of Christ sensitive.

I’m begging you always to carry this with you, SonsStudies prove that only 2 per cent to 8 per cent of rape victims lie. That means 92 per cent to 98 per cent are telling the truth. That means when a woman tells you about abuse, you’d be safest believing she is telling you the truth.

Because honest? There are 460,000 women who report being abused every year in Canada. And out of every 1000 reported assaults? Only 3 lead to conviction.  That’s .03% convictions on assaults.  You ask why women don’t report? Women rarely report because it rarely leads to conviction —  but it always guarantees profound embarrassment. 

Why is it easier to characterize assault against as the tension of taking one person’s word against another’s -—- when sometimes  it really can mean you are taking one man’s word over many women’s word? Too often, we’d rather make someone’s uncomfortable pain invisible to us —  than say injustice is intolerable to us — so the injustice continues

And why is this discussion of harassment too often about what women are wearing — instead of young men wearing their respect for women on their sleeves, regardless of what women are wearing — or not?

And, as well meaning as this has been, the thing is: You don’t value a woman by telling yourself that she’s some man’s sister, or daughter, or mother. A woman doesn’t derive value from having men in her life that value and like her. A woman has value because she is made in the image and likeness of God. Period.

You remember how I told you about how when I was 19 and I saw it in my rear view mirror, how a 20-something man reached over in the back seat and started fondling a 14 year-old sleeping girl who woke up terrified and frozen?

How he shrugged his shoulders when we confronted him, like he was brushing away an annoying fly. How there were girls that whispered that he’d grabbed them too in the dark of a car when he drove them home from youth group, how there were all these shy and ashamed girls who were violated and forced and indifferently robbed.

I want to tell you, son — we were all church kids — church girls too scared to tell, and church guys too unaccounted for, that no one knew they needed help.

These were young men who opened their Bibles and didn’t value the worth of a God-fashioned woman made for glory, young men who sang worship songs and satiated their lust by ripping off the dignity of a sacred human being, young men who said women were the weaker vessel meant let’s drink them dry and be merry.

We went to the church elders.

A handful of us girls — and  one teenage boy who knew what he saw and wasn’t afraid.

We went to the elders and sat there with our hands literally shaking and our mouths impossibly dry and we tried to find words for what should never have to be said. My cheeks and throat burned.

We were looked in the eye, Son, and what we were told, those words tried to shatter God —

“Boys will be boys.”

Sons. When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.

And that is never the heart of God.

That’s what you have to get, Sons — Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.

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Your Dad is one of those men. And that’s what he said and we can’t afford to stop saying it to you sons:

Unless a man looks to Jesus, a man doesn’t know how to treat a woman.

So this is what your dad and I want you to get, to get this and never forget it: that when God decided to pull on skin and make His visitation into the world, He didn’t show up in some backroom of an inner boy’s club or regale us with some black tie inaugural affair.

This is what God chose as best, this is where He first became one of us: God chose to make His entry point into the world through the holy space of a woman, to enfold Himself inside of a woman, to drink of a woman, be held and nourished and cared for by a woman — that’s the jolting truth of how God loves His daughters with His honor.

That Christ never beat down a woman with harsh words or lusting eyes or sneering innuendos, but He stepped in and stopped a broken woman from the abuse of angry men. Christ came to the defense of a hurting woman and the Son of Man stood between her ache and her attackers and He lifted the weight of shame from her and cupped her heart with hope and wrote a new future into the dust and dirt of everything and he saved. her. life. That’s how God loves His daughters with His defense.

That Christ didn’t degrade women in His talk, but He made women heroes in His stories. He invited a woman with a coin and broom to reveal the truth about the Kingdom of God. He honored an intentional woman with an unjust judge as unveiling the character of God. He elevated a lonely, unmarried woman who dropped her meager resources into the temple treasury as the rebuke of God for all the rich and religious. That’s how God loves His daughters with His words.

That Christ didn’t demonize women but He accepted the presence of a woman reviled by the self-righteous, He sat with the scandalous woman the righteous regarded as damaged goods, He welcomed the rejected and the immodest though he lost the respect of the religious. That’s how God loves His daughter with His grace.

