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Staying informed is important to me. I’m a news, literature, and popular culture fiend. Well, I used to be. Things have changed since I’ve become a mother. The news affects me differently now that I’m responsible for two sweet, innocent lives. Motherhood has made me soft in ways I did not anticipate.

There are some news segments I have to ignore. It’s impossible to see suffering and not be thankful for my blessings. After the thankfulness there’s the subsequent internal whisper: what if it happened to my family? Each dark, depressing, stomach churning story raises a host of questions I’m not fully prepared to face but know I will eventually have to.

CNN’s victim shaming/rape apologist handling of The Steubenville rape case set me off. I’ve long struggled with the sickening prevalence of misinformation surrounding sexual assault and the stigma that ignorant fools place on victims and survivors. It all seems simple and clear to me. Don’t touch anyone in a sexual manner unless they’ve explicitly, while sober, instructed you that it’s okay to do so. Easy. Right?

Guess not.

According to our warped society girls are responsible for boys’ inability to control themselves. A top entertainer shamelessly celebrates drugging and raping women on his latest album. CNN pundits publicly lament the loss of the “promising futures” two rapists once had. It’s never-ending but it doesn’t get less sickening. Is there any hope for our sons and daughters?

I can’t change the world overnight but I can make a conscious effort to raise a son who respects women. All women. Inebriated women, sex workers, girls in yoga pants, naked women,  and all women in between. Treat all of them as he would treat me or his sister.

Always. No exceptions.

Rape is a disgusting, reprehensible crime. Nothing less. Nothing a woman does, drinks, swallows, or wears is an invitation to violate her. How is this not common sense? It is my responsibility as a mother to make this known. This became obvious to me after a few discussions with acquaintances via social media.

The message that stuck with me was we can do our best with our sons but society is an influence too. Unfortunately they’re being raised in a culture that tells them it’s perfectly fine to commit one of the most damaging and disgusting crimes known to man under certain circumstances. Blame the victim. Not the perpetrator. That’s the American way.

I’ll teach my son that women aren’t the enemy. They are not responsible for his actions. He is not an animal who cannot control his biological urges. What women wear is none of his sexual business. All human beings are worthy of sexual respect. I know there are no parenting guarantees. Sometimes despite our best efforts people go astray but that doesn’t lessen my resolve.

My household is one where victim blaming and ignorance about sexual assault is not tolerated. My kids are still babies but this is a lesson I will ingrain. No one deserves to be assaulted or shamed and speculating is just as pathetic as participating. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual coercion are wrong. Always. There are no loopholes or excuses. Ever.

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