Dear Dads:
October 2, 2018 1:45 PM   Subscribe

As a friend of mine said to me the other night while we were talking about this subject, there is a whole lot of pain that we as a society are about to go through, and it's going to get really, really, really bad.

But hopefully by talking about it things will begin to change and we, as a society, will learn how to manage this.

But first it is going to hurt.
Take care of yourselves. Self-care and anything else you can do.
posted by daq at 2:23 PM on October 2, 2018 [58 favorites]

How much of the life and energy of women goes into supporting and shielding men from reality? The men we love, the men we fear, the men we shield simply because we lack the energy to deal with their fragile rage and we're so good at it we do it automatically.

I'm so tired.

One of the things I'm tired about; I have a son. I am having to figure out how to talk to him about these things, and what I expect of him, along with telling him, women will shield you from this; don't accept that as ok.
posted by emjaybee at 2:45 PM on October 2, 2018 [127 favorites]

TW. After I was raped in elementary school, my father stopped hugging me. He never touched me again. And that was just one more trauma I had to learn to cope with, in an era where we didn't go to therapy-- we just got on with life. It still haunts me. Both. So I don't blame those women at all. They're not stupid. They know what we can learn to bear... and what they cannot.
posted by headspace at 2:48 PM on October 2, 2018 [156 favorites]

I have no words.
posted by bluesky43 at 2:52 PM on October 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yes, and add to that... the dads who would just go ahead and blame their daughters for what happened.

Patriarchy doesn‘t stop just because you‘re a dad.
posted by The Toad at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2018 [53 favorites]

I'll never forget my father's response to my assault. "You're bound and determined to embarrass me at my old school, aren't you?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:59 PM on October 2, 2018 [114 favorites]

I've never told my dad because I know whose side he's on.

When I was thirteen, he told me the middle-aged man who'd pulled up to the bus stop and tried to pressure me into his car was "probably just trying to be nice." When I was fourteen and told him my mom's boyfriend had taken the lock off the bathroom door and kept trying to walk in on me getting out of the shower, he looked me up and down and said, "Yeah, well, you'll have to get used to that." When I was fifteen, he spent a road trip to our hometown reminiscing about the hitchhiking girls he and his best friend picked up in their youth, laughing about the one who tried to get the police after him when it was really his best friend she'd "been with."

He thinks he loves me, and sometimes I don't know what to do with that. Some men are broken and self-centered enough to only realize women are human beings after they have daughters. Some men don't even manage that.
posted by northernish at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2018 [147 favorites]

This article is very kind.

I think it's an intentional rhetorical choice. It's trying to get men to listen, which means couching it in safe and soft terms; she loves you and she trusts you, she just doesn't tell you because she doesn't want to hurt you.

Which is true for some relationships, but not all.

The article doesn't address how hard it can be to trust men. How you never really know, unless it's been demonstrated to you, how a man will react to something that challenges him. How you never really know, until you push, whether you can trust him. Will he blame you? Will he see you as weak? Will being confronted with your femaleness in such a visceral way change your relationship for the worse? Will you have to comfort him and reassure him that it will be okay? Will this turn into you managing his feelings, like you've done so often before when things get difficult?

And that's just the fathers who aren't openly misogynist.

Many men will undoubtedly still perceive this article as an attack, despite its oh-so-careful kindness. Many of those men will have daughters.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2018 [105 favorites]

I chickened out of doing something that would make clear the fact that I'm a survivor at an event this past weekend, because my dad was going to be with me and I just... can't have that conversation. My story is complicated and messy and if there is any chance the person I tell might minimize or try to play cutesy devil's advocate (I have learned my lessons well about dad's inability to separate personal, emotional discussions from intellectual thought experiments) or in any way insinuate that I should have just gotten over it after all this time, I just can't do it. I have spent the past 25 years beating myself up for not being able to get over it, and most women will recognize the rawness of that wound immediately but most men just won't, no matter how much they love me. I'm not really protecting his feelings here so much as my own.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2018 [70 favorites]

From my point of view, and maybe it's my particular flavor of southern but not crazy conservative raising, the whole "fathers treating abused/insulted/molested daughters as at-fault or, even more disgustingly, damaged goods" thing is super impossible for me to even begin to put together. Perhaps that's partially due to the fact that I was molested and, even when the authorities* believed the 5+ of us that laid charges and a verdict was reached, the impact of that entire experience does stick with one though I've mostly blocked it off and like it to stay that way.

I have two, quite small but the years pass faster and faster, daughters. I hope they'd be able to tell me these things if/when they need to because god knows the world won't be fixed by then and odds are they will have stories. They won't have to worry about being believed. I hope I can listen and not end up in jail myself if push came to shove.

* Perhaps more relavant than any of the above is the fact that I never, well until I was forced to, told my father or mother about my abuse either. I heard about another individual speaking out and did not want that person to have to stand alone when I had experiences that could/would lend credit to their case. So I told the school resource officer who, in turn, informed me that my parents would have to be told and, well, the charges snowballed and the rest was history. Mom never spoke to me about it but she did speak at the trial. Dad spoke to me about his experience being abused, though it was very much a different mindset in the 50s when he went through it, by an older man.

It's a fucked up world. I dunno what else to say. I want a better world and more awareness and sensitivity for my kids. Part of that desire is a selfish desire because I don't know what I'd do if they were deprived of Justice and I had to flail about in attempts to provide a semblance of the same.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2018 [33 favorites]

I've also never told any male in my life about this. Probably never will. My wife knows. My daughters may get the story one day. But telling anyone just isn't an option. So it stays blocked off.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2018 [11 favorites]

I don’t have a story worth telling, but if I did I cannot imagine telling my dad. I don’t respect or trust him. He hasn’t earned it. It’s not because he’s some unfathomable monster. He didn’t walk out on us, he never hit us. Instead he is the kind of totally normal monster that doesn’t really think women are people. He would never say this, he wouldn’t even recognize himself in it, but there are some things he’s said to me over the years that only make sense through that lens.
posted by eirias at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2018 [40 favorites]

Lord this thread is heartbreaking. Hugs to all who wish one.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2018 [69 favorites]

I'm not protecting him, I'm protecting myself.

This is something I only realized during the 2016 election. The idea of protecting them was simply protecting the fragile fiction I had the sort of parents who would react appropriately to that news.
posted by politikitty at 4:25 PM on October 2, 2018 [64 favorites]

To all the fathers of all the silent victims: Your children are quietly carrying these stories, not because they can’t handle their emotions but because they’re worried that you can’t. They are worried that your emotions will have too many consequences. Or they fear you won’t think of them the same way. Or that you’ll be distraught because you didn’t protect them.

My dad's response, a quarter-century ago: "You know, if you'd been a virgin, your brother and I would be heading up to that school with baseball bats. You know that, don't you?"

(It was important for me to know that.)

So, all things considered, I'd rather he didn't know about that assault. I'm highly unlikely to tell him about the hideousness that preceded it, in childhood, or share any highly-unpleasant young-teenager experiences, or chat about the rough patches of my 20s, or, or. I love being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets.

She hadn’t ever shared this, because she wanted to protect him from her pain.

I am protecting him. I'm protecting him, from me.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:27 PM on October 2, 2018 [75 favorites]

I'm so sorry all of you have gone through what you did. <3
posted by numaner at 4:37 PM on October 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

(I really am protecting my parents)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:01 PM on October 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am just about ready to start naming names. My parents are getting more fragile and I am trying to wait until they aren’t here to see what happens when I stop using the passive voice forever and name who tried to rape me, who groped me, who said vulgar things in workplaces in four different industries, who screamed at me until I forgot I was a person, and so on. I’m protecting them from the fallout and me from the guilt that would follow.

At least for now.
posted by wellred at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2018 [12 favorites]

I didn't imagine I'd ever call this a good thing - I can't really, given the reality of being told by my oldest daughter that she'd been sexually assaulted the night before - but I'm a dad who has three daughters, the eldest of whom has been sexually assaulted twice (and has told us about it both times).

This kind of thing is really shitty to manage, for the whole family. But what I can't quite understand is all the bravado many fathers of daughters exhibit (at least a lot of the ones I know in my conservative small-town Mennonite neck of the woods) re the young boys who they see as threats to innocence of their daughters - all that "I'm a gonna sit on the porch with my squirrelly-rifle and wait" kind of shit. I never felt that sort of concern. I don't know. I didn't think people could be that mean. That bad. Looking back, I was the naive one.

Until my daughter told me/us she'd been raped. Then. Then I was agitated. Agitated as hell. And suddenly I tuned in to the shittiness that is the life of a young woman in high school and then in university too, and to the absolute minefield of insipid masculinity they have to navigate.