That when Christ stepped out of that black tomb, he still didn’t choose to first manifest Himself to prestigious officials, religious leaders, the Twelve, but instead He revealed Himself first to the women, He entrusted the veracity of His resurrection to the testimony of the women, He offered the privilege of proclaiming Christ as the risen Savior to the women, though no court at the time would accept their testimony. That’s how God loves His daughters with His regard.

So your Dad wanted you to know — when you turn the pages of the Bible, Son, let everything you read of women be shaped by how Jesus sealed His view and value of women.

Let Christ shape you and not the magazine covers that think they can break the internet: Real Manhood never objectifies women. Real Manhood edifies women.

Real Manhood means you don’t get drunk, and a man can get drunk on a lot more than alcohol.

Men drunk on power, on control, on ego, lose more than all inhibition — they lose The Way, their own souls. Men drunk on anything can destroy everything and real manhood thirsts for righteousness.

Real Manhood means peer pressure only makes you stronger in Christ.

That in a culture where it’s the tendency to bend, you’ll stand. That in situations where there’s tendency to look the other way, you’ll look for help. That, at times in the church when there’s a tendency to be divisive on the secondary and a unified front of silence on the painful, you’ll seek to rightly divide the truth and unify the brokenhearted.

Because if Christ is The Truth — then where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever be afraid of the Truth?

Because if you’re at peace in Christ, you fight injustice.

And Son?

Real Manhood means you take responsibility for your body.

A woman’s immodesty is never an excuse for a man’s irresponsibility. Responsible men — are response-able. This is your job. A woman has her own responsibility. Focus on yours. Real Men don’t focus responsibility on women staying “pure” but on men not pressuring. (Truth is, none of us are pure, Son, and the onus is on you, Son, to pursue holiness.)

Your Dad and I need you to know:

Real Men never pressure but treasure. No one tries to crush a diamond.

Because pressuring a girl? Is blackmail, coercion and repeated robbery attempts. You’re meant to be a man, not the mafia. When you’re pressuring a girl for what you want — is your flag to lean into Jesus who will give you what you need.

The thing is: Real Manhood means you hallow womanhood. A woman isn’t a toy to amuse your lusts, a thing to aggrandize your ego, a trophy to adorn your manhood. A woman is of your rib, who birthed your rib, who cupped your rib, who is meant to be gently cherished at your rib, at your side.

Real Men know the soul is connected to the skin. 

So yeah, this trending thing about bare frontal photos & leaked photos & men violating women’s skin & kids sending each other skin photos that’s apparently become a thing?

Son, when your eyes get assaulted with these photos that invade your screen, when you see women exposing skin because they just want to be loved — and never forget it, no matter what anyone’s words are saying, no matter what anyone’s actions are doing, everyone is really just asking to be loved

You’ve got to know this and believe hard & holy things:

Your skin is the outer layer of your soul.  Your skin & your soul are connected in ways that magazines & Hollywood & the mall won’t ever tell you.

Your skin & your soul are profoundly connected & this is a profoundly beautiful thing. There is no shame in this — this is the glory of God who made your body art to reflect your soul. But contrary to what glossy magazine spreads or the the headlines may say — there’s nothing casual about giving away your soul — or about touching & violating the skin of a woman who desperately does not want to share her holy soul.

The thing we’ve desperately got to get in this culture is: Your naked body deserves the honor of being shared only with someone who is covenanted to never stop loving your naked soul.

And any culture of “boys will be boys” — means girls will be garbage — and you were made for more than this, Son. Your Dad and I believe boys will be godly and boys will be honoring and boys will be humble.

That one teenage boy from youth group, the one teenage boy who saw how girls were violated in shadows and shame, the one teenage boy who stood with the wounded because he believed the real men of God are the men who are always for the hurting?

That brave teenage boy, Son?

That boy, he’s now your Dad.

There are more than a few good men, Son — and the world desperately needs more of them. 

Stand up and go out there and be one of them. 

 

 

 

Related:
How to be the Parent You Want to Be: 40 Things a Child needs to know Before they Leave Home
Dear Kids: Why Wait till Marriage — What No One Tells You & What I Wish Someone Had Told Me
Letters to the Wounded
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