A couple weeks ago we discussed the article “Betrayed by the Angel: What happens when Violence Knocks and Politeness Answers.” In this article, Debra Davis, shares her personal story about sexual assault and her struggle with politeness. Even in the midst of being raped, this woman didn’t understand how to be impolite to her attacker. Instead, she flirted with the attacker because she learned that flirting can get people to like you or do things for you. She also states that she didn’t understand why he deserved “decades in jail” for what he did to her. The feelings this poor woman faced is a common struggle in our society. Women aren’t taught to fight back or be impolite. Instead, women are taught the opposite. We’re taught to be obedient, grateful, polite, kind, and pretty. None of these skills could ever prepare us for a real world, dangerous encounter and we face the possibility of ending up in a situation like Debra Davis’s.
I chose this article to write about because one of my very best friends lived through a similar experience and dealt with the same emotions. Growing up, my friend Kate was forced to live at various aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents houses. Both of her parents dealt with strong drug and alcohol addictions. I knew she never liked staying at her uncle “Larry’s” house but it was just recently that I found out why. While telling her story of repeatedly being sexually assaulted, she kept asking me what SHE did wrong. Why did she deserve this? Why did he hate her enough to do this? In reality, she did nothing wrong, but it was impossible for her to see it that way. She kept this secret hidden for many years because she felt like she was the cause of her actions and she deserved what happened to her. He made her believe that various things she did caused him to do this to her. For example, one time he told her that the reason this was happening was because she didn’t finish her chores on time. The reason she allowed this to happen for so many years was because he told her she would “ruin” or “break up” the family.
Why does this happen to so many young girls in America? Why aren’t we teaching young girls to stick up for themselves and defend themselves? Why do so many girls feel the same feelings that Kate and Debra Davis felt? Why do we automatically blame ourselves? So many questions can be raised. Every answer boils down to the way women are still looked at and the way we teach them to behave. We have to stop teaching our young girls to be afraid and quiet and nice. We need to teach them qualities like bravery and self-confidence so women feel okay about speaking up for themselves.