Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Call to Action:

My niece is twelve years old, and she just got her first dick pic.

This experience has been a lot of firsts for her, actually. Her first realization that her cell phone can be a source of nasty surprises as well as nice ones. Her first realization that she has no control over what literally anyone can send her. Her first encounter with the "bros before hos" mentality when her friend, a boy, immediately turned on her when it briefly appeared the dick-piccer might get in trouble.

Her first realization that her school, where she previously felt safe, will not (or in this case, cannot) protect her from harassment.

Her first realization that almost no one in authority will believe her if she reports harassment. Her first understanding that "boys will be boys" is a rationalization she will have to live with the rest of her life.

Her first realization that a boy texting another boy that he wants to grab her by the ponytail and hump her doesn't count as a threat because it wasn't sent directly to her. That if the boy, whose locker is right above hers, has touched her inappropriately or straddled her as she crouched to get into her locker or grabbed her from behind and pressed against her as she stood up doesn't count if no witnesses will admit to seeing it.

That her locker will be moved when it's reported, as if she's the problem, instead of the boy having to move and thus be outed as the offender. As if she's a temptation, and scooting her ten feet down the row will temper his "natural" urges.

She's not a temptation. She's a twelve-year-old.

She now knows that if the boy sends the picture from a different Google group number than his usual one (do you see the budding sexual predator tendency here? because Google accounts can have several numbers to choose from, and Google will not release information on those other numbers without a subpoena) it obviously just appeared by magic in her phone and wasn't sent by anyone. That if it's snapchatted or otherwise non-text messaged to her and is already gone, she has no proof that it ever happened at all, no matter that it's seared into her brain. That without the picture, we can't get a subpoena for the sender's account details to prove who sent it.

She's twelve years old. I feel like that bears repeating. She deleted the picture so fast (once she realized what it was, because she didn't even know at first) that she has no idea how it was sent, which is making recovery of it complicated (even with police involvement). But how could she know? She just wanted it gone.

Well, I suppose school, where the most tangible incidences of physical harassment took place, is a place for learning, right? Because she's certainly getting a lesson right now. Unfortunately, the lesson is that no one can protect her. And some authority figures won't even try.

This is a lesson her older sister already learned. Starting in middle school, a boy in her band class started making inappropriate comments. Then he started sitting a little too close or standing right up against her. This continued for over a year. Finally, when she was fifteen, this fledgling sexual predator maneuvered her into an area of the school where the cameras don't reach and crowded up against her, making all sorts of inappropriate comments while pressing her into the wall.

She told her mother (my sister). Her mother called the school. The assistant principal -- male, of course -- said, and I quote, "Boys will be boys."

So my sister CC'd her reply to the band director and other school officials, including that laughably antiquated line, and said the next time he called her daughter in to be "apologized to" by the boy that cornered and borderline assaulted her, she demanded to be informed of the meeting so she could be present to hear exactly what he was telling her fifteen-year-old daughter about how boys should behave toward girls.

His response was to quickly backpedal and blame the situation on autism. The boy didn't understand her confusing social cues. Because "leave me alone" is confusing in any way.

I'm sorry, Mr. Assistant Principal, but that is not autistic behavior. Deliberately learning where the cameras don't reach and maneuvering a girl he's already been harassing for over a year into that area to molest her further is sexual predator behavior. That is not on the spectrum.

But no matter. The situation somehow magically disappeared before anything further could be done. Because that's what happens when girls are harassed. It just... goes away.

Because here we are again. This situation escalated much more quickly, but it still ended in the same place -- a young girl being violated by a boy at school, and the school ignoring it as "boys will be boys" until it escalated to the point of police involvement.


Boys will not be boys. Boys will be human beings who respect other human beings. Boys will be people who don't violate other people. Boys will be held accountable for their actions toward others.

I'm speaking directly to you here, boys. Unless someone specifically says, "I would like to see a picture of your dick", DO NOT SEND A PICTURE OF YOUR DICK. It really is that simple. Anything else is, by definition, sexual harassment, and we have to stop tolerating it.

We have to stop ignoring the victim. We have to stop blaming the victim.

We have to stop protecting and excusing the offender.

That applies to the boy's parents as well as school officials. You're not doing him any favors, people. Will you be proud to have protected this kid fifteen or twenty years from now when he turns out to be Josh Duggar? Will you gladly display his picture and school honors when he's on trial for date-raping co-eds in college or roofie-ing women in clubs and bars?

By ignoring these early offenses and doing nothing "without evidence" because current social media technology has outpaced the ability to track and catch these budding predators, you are actively denying them an assessment by a professional who can determine if they need treatment. You're also potentially dooming his future victims.

But more broadly, by willingly shoving these incidents under the rug, you are telling boys that their behavior is acceptible. You are equipping them to be better predators -- because, hey, it worked this time, right? gonna get off free and clear, thanks to a Google account with multiple numbers -- and making them more confident in their methods. You are allowing them to go on to harass and violate countless other women in the future.

Worse, you're telling these girls that they are worthless. Their safety is unimportant. They can't trust anyone to help them when they're being terrorized, even if, by some miracle, someone believes them. You're teaching them that they are second-rate citizens who should be moved out of the way instead of dealing with the actual problem. That they're not safe in an environment they are forced to be in every weekday.

You, school officials and parents of offenders, have to stop it. You have to protect these girls. If it's happened to two girls in the same family, it has absolutely happened to others in the district.

How many more girls have been too ashamed or too scared of reprisal to complain? How many more girls have complained, only to have it swept under the rug because it'd be a real shame to ruin a boy's future when some girl didn't keep her mouth shut about a few compliments and a little extra squeeze? It was probably her fault anyway, right? Maybe she was showing her collarbones or her arms or her knees.

Do you believe a girl's safety is less important than a boy's education? Because right now, that's what my nieces are learning.

My niece is twelve years old, and she just received her first dick pic. Thanks to that, she also just learned the world's worst lesson.

She'll never feel safe again.


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