There is such sadness and heaviness with all the news of sexual harassment/assault stories that have been coming out these past few weeks. As a mother of 4 girls, it reminds me to be especially vigilant, and teach my girls to do the same, but most importantly, I want them to learn to speak.
A week ago, I told Ben of one instance in my life when an older male made me feel uncomfortable. I was in 11 or 12, and older male in our church (I think he was either 19 or early 20s) came up from behind me when no one was around, and gave me a kiss on the cheek as I was cleaning a table. He just laughed as he walked away, and I was shocked, so I laughed it off too. I never told anyone because I just chalked it up to it being a joke, but it was kind of weird. I thought he was just trying to be annoying or something, and he very well may have been, but it certainly was not right. After I told Ben, he said that was not okay for him to do. I know that now and would be angry if someone did that to True, who is the same age I was when it happened, but at that time, I was unsure, so I just never told anyone (until a few days ago when I told Ben). Knowing what I know now, I should have just said something to my parents (I told them last week too for the first time).
We’ve always told our daughters, “If anything ever makes you feel uncomfortable, just tell us. We won’t get mad at you.” Also, another rule we have is there are no secrets allowed in our home. In case someone tries to disguise something harmful to them as a “secret” that should never be told to us, it’s our hope that would raise a red flag, make them feel uncomfortable, and tell us. If we are planning presents or doing something for someone we don’t want them to know (for birthday or some sort of gift), we call it a surprise, and never a secret. We want the channels between us and them to be as wide open as possible. Additionally, we never discount that something harmful can be done by someone close to us. We ask the girls all the time, about people close to us, and if “so and so” made them feel uncomfortable. Not that I have any concerns, but I do ask them, “Has Papi ever made you feel uncomfortable?” And Ben asks them about me too. Our hope and prayer is that we foster a safe environment where they feel comfortable speaking about anything. Even if they’re unsure of something, we want them to speak.
We aren’t naive to the evils in this world and we want to equip our daughters as much as possible. One of the most powerful things they have is their voice, to use it with gospel intentionality and to speak up when needed.