During the interview of a lifetime with Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, I found my mind drifting to thoughts of my niece and the possibility she may grow up in a better world.
Burke said that the focus now needs to be put on children and the conversations we have with them in regard to sexual violence.
She said that if we do, we may be able to see a real cultural shift away from rape culture in the next 30 years. Something I thought was only mere fantasy.
We spoke about how the movement is nothing like what she wanted it to be 26 years ago, once the viral hashtag came out and Hollywood attached to it the demons of toxic masculinity that began furiously bubbling to the top of headlines and front pages.
Burke talked about the next steps and how she will hurtle the movement forward to support not only women who have been sexually harassed in their careers, but also to return the focus to protecting binary and non-binary people, members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of colour.
The SACHA sexual assault centre in Ontario says that 99 per cent of sexual assaults are committed by men. One in three women and one in six men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
Indigenous women are three times more likely to be assaulted than any other race and women with disabilities are more vulnerable.
In Canada there are 460,000 sexual assaults every year and only five per cent of survivors report to the police, which means it’s easy to come to the conclusion that these numbers are actually much higher.
Burke tasked the audience and parents, upon her departure, to give children, as young as three years old, the language to describe sexual violence and consent.
She said, as parents, we are constantly telling children, “don’t sit on that stranger’s lap,” “don’t talk to strangers,” “don’t let them touch you.”
However, she said these comments sound like rules and puts the onus on the child. If something happens they feel as if their parent’s rule has been broken and they internalize the blame and hide it from their parents for fear of disappointing them.
That fear perpetuates rape culture, which has already entwined itself into modern society and is fed by victim blaming instead of teaching men not to rape.
Arming children with new language as their sword and shield, emblazoned with their parent’s unconditional love, will allow them to combat potential predators.
It gives them the silky white steed they can gallop upon to their parents and report immediately any inappropriate behaviour they have had inflicted upon them.
I think about the world that my sweet niece, with flowing bronze hair, who is the kindest soul I have had the honour to meet is going to grow up in, and I think that is a world without sexual violence, is a world worth fighting for by having the tough conversation, and one that every child deserves.
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