So, fuck me, but I'm sorry for my part in it. Any I'm lucky too I guess. My daughters are grown and well now, and I'm wiser for it. Now I'm just trying to pass that around.
posted by kneecapped at 5:08 PM on October 2, 2018 [22 favorites]

My father was not happy when I started having sex, and threatened to attack the guy I was involved with. (To be fair, I was under 18, and he was not.) I have never regretted that relationship, and because of Dad's reaction, I never told him, years later, when I was assaulted; never told him when I was raped.

It's not that I was sparing his feelings, nor that I thought he wouldn't be sympathetic, but that I knew he wouldn't be providing the kind of support I needed. I wasn't going to hash through whether I had the right to make sexual decisions, or how wrong someone was to take them away from me, so it wasn't worth discussing.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:09 PM on October 2, 2018 [15 favorites]

Blessedly I've only ever dealt with street harrassment. The one and only reason that my father and I haven't ever had a conversation about that is because he probably assumes it has happened to me, because he knows what this world is like. He also knows me well enough to know that I don't take any of that crap from anyone, and the reason I am that way is also because of him (he and I have had enough spirited debates for fun, that he probably knows that I turn into a spitfire when I get going and that most harrassers tend to turn tail and run when I confront them). If he ever asked me, I'd tell him without hesitation, but I think he isn't asking because he knows I'm strong enough to call the guys out and he's proud of that.

Hugging everyone in the thread, and I can see about loaning Patercallipygos out to all y'all as well if you want. He had my back, I trust that he'd also have yours.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2018 [17 favorites]

I love being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets.

I feel this. I might need it on a tote bag or a t shirt.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:50 PM on October 2, 2018 [73 favorites]

I'm one of the ones pressing my nose against the window of this thread. I didn't tell my Dad, because he was the one sexually abusing me. A bit at a time, more and more as the years went by.

In my case, I finally found a small voice, a small complaint: "Mom, could you ask Dad not to put his tongue in my mouth when he kisses me?" This was in my junior year of high school. No discussion, never spoken of, but God bless her soul she did what she could - I was out of that house and living with her sister to finish high school. No one ever spoke to me about it, but that move saved my life. Saved my life.

I'm 75 years old now, and I can see all the scar tissue the long, long silence caused. But it would have been unthinkable to talk about it when I was 15. No one talked about LOTS of things. We're talking now, and to me it feels like not just truth telling, but lancing a wound, and so much pus everywhere. One must lance to heal, but I'm not sure I can bear witness much anymore.
posted by kestralwing at 6:56 PM on October 2, 2018 [196 favorites]

He also knows me well enough to know that I don't take any of that crap from anyone, and the reason I am that way is also because of him (he and I have had enough spirited debates for fun, that he probably knows that I turn into a spitfire when I get going and that most harrassers tend to turn tail and run when I confront them). If he ever asked me, I'd tell him without hesitation, but I think he isn't asking because he knows I'm strong enough to call the guys out and he's proud of that.

I know you mean this well, but lots of the other women in this thread are strong, spitfires, take no crap, enjoyed spirited conversations with their dads, and were still assaulted. There's really no correlation between strength, spitfireness, crap taking, etc., and the likelihood that someone's been assaulted. I'm a strong woman who enjoyed spirited debate with her dad and has confronted harassers. I've still been raped. One thing doesn't equal or negate the other.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:59 PM on October 2, 2018 [169 favorites]

I told my mom and she said, "I'm sure it was a misunderstanding. You'll get over it." In retrospect my dad would have been much more empathic.
posted by bendy at 7:40 PM on October 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

I love being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets.

I feel this. I might need it on a tote bag or a t shirt.

Metafilter can do this, right?
posted by k8t at 7:58 PM on October 2, 2018 [9 favorites]

My sister was attacked (not sexually) by a rando when we were in our early 20s. He cut her off while driving, forced her off the road, broke her car window with a metal pipe, and then whacked her in the arm and face with same. Luckily, the injuries weren’t serious—a deep cut under one eye and some bruising. The first thing my mother did upon arriving at the hospital was to corner the cop who was interviewing my sister and to ask what she’d done to deserve getting beaten up. “Was she sleeping with him?” After expressing skepticism that no, this was a totally random attack from a perfect stranger and that my sister was not in fact to blame, the cop made her leave the room.

I met them at the hospital and so did the parents of my sister’s boyfriend, who was in the car during the attack but who wasn’t injured. The other parents were making small talk with my mother, and said something along the lines of how they were glad it wasn’t worse and how we would all have to make sure that something like that wouldn’t happen again. My mother said, apparently in an attempt at jocular humor, “Don’t worry, we’ll just beat them!”

Yeah, the acme of sympathy right there. Nobody tells my mother shit. Nobody tells my father shit either because he defaults to backing whatever play my mother sees fit.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:02 PM on October 2, 2018 [14 favorites]

My father pulled the "boys will be boys" shit when my brother and his friend plotted to have the friend's brother rape me while they watched. I managed to escape to the neighbor who was my de facto mother. She was appalled and made it clear that he and I didn't have to like each other but DID have to treat each other with respect. Daddy 1st told my brother that he couldn't watch TV, then said he could if he apologized. Golden Boy came up to me with a huge smirk on his face and said "sorry". I told him I knew he wasn't and didn't accept it. When I told my father this he said my brother could still get the privilege back. I know that I told the leader of my teen therapy group but AFAIK he didn't do anything either.

The unspoken message I had about my mother's stepfather was "let him have his fun" because my grandmother was such an evil bitch. IDK what he did to me when I was a baby but when I was 4 we were told to take off our clothes and pose for him "because there was a similar picture of my mother and uncle". A few years later I caught him watching me changing in the garage at their friends who had a pool.

For those who say "we didn't talk about it then" Beverly Cleary wrote in her memoir that even though she and her mother didn't have the best relationship, she was believed as a 9 year old in 1925 when a cousin's husband started being inappropriate and no girls were left with him after this.

FWIW my father did acknowledge that it wouldn't be my fault if someone hurt me if I were walking by myself after dark
posted by brujita at 8:50 PM on October 2, 2018 [29 favorites]

There's this mythology in our culture that a man might be willing to overlook an assault against his own person, but assault my wife or my daughter? Then the man goes berserk with anger, he doesn't care what happens to himself, all that matters is violent revenge. There's a zillion movies with this same story.

But articles like this make clear that this kind of anger isn't righteous and unselfish. It is self-centered and childish. The man thinks he should be able to drop all of his duties and obligations--that he shouldn't have to respect the laws that make our society function--because he can't deal with his feelings. He's not doing what he thinks will make life better for his family member who has been hurt, he's just throwing a tantrum.

So of course nobody wants to see their husband or father go down that childish road.

Guys, if you want women to feel safe and comfortable talking to you about hard things, you gotta demonstrate that you know how to deal with your emotions.
posted by straight at 9:01 PM on October 2, 2018 [73 favorites]

came in here hoping there'd be some proportion of participants who had told their dad & whose dad had provided appropriate support (& further, who had chosen to say so here), in order to bolster my hope that there is such a type of father & that, therefore, such dads might present characteristics to emulate, because that piece was heartbreaking to one just now contemplating the imminent day when he'll be unable easily to carry his daughter around. but no: oh, my. thank you, each, for sharing your experience. my sobbing grief with you.
posted by 20 year lurk at 9:09 PM on October 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I’ve been lucky to have never been sexually abused, but as a woman who generally fit the description of “conventionally attractive” for my time & place during my teens & 20s, I was put in a lot of very deeply uncomfortable positions.

I love my dad and Mom deeply and don’t think I could bear to cause them the pain of knowing about those incidents. They didn’t do anything wrong, and I know they’ll take them as a failure. The pain wouldn’t go away; it would just affect more people.

This article may not apply to everyone, but I could see it applying to my family.
posted by samthemander at 9:14 PM on October 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry that was preachy. What I was really thinking was how a boy threw a rock at my daughters when they were kids and I got unreasonably angry and shouted at him. And wondering what doors might have been closed between us that day. Because I'm not as good at dealing with my emotions as I ought to be.

Women get really angry, too. But a lot more of them know how to deal with their anger without doing something crazy and destructive.
posted by straight at 9:15 PM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

There's this mythology in our culture that a man might be willing to overlook an assault against his own person, but assault my wife or my daughter? Then the man goes berserk with anger, he doesn't care what happens to himself, all that matters is violent revenge. There's a zillion movies with this same story.

Yeah, I had a guy once try to tell me that this is why women shouldn't be allowed in combat units in the military. Because apparently if he sees a woman in danger, a man is incapable of not protecting and/or avenging her.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:29 PM on October 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I think he isn't asking because he knows I'm strong enough to call the guys out and he's proud of that

To be honest this would keep me from sharing.

If I had been raised by someone who assumed I wouldn't be harassed or assaulted because I'm strong ... then I might think that being harassed or assaulted made me weak. And so, if it happened, I might feel more shame.

And you know what? I wasn't raised by someone who assumed that, but I still feel it because the cultural beliefs surrounding harassment and sexual assault are that fucked. When I'm harassed on the street my first reaction is anger, and my second is often to shout "what the FUCK is your problem?"

