When will we decide as a civilized society that abuse of girls/women has to stop? As healthcare professionals we know the aftermath to such abuse, especially repeated attacks over time propagated on young people, leave deep scars. Many women find it is difficult if not impossible to ever have a healthy relationship with a man again, as their trust has been so broken. So the long-term effects of abuse are more devastating that any of the physical damage.
Even though nurses specifically are known for our deep empathy, I don’t believe men who do these despicable crimes think or care about how their actions affect their victims. I hear instead they generally just dehumanize the other person, and therefore have no adverse feelings about the atrocious things they have done. Some still believe girls/women are basically slaves (remember we only fought for and won the right to vote in 1920, when we also were then finally considered by law to be citizens). Before that time many men believed we were just property of first our fathers then our husbands but some may still justify their actions by believing they have the right to do whatever they feel like with women.
We still struggle to get equal pay for equal work. Women only make about 77% of a man’s salary even in the health care field in the U.S.A. today and there continues to be a glass ceiling, although tenacious women are beginning to break through it. The woman’s movement in the late 1960’s helped the process of women being considered to be equal human beings at least in the workforce. However, we still hear of sexual harassment, most recently being exposed in our military. Therefore the belief system of some men remains in cave men days, even though we have become surfacely very civilized. Also legislation in the 1970’s made in at least unlawful for men to beat their wives/girlfriends, but changing beliefs always takes more time than just updating laws. Women also have had to learn to reach out, get help when needed and be more cautious which men they trust both with their own safety and that of their daughters.
Some specific ways to help women and their daughters prevent being abused include:
1. Be really careful who babysits your daughters. Just because someone is a friend or relative does not mean they are trustworthy.
2. Teach your daughters to tell you if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, as often molesters groom their victims before they engage in serious sexual abuse. My mother described my “personals” as being between my neck and knees. Although she was only five feet tall, she also let me know that if anyone threatened to hurt her or our family, she was quite capable of defending us-and I believed her.
3. Always be aware of your surroundings. Refrain from using head phones or cell phones when walking as they can distract you from hearing someone coming up behind you.
4. Date rape is more common than many think. My parents always demanded the boy come into the house and meet them. They were clear about curfew and respecting me and looked stern while sharing those expectations. Boyfriends usually referred to my parents as “ma’am and sir” and not surprisingly acted like gentlemen.
5. Of course taking rides from strangers or even neighbors/parents of peers without parental screening is never a good idea.
6. Personally I hold a black belt in a martial art similar to Judo, so it is not aggressive, but is very effective. Knowing how to defend yourself can boost your confidence and also can help you stay calm if you are attacked.
7. If the unthinkable does happen, please reach out to trained professionals who can help you recover. Rape is a violent attack that is in no way your fault.
Remember staying safe takes awareness and planning, but training helps too!