update: rape is no joke

(image courtesy Aztec West)

Because the last post elicited such an outpouring of support, I feel I must not leave you hanging.  In a nutshell: the issue is bigger and more complex than imagined but so far, I am cautiously optimistic that everyone involved will benefit from this discussion.  

  1. When confronted, the boy confirmed having said those words.  Apparently, he thought it was funny. He was ashamed and contrite when he fully understood the implications of what he said.  He heard the “joke” from another friend and thought it was so funny he wanted to repeat it. (This means he did not make it up by himself. It also means he’s not the only one with a warped sense of humor and there’s a widespread need for education at school.)
  2. It turns out, when he told the “joke” he had his hands not on my daughter’s shoulder but on the shoulder of the girl sitting next to her.  In fact, he told many people the “joke” that day.  (At first, I was relieved to learn this because it meant that this time, my daughter was not the single, direct target. My relief did not last long, however, because she and everyone who heard the “joke” could feel the implicit threat.)
  3. So far, the school has reacted exactly how I wanted them to.  The principal, vice principal, and all her teachers emailed me over the weekend to assure me that they took the issue seriously. The school took swift action to discover the facts. He will participate in a sexual harassment training, he’ll never be in a class with my girl again, and if he threatens her again, whether he understands it’s a threat or not, he will be expelled. 
  4. The boy’s parents are fully on-board with this.  They are deeply concerned and will participate in the training with him.  
  5. My girl feels strong, capable, and supported.  She stood up for herself and for all the other kids at her school and she made a difference.  

As for me, I’m still shaking inside. It’s not fear that makes me tremble, it’s the effort it took not to explode. Thanks to all the people who rallied here with words of empathy and support. You helped me hone my thoughts and feelings and approach the school with a clear agenda.  So far, so good, but it’s not over. 

Because I still don’t understand how anyone, no matter how young, confused, or naive, could think rape is a joke.   

Clearly, this topic concerns us all.  If you have or know kids, I hope you’ll talk to them.  Share this story if you want, ask them what they would do.  Listen really, really hard to what they say.   

 

About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

33 comments

  1. Young boys think farts and poo are great jokes too.
    I don’t think they know what it means. (I dare say some adult men probably don’t get it either)
    Just saying “well he should know it isn’t funny” probably means nothing until, like this boy, the consequences of this ‘joke’ are clear. I doubt he’ll still find it funny now. Well done for staying calm and not exploding.

    • Strange to think it might be naiveté and not perversion that got him in trouble. Certainly, there’s a right place and time and audience for most jokes. I hope now he’ll stick the the garden-variety bathroom humor when his audience is a young girl he’s been harassing.

  2. I am so glad that things seem to be sorted out and the thing about rape being a a joke, well I just don’t think it is talked about enough ofr in the right way. It’s as if we in this over-sexulised world don’t talk about what sex is and how it can hurt, change, infect, affect and kill people. But above all it’s worth has been lost between many a page of a porn mag or a scene in a porn movie. I am proud of youa dn your girl for both being strong women … even if she is still a little girl

  3. For many young men rape is just a word. They don’t connect it with the act. I know it is difficult to believe, but in this day and age there is a serious disconnect in peoples minds between what a person might say and what a person might do.
    The answer to this is education. Good, solid, old fashioned cause and effect education. As long as violence is nothing more than words on a page without personal understanding of the consequences , these types of “jokes” will continue.

    • yeah i think that’s really true. And I think it can apply to both sexes.
      I’m sorry to say when I was 12 or 13 i used to think male rape was ridiculous, Like it was funny. (Not that i would ever walk up to someone and say they should get raped or anything but all those lame jokes about prison sex and so on I’d laugh at them).
      But its only as i grew older and i realised what it meant and the horror of it sank it that it stopped being funny on any level.

  4. Thanks for this update. I’m relieved to hear the school officials and the boy’s parents are taking it seriously and being proactive. Hang in there.

  5. I have yet to talk to my 11 year old daughter about rape. That’s going to change, thanks to you.

    • When he called her a prostitute, we had to have a long conversation about what that meant. I am all for letting them find out things in their own sweet time but clearly, I don’t have much control over her environment. But I vacillate– do we wait for someone else to steal their innocence about the world, or do we do it ourselves to prepare them?