But my pride is still stinging because I didn't call out the last man who harassed me - because it was the end of a long day, because I was already stepping off the bus, because all I can do in a situation like that is ESCALATE. Sometimes I just don't wanna and the shame stays with me, like a little needle constantly poking me in the eye. A strong woman would have called the guy out!

Just please don't. It has nothing to do with strength. Sometimes men do target women who seem vulnerable. But other men? They like to target women who seem like they should be knocked down a peg. Women don't choose to take that crap or not. You can't opt out of the crap by being a better class of woman. We get the crap - and how we deal with it, whether that's through confrontation, ignoring them, doesn't reflect on our strength (or lack of it).
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:51 PM on October 2, 2018 [60 favorites]

I saw this earlier, read it, and cried. Now I'm reading all your stories, and weeping. I am grateful for this place where you feel safe to share what happened to you.

I posted the link, without commentary, on Facebook. I struggled so much with what to write; and in the end, I decided against writing anything, for fear of reprisal, for fear of being too vulnerable, so I'll leave my semi-coherent jumble of thoughts here, instead:

I struggled so much to find the words to accompany this. I wanted to say something to the men I know who are fathers, or who will soon be fathers. I wanted to say something to every man who has ever pulled out the "but what about fake rape accusations" when we've been discussing something in the news. I wanted to say something to everyone with a friend whose behaviour has been excused too many times and who's the subject of a whisper network. I wanted to say something to the people in my life who think the statistics must be inflated because they've never experienced anything like this, or even heard of it.

I wanted to say something, but like the article says: I want to protect you from the pain, too. And I want to protect myself from the anguish of dealing with anyone who proves incapable of carrying their share of the pain. It should belong to all of us.

posted by invokeuse at 12:28 AM on October 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

I am glad it is here, but this entire thread is horrifying and ragemaking and staggering in it's awfulness.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:45 AM on October 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

A man I know (and generally like and respect) posted on facebook, using the WaPo article to tell women to have that conversation with their fathers in the hopes of getting those fathers to not be Trump supporters in the coming election.

I used this MeFi thread to explain to him that a lot of women who haven't had this conversation have good reasons for not doing so.

He pushed back, but when I pointed out that his post was framed as a series of commands, he toned it down.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 2:41 AM on October 3, 2018 [27 favorites]

Oh. Yeah, this thread isn't surprising to me. I don't know how anyone who reads the news or listens to women can keep generating surprise.

When I told my Dad, who is a perfectly average kind of man, who is not grossly protective, who has never assaulted anyone to my knowledge, he said, "Well, rape is just unwanted sex." Two years later: "I don't know why you thought you could sleep platonically with someone." Meaning, next to a man, who was my friend, clothed, in a bed. Silly gay girl, thinking friendship was real.

He's still surprised my mom hasn't wanted to have sex with him in twenty years.

He asks in genuine frustration, "Why doesn't anyone tell me anything? Why don't I know what's going on with you and your sister?"

Well, you can't be trusted. You're not supportive, your empathy sucks, you can't read your own feelings, you make a mess out of mine. Being around you means cutting myself small. Because I edit for my own sanity. Sometimes I do tell you things, but not so we can be close. Because I think it's good for you. It's charity. I want you to grow, even though I think you won't.

Telling you costs me. Every time. It costs me the fiction of thinking you might care in a way that matters to me. Is genuinely about me. Doesn't require me (to do anything for you).

"I know you think I'm sexist, but I'm a lot better than my father."

It's not enough, Dad.

Here's the truth: every woman you know has been harassed by a man, and a lot of them have been assaulted by a man. And every man you know has harassed a woman, and some have assaulted women too. And if you think this formula doesn't apply to you or the people you know, you are a fucking unicorn of a statistical outlier, or, more likely, deep in denial.

Dad, what's your favorite sport?
"Oh, probably women's soccer. I just love watching them jiggle down the field."

And then pile on all the other awful realities and axes of #MeToo.
posted by fritillary at 2:46 AM on October 3, 2018 [69 favorites]

But I do think we need to come out. All of us, as many as possible, over and over. Until our voices are so loud we are The Room.
posted by fritillary at 2:51 AM on October 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

came in here hoping there'd be some proportion of participants who had told their dad & whose dad had provided appropriate support (& further, who had chosen to say so here), in order to bolster my hope that there is such a type of father & that, therefore, such dads might present characteristics to emulate, because that piece was heartbreaking to one just now contemplating the imminent day when he'll be unable easily to carry his daughter around. but no: oh, my. thank you, each, for sharing your experience. my sobbing grief with you.

Here is one.

After reading this thread I am ever more grateful for my Dad. Circa late 70s I was assaulted by a babysitter when I was between 5 and 6. It was a boy who lived across the street. I told both my parents the next day though only in kid language. The boy had made me promise not to tell but I was super angry because he 'peed' on me and that was the height of disgusting in my kid mind. It wasn't pee and I had no idea that the whole thing was bad and wrong. I was pissed at the peeing.

I don't remember my Dad acting rage angry at all. I just recall the feeling that both him and my Mom had my back, they agreed that it was wrong and were just as annoyed that this boy would do that. Soon after I told them my Dad went to talk to his parents. I remember him walking out the door and telling me not to worry that everything was going to be okay. It was all just matter of fact.

The boy was no longer allowed to babysit and my Dad said he was going to let all the neighbors know this and why he could no longer babysit. In my kid mind I was satisfied with this outcome because not being able to babysit anymore was the worst. I also remember my Dad telling me that what had happened was really very bad and that if anything like it happened again to please tell him.

When I grew up and sexual assault and abuse because something that was being talked about more publically I realized what had actually happened. I heard stories about people and how abuse at such a young age stayed with them and effected so much. I hadn't experienced any of that. I ended up going to a therapist because I was afraid that I was repressing things. We figured out that I wasn't really and that because of how my parents and my Dad in particular dealt with it was the reason.

The key points: I was believed. There was no feeling that I had done anything wrong whatsoever. I got what was in my kid mind justice and going forward I was allowed to talk about this bad bad thing with whomever I wanted. I wasn't shamed at all.

The therapist suggested I have an adult conversation about it with my parents. I talked with my Dad. It was awkward but very illuminating. Mainly that he said he didn't know wtf he was supposed to do. This was a time where this sort of thing was in the shadows, you just didn't talk about it. In the present he would have gone to the police. There would have been someone to call. After I told him he said he talked with my Mom. He went down to his workshop for a bit and cried. He was angry. He was horrified and he said he felt very helpless. He said he just knew that he had to let the boys parents know and make sure it never could happen again, to me or anyone. So he took some deep breaths and just did it.

None of this came across to me at all. He told me that when he left the house that day he was shaking and walking across that street was one of the hardest things he had done in his entire life. Talking to the neighbors was horrible. He said he and my Mom were worried about me for a long time and would ask me questions to make sure I was okay. I don't remember that. I expect that's part of what gave me the lasting feeling that I was supported.

I feel so very grateful that my Dad dealt with it the way that he did, even more so that I know his version of what happened and how he felt. (I did tell him my side as well). In hindsight for my own emotional wellbeing and the context of the era he did the right things and it made all the difference.

One of his comments does stick out. He said at that time he felt very on his own. Nowadays theres places and people to go to for help. It's talked about. He said he is happy that he did the right thing for me but said he feels like it was more an accident that he managed it on his own. He really didn't know wtf he was doing and questioned it for years after. He said he was glad that things had changed enough that he would have someone or someplace to go for help and make sure they were helping me properly.

There is really no excuse nowadays.
posted by Jalliah at 3:18 AM on October 3, 2018 [172 favorites]

A few months after I told my parents that my paternal grandfather had abused and molested me my whole life (I told because my sister made a serious attempt at suicide and I thought it might help), my dad broke down and cried. Because he knew he had watched my grandfather sit with his hand down my pants night after night for years.

For years he sat 6 feet away, reading stacks of New Yorkers, while I was molested in the same room, yeah.

So my sister and I comforted him and told him he was a good dad. is complicated. My father let several people abuse me, and participated in erasure, like a few years after that crying night my parents inherited my grandfather’s furniture. I, in therapy and at the advice of my therapist, asked them not to keep the exact chair in which I was molested and over which I was raped and sodomized so that I could go there and not then have nights of rage and flashbacks, and they (my mum) refused to get rid of it. So for three years I refused to go into their house. They finally did get rid of the chair but they still have the matching footstool in a corner.

And yet...this abuser of mine was brutal, and my father was his son. I know why he is passive and often dissociative. And my dad never touched me inappropriately, never hit me, barely yelled, and his passivity in protecting me is also what made him safe enough, contributing some to the fact that I have been able to trust my husband, continue to grow. But the tangled past around which I grow is also something he’s complicit in.

If this were a poem my dad would represent the patriarchy, duh.

