This is the post no mother ever wants to write. But here I am.
At the height of the #METOO movement, our daughter had her own encounter with sexual assault. She had just turned 14 and the perpetrator was 14. She was also not his only victim.
We talk often in our home about telling our own story and her story is not mine to tell. But I do have a mother’s perspective to give on empowering our daughters and encouraging our sons to find their voices and speak out against sexual harassment, assault, and pressure.
The #METOO and #TIMESUP movements have done a tremendous amount of good but we can still do better.
The post I was writing to share yesterday changed drastically as I received this series of frantic texts from my now 15-year-old daughter. I shut my laptop and spent the rest of the afternoon on the phone with the school, emailing administrators, and checking in with my daughter. With her permission here is what happened:
Her: Mom I need you to call the counselors office and have them ask to have me sent to see them.
Me: You have a counseling pass. Give it to the teacher and leave. (this is part of her 504)
Her: I can’t. I’ll explain when I get to the office. Please call them now. I’m going to have a flashback.
Me: I called and left a message. JUST LEAVE.
Her: I can’t.
I then called the front office and told them that I didn’t know what was going on, that she has a counselor’s pass, but for some reason, she’s not able to use it. The front office said they would take care of it immediately.
I sat and waited. She wasn’t answering my texts.
Finally, the counselor called with my daughter and I learned what was going on.
Why wasn’t she able to use her pass?
Because she was scared to ask the teacher.
Because it was the male teacher causing her distress.
In a discussion completely unrelated to the class, this teacher was going into detail about the juries he has served on. One of which was a 14-year-old boy sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl.
This teacher went into graphic detail about the girl’s video interview, the “doll” used in her interview, and the things said.
My daughter has been in counseling and was able to recognize the situation she was in and was resourceful enough to get herself out of the situation. She has come a long way in a little over a year.
Since this was just yesterday afternoon, this is obviously still being addressed with the teacher. I have full confidence that the administration will handle this appropriately. I emphasized with them that while my daughter was impacted, this would have upset me as an adult and statistically my daughter was not the only one in that class being impacted by his words.
We can do better.
When a grown man feels that a discussion like this is appropriate – in mixed company, to discuss a graphic sexual assault in detail, with no applicability to the class. WE CAN DO BETTER.
If we are still at the point where educators do not understand the power their words and actions can have over former victims, books like I’m Saying NO! are still desperately needed. Not just for the education of those who love, support, and teach former victims but also for the former victims themselves.
I was honored to be selected to be a part of the #IMSAYINGNO campaign and it could not have been more timely. And maybe even a little too timely in our own home. Because while time has passed and she has learned ways to manage her anxiety and PTSD, things like this are setbacks.
I’m Saying NO! does an excellent job of helping former victims find their unique voice. Many, many times it’s far more complicated than just telling someone to say NO. For someone who has already been harmed, healing has to occur to get to that place and this book provides sounds steps and exercises towards saying NO.
There are also valuable tools for parents and advocates discussed in this book. I have had to learn to advocate for my daughter in a way that makes a mama bear look tame. And the more I have understood about where she was coming from the more effective I have become. What took me a year to learn, is in this book.
An aside about advocating: you have to be passionate enough to show you mean business but calm enough to keep from being disregarded because you’re emotional – sadly, that’s an actual thing.
But a few words about that – this book is not a substitute for therapy. The therapists who have helped our family through this past year have been invaluable. There are also parts of this book that could be very upsetting for former victims without the assistance of a therapist. There are plenty of warnings throughout the book that warn of triggers which I appreciated.
As yesterday reminded me, there is still work to be done and I am grateful for a book that recognized the need and went beyond the initial movements.
If you are a parent, this book is a great place to start. We need to be talking with our kids much younger than we probably think – I know this was my experience.
If you are an educator, you are on the front line and the more you understand about what your students are facing, the more compassionate and empowering you will be.
And finally, if you are a former victim, with support this book can be a great aid in your healing and recovery of your voice.
Thank you to She Writes Press and BookSparks for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.