Have you ever thought that one out of every five girls you know could be a victim of sexual violence? We were at a friend’s house this weekend, and we started a heated discussion about a topic that has been a lot in the press lately: rapes and sexual assault in university campuses in the US. One of the striking findings that comes out of the report of the White House is that almost 22 million girls, and another 1.6 million boys would have been raped during their lifetimes. We suddenly looked at each other, counted and realized that, statistically, there was a strong chance that this could happen to one of our babies. Imagine: just one out of five girls. The thing is, 98 percent of perpetrators are male.
I am a mother of two 4-year-old boys and a 2-year-old girl. I find them all sweet and tender, I really cannot see emotional differences between the three of them beyond personalities. And the image of my boys abusing a girl or my girl being abused by a boy just terrifies me. The same way I believe that girls do not have any genetic predisposition to stay at home, or be worse than boys in math and science, I believe that boys are not more likely than girls to have a distorted gene in their DNA that drives them into this kind of violence and sexual abuses of girls of any age.
I am the oldest of three girls and I suppose my awareness for gender stereotypes and limitations we impose on each other started somewhere in my adolescent years. I have since always been puzzled by the way in which we tend to apply gender biases, and place each other into boxes that, in the last instance, limit our freedom. We even try to justify those social constructs with biological predetermination to certain preferences and choices. Amazing how we are able to believe our own lies!
As a society, as a family, there is something very wrong in the way we educate our boys and our girls, if what we are getting as outcomes is boys needing to infringe violence to physically weaker human beings to feel empowered, and girls that are not contributing to society in its full potential because we relegate them to certain activities and we traumatize them with this kind of behavior.
I would like every adult, every father and every mother, every school teacher and university professor, and those who don’t have children by choice or because they couldn’t, to think about what we can do to end imposing on each other’s restrictions, stigmas and stereotypes that limit our choices. I would like you to think of all these times throughout your lives you would have liked to do something different than what was expected, and you couldn’t because you felt the social pressure was too hard.
Every time you tell a girl or a boy what he or she should do or become, please think about it twice. Please think about the repercussions and frustration it generates. We are very wrong if what we are producing as a society is one in five girls and one in 33 boys being a victim of sexual abuses during the university years where they should be getting the best training for life. We are very wrong if one out of three girls would suffer from some kind of physical and/or sexual violence during their lives; we are very wrong when more than 90 percent of abusers are male. This is not about being a boy or a girl. This is about what societies transmit, accept, tolerate and impose on our youngest generations.