I love him and yeah, I haven’t talked to him about this stuff except for those three times. I probably never will again. It’s not worth it to me, I have permanently lowered expectations. Plus he’s old and now has cognitive issues. I keep it easy for him. I’m strong and he’s not. But this is pretty thoroughly unsatisfying.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:18 AM on October 3, 2018 [47 favorites]

My dad was the guy who taught me my body and personhood were repulsive and worthless in the first place. I can only imagine he'd have been astounded to know that anyone might want to rape a body that he found so personally disgusting that he spent my entire childhood making sure I was profoundly, painfully aware of this fact.

I have distinct memories from the age of five and a half of the casting for the school Christmas play being announced and me praying and hoping with everything I had that they wouldn't make me play a character who had to wear a leotard, because then everyone else would know exactly how disgusting my body was under my clothes. There is a picture of me at six or seven, appearing in a different play, also made to wear a leotard, hunched and blank with shame in front of the camera. I took that picture to therapy recently and we both marvelled at how totally normal-looking my child body was, but he'd ruined it forever in my mind already by that incredibly tender age.

By the time I was raped, which seems like an inevitable consequence of a childhood full of the kind of abuse that leaves you with nothing but an intense sense of your own utter worthlessness, it barely even registered. It was only a tiny fragment of trauma in a life that had already been overwhelmed, defined and warped by trauma. My rapist didn't take anything from me, because I didn't believe there was anything there worth taking in the first place. I didn't have any privacy or dignity or bodily value for him to seriously violate, thanks to my dad. It was just more of the same, being used for someone else's purpose. It's nowhere near the most traumatising thing that has ever happened to me, and for years I felt like a fraud for calling it rape because of this.

Fuck my dad. He'd have said it was my own fault for being drunk anyway. I'm glad he died in shame and pain. He only had to suffer a few weeks of shame and pain before he died; I've had nearly thirty years of it and still counting thanks to his fucking toxic parenting.
posted by terretu at 3:36 AM on October 3, 2018 [52 favorites]

For years the Dick Lourie poem at the end of the movie “Smoke Signals” has been an immediate verbal memory touchstone on this topic, like a song stuck in your head. The opening question and answer is beautiful, the rest disappointing; reading it through always felt anticlimactic. This thread is why; it says a lot that a canonical poem about men forgiving their fathers comes from a perspective where there is comparatively so little to forgive.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:28 AM on October 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

I mangled the message I was trying to say somehow, and I'm not sure how and I apologize.

My takeaway is that I know my father has my back, and I was trying to offer him out to have all of your backs, kind of like those people who show up at Pride Parades offering "a hug from a mom" or something like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 AM on October 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

He also knows me well enough to know that I don't take any of that crap from anyone, and the reason I am that way is also because of him (he and I have had enough spirited debates for fun,

Wow. I’m sure this was meant well rather than as jovial victim blaming, but as it stands, this comment is such a failure to read the room that it borders on sadism. Empress, I’m glad you’ve never been assaulted and that you have a positive relationship with your father, but a thread about rape, gendered domestic abuse, denial, and intergenerational incest is not the appropriate place for you to blithely reminisce about your safety from these experiences. I’ve flagged your comment and I hope you’ll come to your senses and ask the mods to delete it. This thread is not the place to brag about your great dad or how you’re just too strong and feisty and #blessed to have ever been raped.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:42 AM on October 3, 2018 [25 favorites]

posted by rustipi at 4:50 AM on October 3, 2018

I just have feelings. My dad is my (primary) abuser who I have actively escaped from and yet, I do relate to this. There was so much I didn't tell him because of how he would react, how much of an object I was to him. So he doesn't know about the other assaults in my childhood. He doesn't know I married a woman and definatly doesn't know about my child. Some of this is directly related to the abuse, some of this is tied into the fundamentalist Christianity that frameworked the abuse, and some of this is that he couldn't see anything outside of how it hurt him.How I was just an extension of his legacy something to parade around. His perception of me is like a vandalized car. I just couldn't and can't be overlooked like that.

I don't know what I'm really trying to say but I have feelings and damn.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:54 AM on October 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

I realized my father had reached his maximum capacity, that he was not really an "adult" the way my mother or other people's parents were adults, when I was about 13 years old, when a friend of mine who had been seriously acting out at school was removed from her family because her father had raped her. My father did not believe it, maintained that it was a conspiracy against her interracial parents, that it was a lie. I struggled to make friends; he had none, and shortly before CPS took her away, we had gone over, as a family, to my friend's house; our parents talked, we did homework. Her father gave my father a few hot peppers he had grown himself in their yard. After my friend was taken from her family and put into the foster system, he did not contact her father again to my knowledge, but he kept those peppers and their seeds in the refrigerator; he knew the kind of man they came from, and still would not get rid of them. That tiny gesture of male bonding, with someone he had met exactly once, meant so much to him; meant more than my friend's face, than her entire life. I don't know what made my father, a prudish, non-aggressive, autism-spectrum engineer with a rigid sense of propriety, concoct a conspiracy rather than believe the evidence of child protective services. As an adult, I don't want to know. I think the most I can hope for from the relationship is that I never find out.

Stupidly enough, I forgot about this until last week, when my father was ranting about how the Kavanaugh hearings represented a total suspension of rule of law, was stunned that such obvious lies could be paraded before the senate, that kind of thing never happened in his high school, he didn't even know anyone who had been assaulted. This is shocking without being surprising. I don't really feel personally betrayed, because I've known that he was fundamentally untrustworthy since a very young age, but I was devastated on my late mother's behalf; I know the men who abused her in previous relationships, can pick the man who molested her out of old family photographs. I have been sexually abused; so has every partner I've brought home, including the cisgender men. I've been consumed with what it means to go through the world living like this-- like being on the light side of a tidally locked planet, or a kind of colorblindness, surrounded by people you don't see, don't know, living in a world of ghosts, or the other way around-- a hollow man, a ghost in the world of the living.

Kutsuwamushi is right; this article is extremely, over-generously kind. I don't really care about protecting my father's feelings. In fact, the opposite is true-- if I thought there was any way to make him feel, really feel, the hurt all the women in his life and in its periphery have felt during their lifetimes, I would do it in a heartbeat. I haven't told him anything serious about my life since I was a young teenager, not to protect him-- although sometimes to protect myself, my mother, and the people around me from inappropriate outbursts, like many other fathers in this thread he does not understand or know how to deal with his own feelings as a general rule-- but mostly because I don't think there would really be a point. I didn't tell him when I dated women as a teenager, I didn't tell him when I was assaulted and abused by a college boyfriend, I didn't tell him about the posse of high school gang rapists who never hurt me, but who publicly assaulted younger girls I considered myself and still consider myself responsible for. What would have been the point? I don't plan on telling him about the rapist boys in high school that made Dr Blasey Ford's testimony so painful to listen to; I also don't plan on trying to teach my dog to drive the car.

Watching the response to the Kavanaugh hearings and the players involved has been revealing in so many hideous ways. There are so many layers of pathological male behavior here, and the resistance they have to looking themselves in the mirror. Despite being very professionally high functioning, my father is, like Brett Kavanaugh, an active addict, and I've had to take him to the ER during the past year for falling injuries he sustained while under the influence. I've stopped putting myself in positions where he can tell lengthy stories, because invariably they turn to sickening, fond reminiscing about how many of the events of my childhood-- vacations, work trips, handymen and home repair contractors who never seemed quite competent, were actually just fronts to acquire drugs. His own father was an abusive alcoholic who died, passed out drunk in a house fire, the year before I was born. My father's 19 year old brother had gotten out, then fought off the neighbors holding him back, ran back inside to try to save him, and instead died there with him. When my father was ranting about his vendetta against "the Democrats," he made jeering reference to Cory Booker "supposedly" saving a neighbor in Newark from a similar fire. It shocked me, and then the pieces clicked into place, sad and undeniable: you hate the people who can do what you can't. Getting or being sober, protecting your family, even something that is truly a matter of luck like walking back out of a house fire. Because admitting it would make you feel small, would make you feel guilty, or angry, or bereaved. Would make you have to face the enormity of what it meant for women to be human. Would simply make you feel it-- would make you feel the reality of all that pain. And in the end, they are too weak to even make the attempt.

I see this refusal to square up to pain in Kavanaugh, too, if I'm being generous to him. The sex ed ("Marriage and Sex") teacher at Georgetown Prep during his years of attendance did hard time in federal prison for child pornography, and when I look at profiles of his friend and co-rapist Mike Judge, with his sexually compulsive youtube channel and lifelong, likely terminal alcoholism, living out of his car at age 45, I wonder what else happened to those boys when they were at that school.