  6. Anna, I am very glad this is being taken seriously by the school who appear to be handling it really well. I’m a Social Worker living here in the UK and used to sit in the same office as the Domestic Violence team. One of their managers used to go into schools to do education about Domestic Violence and before she began she used to ask them ( in a paper quiz) about what level of violence the girls thought was acceptable.. I terrifyingly high number of girls ( 15 and 16yr olds ) I forget the exact percentage but I do remember it was over 50% thought it was okay for their boyfriend to slap or hit them if they did something he didn’t like !!!!!!!!!!!!! How terryfying is that !

    • It’s so freaking scary!!! Yesterday I had a long talk with a friend who used to do sexual harassment seminars in schools. She told me what she told them and what I found interesting is that she’d say that sexual harassment is in the eye of the beholder. We talked about that for awhile because clearly, some kids at my daughter’s school do have different interpretations/comfort levels with the word “rape” just as the girls you cite feel differently about violence.

      My friend said that instead of telling the kids to treat everyone like they would treat their mother or their sister (because who knows what the home climate is like) she’d tell them not to do or say anything they wouldn’t want published on the front page of the newspaper.

  7. What a great beginning. That boys and girls are confused about sexuality is not a surprise to me at all. They are bombarded with it at so many levels. I also think this is going too deep for this discussion but the battle of the sexes is very hot right now and that has a trickle down effect. Some of which is so instinctual, for both sexes, without awareness, it can poison things. Education is key. And I don’t think it helps girls or boys to educate that one or the other is bad, or emotionally weak. Dangerous, or crazy. Deep down, we are all that, and none of it. Bring back sex education and teach genital anatomy as a part of that. How about adding something about feelings too. How we’re the same. How we’re different. Why that is? Good luck!

  8. Good to hear the other adults involved are as conscientious as you.

  9. Sounds like real progress was made. You definitely handled the situation the right way. I’m not sure I would have been able to maintain the control and understanding you did.

    • Control? Ha. How many heads did I chop of in my mind? What instruments of torture did I employ? I yelled and I cried. I really, really didn’t want to cry but I couldn’t stop myself, dammit.

  10. Reblogged this on Jennigreenmiller's Blog and commented:
    follow up to “rape is no joke”

  11. Atta girl. You did good :) Challenging yourself to keep things at a certain level within yourself and have such resolution I hope makes you feel proud and pat yourself on the back. And your daughter too it sounds like. Thanks for continuing from the last post.

  12. Dana

    I applaud your clarity and skill navigating this in a way that all involved can benefit from, all the while trembling inside.

  13. rape is living death. continue…

  14. Awesome, happy about the results and I’m glad he’s parents are being helpfull and aware! Great job and please keep me and us as well posted!!!

  15. Jessica

    I am with you and the whole family supporting you on this. What a horrible thing. Sorry you and she are having to deal with such ignorance and pain. Much love to all.

  16. Sorry, but this kid knew what he was doing. The school did not have anything under control or he would not have been able to continue to harass your daughter. Your daughter has luckily been able to hang on to her innocence, but most kids that age know way more than we did at the same age. Have you thought of self defense classes for your daughter? I put my son in karate after a nasty bullying experience. Were police involved as well as the school? I believe assault is words and perceived threat and battery is contact. If this kid is harassing your daughter, he’s doing it to others, too. When my son was 11 and a kid at school broke his nose and gave him a black eye, I exploded. My son went to the school and requested a professional counselor and mediator so he could meet with the boy and work out the boy’s problems. He wanted the boy to get help. I wanted him removed and in jail and suffering. The whole mama bear thing. My son worked with this kid, the kid still attends school, has a therapist, and no longer bullies other kids. My son is a better person than I am.

  17. If you and your daughter hadn’t stepped up it would still be going on. And it is going on in how many other places cuz no one says anything. So that makes you and more so your daughter for telling you, heroes.

  18. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This is a great, positive and fully involved outcome. I am glad to hear it.

    I wonder about the boy that the lad heard the joke from – is he still saying this?… I guess that’s more than you need to deal with but, I can’t help wondering.

    Glad your daughter feels okay (& glad it wasn’t just her).

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