What sticks with me is the measure of the things these men hold as more important than the lives of their friends, partners, sisters, daughters-- they seem so sickeningly small to me. Toxic camaraderie that demonstrably kills, the ability to keep using your drug of choice without consequence, populating your own American Dream with family members you think of as barely more than plastic action figures. They have sold their own humanity so cheaply. Drinking beer with your friends. Lifting at Tobin's. A handful of peppers, home grown.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2018 [157 favorites]

moonlight, that was haunting and evocative and beautifully written
posted by mosessis at 6:26 AM on October 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

I have a biological dad and a stepdad and I never talk about anything even slightly emotional or personal with either of them, so I sure as hell am not starting with my personal experiences with sexual harassment and assault.

I do know that whatever it is my stepdad is saying about the current national situation to my mother and my sister (who lives in the same city as my parents and sees them often), it's not going well. They're all supposed to be going on vacation together in a few days. Last I heard, my sister was avoiding speaking to him about anything even slightly political. My mom? Well, she reports cheerfully that she's been talking to him a lot in the last few weeks and he "finally understands what women go through" and has come around to thinking maybe Brett Kavanaugh isn't a good person.

He's 75. He has a wife and two daughters. He is an intelligent man who reads the news and is capable of observing the world around him. I'm highly skeptical that he does "finally understand" something new this week if he's never understood it until now, but if he does? If this is what it took? That's not something to be proud of or something I feel like praising him for. It's horrifying that it took this long, and this much, for him to get to whatever point of slight personal growth he's experienced in the past week.

I don't have the emotional or energy resources to care about his personal growth; I have to do what I can to nurture and protect my own in a world that's trying its hardest to deny my basic humanity. I don't owe my story to anyone I do not trust with it, just because of their blood or legal ties to me. And it's not an awful story, not in the grand scheme of things. But it's mine, and I didn't have any say over what happened to me, so instead I get to say who I trust with that story. And the idea that one of those people could ever be either of my fathers is completely unimaginable.
posted by Stacey at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2018 [33 favorites]

I understand not telling. Because the chaos and lack of emotional control of men is well documented. As a kid, I only told what was necessary to change what was happening. But I couldn’t talk about the rest. It wasn’t safe.

As an adult, though, in part I didn’t tell because I think I would have been devastated if there was an absence of male rage. I couldn’t handle that I might tell and then everything would go back to “normal” and I’d be forced to live with the idea that a person who loved me wouldn’t rise up and defend me with righteousness and anger once they knew. When I realized this was a component to my fear of telling—that it wouldn’t matter—I really had to grieve for my childhood self.

The notion that men live among ghosts is heavy and true.
posted by amanda at 7:03 AM on October 3, 2018 [14 favorites]

I agree that the article is couched in the gentlest possible terms, and I want to be a little less gentle. Not harsh, but a bit less hushed. So many men are still asking themselves, “why haven’t any of the women in my life ever told me about these experiences?” and for many of them, the answer is in their unswerving misogyny, their promise to enact bloody vengeance on anyone who dares touch their property (wives and daughters), their mockery of survivors of sexual assault, their dedicated loyalty to believing men they have never met over the word of the word of women they claim to love— the real bad red flags of “you cannot trust this man”.

But in my experience there’s a much more complex ecosystem of the ways men accidentally tell us they cannot be trusted. When wondering why women don’t trust men with their trauma, the question is not simply “is this man an unrepentant hater of women”, but “has this man proven himself to be careful enough to be trusted with these wounds?” And even for “good” men, progressive men, men who vote the right ways and give money to the right causes, the answer is often no. No, I can’t have faith that he’ll respond in a way that heals instead of harms. And it isn’t just about disclosure— it is about whether or not I even want to discuss these topics with them as events taking place in the world.

A glimpse at the types of diagnostics women run before speaking with men, any men, about these issues, beyond the very basic “does this man hate women” type questions:

-Does this man love playing devil’s advocate? Does he love talking about hypotheticals and thought experiments as if they are unrelated to lived experiences of people around him?
-Does this man notice misogyny and the erotics of misogyny in the media he consumes? When it is pointed out to him, does he make excuses for it? Has he ever rolled his eyes and accused people of “taking things too seriously” or said “you always do this”?
-Does this man engage in attempts (even rhetorical) to rehabilitate/welcome back men who have been exposed as sexual predators (those known/those who are famous)? Does he continue to suggest consuming media containing famous sexual predators? When people say they can’t separate the art from the artist, does he view that as a moral failure?
-Does this man treat public discourse on this topic as a sort of chess match between political parties? Does he get excited when he thinks his “team” is “winning?” Does he make excuses for this behavior when the perpetrator is on his “team”?
-Does this man ever say “you’re so sensitive these days” to women who ask not to talk about certain topics or consume certain media? Does he roll his eyes when women say they can’t consume certain media because of the subject matter?
-Does this man seem to take these topics seriously when talking about them one-on-one, but later makes jokes about those same discussions in mixed groups? (“Yeah, she tore into me the other day about how I need to be more sensitive, sometimes I just wanna watch tv!”)
-Does this man read women writers? Does this man consume media with female protagonists? Does this man consume media with female protagonists who do not punch anyone or make anything explode?
-Does this man ask women permission to share "non-PC" jokes or media because "it's just so good that it's worth it"?
-Does this man talk to or admire women who are older than 40 outside of work situations? Does this man talk to or admire women with body types that are not represented in mainstream media? When women he knows gain weight, does he comment on it? Repeatedly? Over the course of years?
-Does this man think it is funny when women play sports? Perform manual labor? Do math? Become programmers?
-Has this man ever said “that’s just who I am” when asked to change a behavior that hurts others?
-Does this man talk about hypothetical or famous misogynists with disdain and/or threats of retribution, but does not contradict men in his life who say misogynist things in his company? (Or does he contradict them only rarely?)
-Does this man use the words “hysterical” or “nagging” to describe women talking to him about his behavior?
-Does this man talk about women in the political party he does not like using misogynistic insults?
-Does this man say things to intentionally “rile up” women they know? Things they don’t really believe, because “it is so funny when you get mad”? Or “you’re cute when you’re mad”?

The list goes on and on, but these are some baselines for men to think about, because women think about them constantly. Not even consciously, in my case— it’s just a form of ongoing pattern recognition. The times when I have disregarded these warning signs to talk about a hard subject have almost always proven to be mistakes.

(Also, there is a difference between consuming media with problematic/misogynist content— something that is nigh impossible to avoid— and getting annoyed when other people note that element, or choose not to watch because of that element. A man who watches a certain show is not necessarily a problem. A man who gets frustrated when other people don’t want to watch the show because of that content, or talk about problematic elements of the show, is someone to inspire caution.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:53 AM on October 3, 2018 [107 favorites]

I haven't told my dad about stuff that has happened to me, but that's because I rarely tell anyone. I think he would be mostly good about it but would make the usual mistakes of people who haven't spent time dissecting the language of rape culture.

Listening to senators express support for Dr Ford this week kept making me cry. I've been angry for a long time, so hearing Lindsay Graham pop off makes me disgusted, rather than more hurt and more angry. It's words of support that crack open the anger and let loose the pain and I don't want to deal with it. Especially not now when I expect so many more wounds to come our way.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:16 AM on October 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

A woman I know posted this on Facebook and was having a discussion with another woman in the comments, and a guy jumped in and said "If either of you were ever harassed or assaulted I swear I will hunt them down. I will not stand for something like that." I have to laugh at this because otherwise I'll cry.

I wrote and deleted a comment but I appreciated the discussion above about being "strong" and what it means, and especially this from kutsuwamushi: If I had been raised by someone who assumed I wouldn't be harassed or assaulted because I'm strong ... then I might think that being harassed or assaulted made me weak. And so, if it happened, I might feel more shame. Because this is very much my relationship with my dad. I love him, he's a fantastic dad, we get along great. But if I don't have a conversation with him now about the sexual harassment I've endured (and I am considering it), this will be the reason. (I didn't tell him as a kid/teenager because I didn't figure it was any of his business, particularly.) His reaction is not going to have any effect on my self-image at this point, but I feel sure that it will bounce off him, that it's too bad but he knows I'm not the type of woman to let it affect me too much, or some shit like that. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he actually will be bothered to hear that a man tried to get me into his van on American River Canyon when I was 15. But I think he just thinks I'm tough and can deal with it. When I called to tell him I got laid off from my job earlier this year he said "Well, that's life in the big city, kid," and people I reported this to thought it was horrible but it was actually the most comforting thing anything could have said to me in that moment - the reminder that this happens to everyone, and that I'd be fine. That kind of thing is emblematic of my relationship with my dad. But it's not the kind of response that works across a vast gender, racial, generational, experiential divide.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:39 AM on October 3, 2018 [14 favorites]

I'm so disappointed in so many people. I hope I can be there for my kids when they need me.
posted by bq at 8:55 AM on October 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets.

I feel this. I might need it on a tote bag or a t shirt.

Would it be acceptable for me to create this for sale on teespring and donate proceeds to RAINN?
posted by hanov3r at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2018 [28 favorites]

The hell with telling my dad. My *mom* didn't even believe me. To echo other people in this thread, I'm not protecting him at this point. I'm protecting myself.
posted by coffeeand at 9:36 AM on October 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

I am the father of two young daughters (the oldest is still a toddler). Threads like this have been eye-opening to me, as I am sure they have been to others. Aside from other examples of how these conversations can go well (like Jalliah's story, above), are there other resources for how to handle these discussions as my daughters grow older? I see threads of believing my children, of trusting them, of trying to make them feel safe, but where else can I look for good models?
posted by craven_morhead at 10:06 AM on October 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

I posted about my dad last night in the Fucking Fuck thread, but reading this thread has connected a lot of dots about how fucked up things were. My dad had a police scanner by his living room recliner chair, and he would listen not only to the police frequency but also the cordless phones and baby monitors in our neighbors’ houses. He learned that the next door neighbors’ daughter had gotten pregnant by some drug dealer, so he and my mom sat me down for the one and only sex talk I ever had. He told me that if I ever got pregnant during high school he would disown me and throw me out of the house, and if he found out that I was having sex, I would wish I was dead. That is multiple levels of fucked up: using creepily-obtained information as an opportunity to threaten your [very] young daughter into compliance.

So no, I did not tell my dad anything.

Now I want to tell him things because I’m angry and want to pierce his bubble of deliberate, willful ignorance, but I won’t.
posted by Maarika at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2018 [13 favorites]

craven_morhead This is going to be pretty general, but I think that what your children are willing to tell you has to do with how receptive you are in general. It isn't just about how you talk about sex.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

Oh my goodness, a fiendish thingy, that is 100% true and it's almost impossible to talk to men in my life about. There was a link on my Twitter this morning that encapsulated that internal calculus perfectly:
I would suggest the response from these women wasn’t unreasonable. As a metaphor, think of sexual harassment as a hot stove. Once burned, anyone would be reluctant to test empirically whether hot stoves always cause intense pain and tissue damage. In this analogy, these minor exclusionary behaviors aren’t the hot stove—but they may be the "burner on" indicator light, or even the faint smell of gas. They suggest an atmosphere in which more extreme behaviors are more likely to occur, and those are atmospheres that, quite reasonably, a woman may choose to avoid so that she doesn’t incur the risk.
Men, have you checked for the faint smell of gas hanging around you? Because trust me, we're checking for it.
posted by sciatrix at 10:20 AM on October 3, 2018 [34 favorites]

For me, it's more than just there being no red flags - I need positive evidence.

That means ... as a concrete example ... instead of just not telling sexist jokes, he needs to speak up when someone else makes a sexist joke around him. It means sharing opinions that show he believes women are full equal human beings, that the problems women face are real, and that they're not women's fault. And also, living by those opinions - not just paying lip service to them, but actually showing through his behavior that he doesn't just have those opinions when it's abstract and convenient.

When I think about the men that I would trust being told about something like this, I can think of specific reasons why.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:43 AM on October 3, 2018 [28 favorites]

To those of you telling your stories in this thread (and those of you who are unable to): I am so sorry.

When I think of the much, much smaller things that have happened to me throughout my life, like being the target of sexual remarks by certain boys in high school, etc., I remember having zero inclination to tell anyone. It wasn't, "Hmm, should I tell someone? No, I won't"; it just wasn't a consideration at all. I'll just sit here and feel shame about it by myself, thank you. And if I had told my parents what those boys said, they probably would have made a big deal out of it and would have Done Something, when I would prefer to not think or talk about it (though I specifically remember a few of those remarks today, and it's been 20+ years).

And then, to hear -- regarding those who've endured sexual assault and things much worse than my experiences -- "Then why didn't she tell anyone?!" and "Then why did she take so many years to report it?!" ad nauseum... It's rage-inducing, and it's just incomprehensible to me how those people are apparently incapable of empathy. I don't even know what else to say.
posted by trillian at 12:43 PM on October 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

Important point missing from my comment: And I had parents who would have been supportive and I still didn't tell them about those minor incidents.
posted by trillian at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2018

Thank you all for sharing your stories.
posted by graventy at 1:02 PM on October 3, 2018

trillian, yeah, being the target of those sexual remarks/taunts by high school boys, I already know what the answer will be if I complain.

"You are overreacting."
"You must be imagining things. No one would do that."
"What did you do to provoke them?"
"They do it because they like you."
"They are just doing it to get a rise out of you. Ignore it."

Why would I want to hear any more of that, than I already had? But this is the double bind: Not objecting earlier meant that I forfeited my right to object when they escalate. And they always do escalate. There is no point in telling anyone early because it's not bad enough for them to care. And there's no point in telling anyone later, because if it were a problem why would I have waited so long to speak up if I didn't secretly like being treated this way.

And besides, don't we all wanna be a Cool Girl? The Cool Girl who doesn't care. She is one of the guys...
posted by elizilla at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2018 [25 favorites]

By the time I was raped, which seems like an inevitable consequence of a childhood full of the kind of abuse that leaves you with nothing but an intense sense of your own utter worthlessness, it barely even registered. ... My rapist didn't take anything from me, because I didn't believe there was anything there worth taking in the first place. ... It's nowhere near the most traumatising thing that has ever happened to me, and for years I felt like a fraud for calling it rape because of this.

oh. wow. this is how i feel about my "rape" and it never occurred to me until reading this.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2018 [19 favorites]

So... I kinda did the t-shirt thing. It's over on Projects, to not self-link here.
posted by hanov3r at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh my god, y'all. Oh my god. My heart is breaking.

I'm so sorry.

Smash the patriarchy. Take care of each other.

I hope to all the gods that my daughters trust me, that if (when?) this happens to them that they will tell me, that I will be the father they need and deserve in that moment and ever after.

What else can I do?
posted by ZakDaddy at 1:39 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are things I'm only starting to talk publicly about, almost three years after my father's death, because I knew knowing about them would break his heart.

Or maybe I only hope it would have.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:40 PM on October 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

The other day I walked into my parents' house when they were apparently having an argument about how credible sexual assault accusations are, and immediately demanded to know whether I had ever been assaulted myself. What kind of question is that to demand an answer to as someone walks in the door?

Of course I have been, it's not exactly unusual. I tried to brush off their question by "joking" that I wasn't going to go to the news with any accusations, but that wasn't enough for them, so finally I said that of course nearly everyone has been assaulted. So then they went on and used that as fodder for their argument, finished up, and sat down to dinner.

I never told them about any time in particular that I have been assaulted and never would and never will. What good would come of it, frankly? In the past, it has never even occurred to me to tell them. I find it hard to believe even now that they would have wanted to know, let alone that they would ever have done anything to help me. Best case scenario would have been total dismissal and gaslighting, worst case happiness/pride/congratulations for getting "positive" male attention. There's not really any reason to protect their feelings, which I doubt would be particularly strong in any direction or last for particularly long. I'm protecting MY feelings. And they're good and loving parents and all. Just very passive and without a whole lot of empathy for me as an individual.

There was one particularly traumatic -- though not in an any objective sense particularly bad -- sexual assault by a stranger when I was around age eight, and the first time I told another girl (my own age) about it a few years later, she brushed it off. So I just figured it was actually no big deal and was embarrassed by how much of an impression it had made on me. In retrospect, she probably just had no idea what to say. Then when I was maybe 26 or so and dating an awful and scary and outspoken misogynist, he asked me if I had ever been sexually assaulted. I didn't want to get too deep into it so I just told him about that time when I was eight. To my surprise, he was entirely on my side and took it seriously. He didn't lose his temper or thump his chest, he just was earnest about saying it was a terrible thing for someone to do to me and that I didn't deserve it at all. He was actually so empathetic about it that I worried that he was trolling me!

So much sexual violence and just plain violence toward women is normalized, that most of the time, it doesn't really register with me as particularly notable. For example, technically/legally, an ex raped me and yet I only just this week realized that that's how it would be classified. At the time, it was just a horrible experience, and if I have ever mentioned it to a friend, it's only been as a footnote in a conversation about struggling to get over that relationship. There have been so many experiences that scared the shit out of me that I just assume nobody would ever care about and that I never want to or do talk about. Maybe things would be different if I were more frank, but it's hard to be frank like that.

These past couple weeks have been really hard, even though all the sharing that has been going on is probably for the best long-term.
posted by rue72 at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2018 [28 favorites]

I see threads of believing my children, of trusting them, of trying to make them feel safe, but where else can I look for good models?

The key matter is letting them believe they can trust you. You have to find a way NOT to punish them for telling you the truth, no matter how bad the truth turns out to be. By the time they're five, they'll know whether or not they're more likely to get in trouble if they tell you something, or if they hide it. Some parents decide to punish extra-hard for secrets they discover later (like a broken dish that got hidden behind a cabinet instead of immediately reported); this just ends up with kids who learn to keep better secrets.

Never tell them that what's important to them is stupid or irrelevant. You don't have to care about the difference between pink bears with ribbons vs blue ponies with butterflies; you just have to acknowledge that the kid does care. You don't have to like glitter and rainbows to let her know you're glad she enjoys doing art. A four-year-old who knows her art is stupid to you, will become a 12-year-old who knows her music is stupid to you, will become a 16-year-old who knows her friends are stupid to you. She'll have stopped telling you what she likes, and what bothers her, long before she might be assaulted on prom night.

Don't trick them, especially not tricks that any teenager or adult would immediately see through. "Tricks" for toddlers are "I got your nose" and "the cookie is gone -- oh look, it magically jumped onto another plate!" Tricks are not "we ate all out your halloween candy", which teach the kids, "I can NEVER trust my parents. They will tell me I got something special, and then that will be a lie." (Those kids may not remember the halloween candy incident - they will remember "my parents lie to me about stuff that's important to me." And they may remember, "my parents think terrorizing and humiliating me is a fun game.")

Models for good parenting, which mostly means "good communication with kids": Steven Universe, where people talk out their disagreements even when they're very angry with each other. Mr. Rogers, who strove to make sure his messages were always kind. The Addams Family, where the parents support each other and encourage their kids to develop their own interests, and when one of their kids was (temporarily) very, very different, they tried to support that, too.

Treat them like people, starting when they're way too young to understand what that means. If they believe you care about what's going on in their life, and more importantly, you care about supporting their choices, they'll tell you when they need help. If, however, they ask for help building a dollhouse and you take over the project and give them a castle - when what they wanted was a treehouse - and you expect them to be grateful that you gave them "so much more" than what they asked for, they'll know damn well not to ask you for advice on dealing with that guy who tugs at their bra strap in middle school.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:21 PM on October 3, 2018 [56 favorites]

I feel the need to comment on this bit:

To the father of the son who was assaulted by an older man: I wish I could tell you more about what happened to him, but he wouldn’t tell me, and he definitely won’t tell you, because manliness is important to you, he says.

My attempts to talk around the abuse I was getting from peers was met with pithy advice to practice a Christian masculine stoicism. Since the issue was open and shut on verbal harassment, it was decades before I talked about my first assault. And well, I got a ton of gender shame regarding what I should be doing with my life, mostly from my grandparents who probably never knew I was queer.

I'm not unpacking the messy details of the second for my parents, beyond maybe pointing them to related literature that kinda describes what they were not seeing in that relationship. I've had way too many conversations of people trying to put that trauma into a yes/no box.

My dad knows that I'm in therapy, and that has shifted from general anxiety disorder to a more focused PTSD. He knows that sexual harassment and assault are part of that. I've come to understand he's a survivor as well with at least four generations of shit. I'm comfortable leaving it at that. We've not talked about the last week of news.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:42 PM on October 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

My partner of nearly 4 years knows that I was at the capitol this weekend protesting. He knows I had a terrible childhood. When I suggested that couples therapy might be a good idea to practice talking about hard stuff he responded that we do a great job talking about hard stuff and doesn't feel like we need it... unless there's something I'm not comfortable talking about with him.

I choked up and handwaved. And he was like "what?" and I said, "rapey stuff," and just focused on breathing deep and not crying. The tunnel vision.

The conversation ended there. He didn't ask questions and he didn't make it my fault. But damn. I love this guy, and I'm afraid to tell him any of the rapey stuff, much less all of it.

I'm also considering sending a link to this article to my estranged father. But then I'd just hear back that none of anything is ever his fault and could not be his fault because he tried.
posted by bilabial at 3:53 PM on October 3, 2018 [19 favorites]

Not fucking up like my father is both easy and hard. Easy, because when I say these things out loud they sort of shock even me, because they make him sound like kind of an asshole. Hard, because it means paying attention to the people you live with all the time, even when you don’t want to. And I’m a parent now too and I know that that can be exhausting, even when you love your family.

So: Don’t be the kind of dad who doesn’t ever talk to your daughter or your wife. Don’t be the kind of dad who never listens either. If you feel emotionally detached from your family, try to pretend you don’t. I have this searing memory of being in elementary school, in a parking lot, in the way of a moving car, and my dad yanking me out of the way and all I could feel was extreme surprise that he cared about me enough to bother. Don’t be that man.

If you have problems in your marriage, don’t show them to your daughter. Especially don’t take your adolescent daughter on a walk alone and warn her that she has a lot in common with her mom and she’d better not grow up to be like her. Especially when the subtext to everyone is obvious, that mom is struggling with mental illness and now daughter is also seeing a therapist. Also, if you want your daughters to tell you about their struggles, do not tell them that psychology is bullshit or that people with depression just aren’t trying hard enough.

When your daughter becomes an adult, try to talk to her as though you think how she sees herself matters. Don’t tell her that a PhD is a good backup plan for when some lout knocks her up and leaves her. (PRO TIP: it is actually a shitty backup plan.) Don’t assume once she’s married that her husband’s job is the sole determinant of where she will live. When she asks for stories about her childhood, try to avoid segueing immediately into memories of her sexy cheerleader classmates.

Easy. And apparently also hard.
posted by eirias at 4:07 PM on October 3, 2018 [19 favorites]

I was at dinner last night with my fella (we've been a thing for like ten years this time 'round, so he's not a new fella or anything) and discussing the Brett Kavanaugh thing and the "why did she wait so long..." and so forth. And I said "Well, lots of times it's easier to not discuss it. Many women worry they won't be believed or that they will be asked what they were wearing or how much they'd had to drink or if they'd led the man on..."

And he said, "So, you believe her? What would you know about it?"

So I told him.

I told him about that time when I was thirteen and the old drunk stopped by my friend's house and refused to leave "without a kiss" and as I knew what her life was like (not good, non-con sex stuff with her dad), I 'volunteered' to give the guy a kiss so he'd leave. He was over sixty, stubbly, toothless, and tasted of wintergreen (snuff) and liquor. It was my first french kiss but not a big deal, right? Nothing really bad happened.(Appalachia, I love you so hard.)

I told him about the time when I was fourteen and a dude (friend's older brother's friend) got me alone in a room and pulled my tube top (it was the early eighties and I was Just That Classy) down and tried to grab my relatively unimpressive tits but I fought him off and escaped. Nothing bad happened, so that turned out OK, right?

I told him about when I was visiting my cousin and hooked up with a guy (I was fifteen, "hooking up" meant kissing and petting) who shoved my face in his exposed crotch while we were necking in his white mustang with red leather interior. I blew him because, well, what else could I do? While he kept his hand firmly on the back of my head, at least he let me come up to breathe some. That was my first blowjob and the reason for the "DO NOT TOUCH MY HEAD IF I GO DOWN ON YOU" rule, which lasted for about twenty years afterward. Not that it was a bad experience, just... I feel like it's important that I'm the one who gets to decide when I need to breathe during blowjobs. That's all.

I told him about the guy when I was in college, who came up behind me and grabbed my ass (two hands, one for each buttcheek) and spread it until it hurt. His hands left marks through my jeans. His buddies laughed like fools. It was broad daylight and I was wearing normal non-sexy clothes and going about my day in a non-sexy way. I yelled at him for being rude so it wasn't assault.

And I told him about the time when my college boyfriend decided he wanted to try anal but, y'know, didn't ask me first before shoving himself in my ass. We were dating and having sex already, so ... it was ok? I'd already said yes to regular sex, so... yeah. It had to have been ok. He knew it was ok or he wouldn't have tried.

I never reported anyone for anything. And then I told him to talk, seriously, to his sister before he ran his mouth any further on the subject.

He said he couldn't talk to his sister because if she said anything, he'd have to kill people. And I'm like "That, right there? That's the BS man excuse of omg beware, my rage is so powerful for why they don't need to hear or bear witness or freaking listen or try to change the patriarchy.

He was not impressed with my reasoning. *sigh*
posted by which_chick at 4:16 PM on October 3, 2018 [62 favorites]

The Addams Family, where the parents support each other and encourage their kids to develop their own interests, and when one of their kids was (temporarily) very, very different, they tried to support that, too.

OMG this. I used to wish Gomez and Morticia were my parents SO HARD.

Another thing. Don't obsess over how horrible "tattling" is with your small children. When you do that, you train your children to not come to you, because there's no way they have the judgment to know what's important and what isn't because they're just little kids. Let them come to you with anything, and if it's something they shouldn't be worried about you can tell them then.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:30 PM on October 3, 2018 [24 favorites]

That's the BS man excuse of omg beware, my rage is so powerful

it is, no question. empty bluster we're supposed to pretend to believe. but a man saying he'd kill for his sister, but not for the woman he's talking to, is the cruelest thing I've read in this long list of many men's cruelties. I don't know if it's possible to make up for something like that, but I hope he does more than apologize. I hope that he spends a lifetime trying to be something like worthy of some amount of respect from you, whether you ever choose to give it or not.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:47 PM on October 3, 2018 [40 favorites]

I didn't take it (the lack of interest in killing on my behalf) hard at all. It looked just fine to me. See, the fella and I are not married, living together, financially entwined, or equipped with joint children. He's just the fella and his position is not going to change from 'fella' to 'husband' or 'live-in boyfriend' or 'baby daddy' or anything like that. (It's been ten years and I do not lack clarity on this issue. Trust me, he knows where he stands.)

In my subculture, the sort of devotion that leads one to bluster about killing people who have wronged your womenfolk is reserved for the women with whom a man has a defined and more-or-less permanent kinship -- think wife, daughter, mother, baby-momma, or sister. The fella and I do not have any of those relationships. Therefore, my honor or lack thereof is not particularly his business.

Further, I would not look kindly on him ACTING like my honor was his business. Looking after my honor or being outraged on behalf of me is NOT OK for him because it's taking liberties, making there be an upgrade in his relationship status with regards to me. I am not his wife, baby-momma, live-in girlfriend, fiancee, or whatever. I don't WANT to be any of those things and I don't consent to BEING any of those things. So, he ought not act like I am any of those things. Leaving my honor be my business and not his -- that's part of respecting my boundaries.

I am probably not explaining this very well, but know ye this: what queenofbithynia saw as exceptionally cruel, I did not see in even remotely the same way.
posted by which_chick at 7:07 PM on October 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

sorry, I think I understand your position better than I did before and I do not at all mean or think that he has any right to make your business his own. I read it the way I did because even though I know how hollow their rhetoric is, I still expect men who posture that way to mean they'd get angry because harm was done to someone they care for -- harm to her, not to her honor. as though anything done to a person and not by them can harm their honor.

but I do know that a lot of men don't feel sympathy for a woman unless they also feel ownership of her, or can't feel affection unless they also have control. so that if you resist the one, you can't hope for the other. may not apply to your particular guy, isn't limited to men of any one culture or subculture, and I think they should all of them wash the word honor out of their mouths until they learn what it means. they are deeply dishonorable men. but none of them are interested in my thoughts.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:55 PM on October 3, 2018 [9 favorites]

Neither of my parents managed to lay the groundwork of trust for having conversations of a personal nature. They dragged their heels and did the absolute bare minimum on things like sex ed, preparing me for puberty and menstruation, getting me my first bra and razor, dating, etc. All these things I saw as rites of passage when they happened to friends’ older sisters, when they happened to me, somehow made me feel guilty about becoming a woman. My younger sisters have told me that they had the same experience, so I think my parents just never found a way past the awkwardness to having frank conversations about adult life. They were rather childlike in their own rights. It saddens me, when I hear about parents who celebrate children’s milestones, to think about the support I missed out on.

I also quite frequently had terrifying nightmares as a kid, but I cannot remember ever going to my parents for comfort. I’m not sure if this was taught (e.g. maybe the first few times I tried, I got yelled at for waking them up) or maybe I learned it unconsciously at an even younger age with whatever method they used for sleep training me, but it was never in my nature to go to my parents when I was sad or scared.

So when more negative sexual (and non-sexual) experiences started coming up, the last thing I was going to do was tell my parents about them. I already felt bad enough as it was; why would I want to discuss with people who basically only engaged with me in a disciplinarian manner? I’m sure they’d be disappointed to hear that, because they wanted to be supportive parents (my mom never missed an episode of Gilmore Girls).

I don’t know if I regret not trying to get closer to my parents. It would have been nice to feel less alone while I was growing up. I oscillate between thinking it’s my fault for not taking the initiative, and reminding myself that a kid couldn’t be expected to take the lead on something like that if it wasn’t happening naturally. I probably did try to some extent, and got rebuffed.
posted by mantecol at 9:49 PM on October 3, 2018 [13 favorites]

One thing to do, as a parent, whether mother or father, or if you are any adult with young people in your life, is think through how you would respond if your child or niece or nephew or friend's kid told you about something that made the uncomfortable. Odds are the perpetrator will be a family friend if not close family! What then? What are the tools at your disposal? What are your feelings about it? What will you say? Who should you tell? How should you behave as you learn this information? What makes you most nervous and uncomfortable? How can you think through that ahead of time so that you are able to be composed, steadying and able to truly listen?

Secondary for perpetrator is a school friend or some other peer individual? What then? What are you conversations about mutual consent? What does your child know about their own body? What is your attitude? Are you embarrassed by talk of sex, body parts, strong emotions? Read books, deal with it, share age-appropriate information with your child with books and conversations. Don't wait! Do your work.
posted by amanda at 1:15 PM on October 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a man, I have nothing to add here except that I am very sad yet incredibly thankful to have so many examples of what not to do, and at least a couple of what to actually fucking do in these scenarios (please God never put me in one).

So, instead, I'm happy to track down the tote bags for you all. I'm thinking a design like this, with the text reading "I [heart] being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets."

I have request for a mockup out to the vendor. I'm happy to order as many as there are of you wonderful women who want one. I can't afford to buy one for each of you like I'd like, but I'm happy to cover the cost of mailing them to you. assuming it's a reasonable number I can afford.

Let me know if you'd like one?
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

This thread is so much more powerful than the article it references. I'm reading, and re-reading it. I would like to distill things from it, but am not convinced that's what's wanted. And I'm even more not convinced that my take is anything but a stupid digression.

But, of those hypothetical distillations, one that stays in the foreground is a question about the ways these stories, these herstories, add up to a whole bunch of unspokens. A whole cathedral of them. A Senate of them. A corporation. A fucking nation of them.

I'm wondering, in my cynical fashion, whether these unspokens exist so that men, generally, can pretend innocence is the baseline for our collective experience. Is it so that we can say Gosh! I didn't know! and that we'd swear to collectively rush around to make things better? When what's wanted is for the bulk of us to face up to the dirt, the shitty nappies, the awkwardness of dealing with feelings, and dammit, other people!
posted by rustipi at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm still reading through the thread but I just caught that hanov3r is already doing the tee-shirt thing via Projects. I'm not terribly familiar with that route and don't want to duplicate effort if I should somehow partner with or emulate that effort. Hope me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:05 PM on October 4, 2018

I assume you guys asked Iris Gambol how she felt about it?
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:39 PM on October 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

For men asking how they can prepare for these conversations, the below is what I would have wanted. I feel like it applies equally to mothers and fathers.
  • Don't be angry. Definitely not at me, but also not around me about other people or the situation in general. I'm already shook up, your anger makes me nervous and uncomfortable, I don't need to spend the energy to process it.
  • I need you to keep it together somewhat. I'm feeling out of control and I need someone steady in my life.
  • Help me feel like I'm in control of something: body, future, etc. I've had my agency ripped away from me. Let me know you support me and my decisions. Ask what I want to happen, how I want to approach the situation.
  • Let me know that nothing else has changed. You still love me, you don't see me as damaged, what has happened is just something that happened, it hasn't completely changed me. Yes, I might need some special treatment occasionally, an extra hug, therapy, to be allowed to rest for a bit. But only in the way that a kid who has broken their arm might need some special treatment. Please don't treat me as if I'm suddenly older than I was before.
posted by mosessis at 11:18 PM on October 4, 2018 [18 favorites]

Also, I think most "how to respond to a friend who has told you about sexual assault" tips are still really good for when they're your kids, they just might need to be tailored to be age and relationship appropriate.

For example:

What to say

Tips for talking to survivors
posted by mosessis at 11:31 PM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hey, everybody had matching towels. No, no one asked me.

I'm glad I love being a woman, except for the misogyny, dehumanization, and lack of pockets is useful to some of the people here, and it's good that proceeds from the t-shirt will benefit RAINN.

I wish I'd written that line as a stand-alone entry.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:55 AM on October 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

In addition to establishing a baseline of respect for your daughter, which is a lifelong project, I think a key thing to remember is that rape is not a property crime. Acting like it is -- like you as your daughter's owner are actually the victim, as though some jerk had spilled raspberry semen on the white leather seats in your favorite car -- is a great way to undo any years of work you have put into establishing that you believe she is a person in her own right.
posted by eirias at 5:01 PM on October 5, 2018 [23 favorites]

My mom told me from a very young age that if I ever told her about anyone touching me inappropriately, including my dad, she would believe me. Recently, I told her about a time I visited an uncle I hadn't seen in probably twenty years and had an intense and unexpected fear reaction to him (I was in my 30s when I saw him again). Like, I didn't want to be alone with him for some reason I couldn't identify, and I've never had that reaction to any male family members before. I still don't know if anything happened because I have no memories of anything happening, but when I told my mom about this feeling, she apologized for not knowing if anything happened either, and believed and supported my experience, even without actual memories. I would never tell my dad about this because this uncle is his brother and it would indeed, break his heart. I think he would believe me, but I don't really want to find out for sure.
posted by odayoday at 5:41 PM on October 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

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