Parenting against rape

South Africans are overwhelmed with outrage after the gang-rape and murder of a local teenager. When confronted by shocking rape statistics, the question people often ask is “where are the parents of these rapists?” At the heart of the tragic topic of sexual violence against women is the fact that there are un-parented sons who are growing up to become rapists. Not all boys have parents, and many kids don’t have a father figure, but this needn’t keep you from having an impact on your kids, their friends and other children in your extended communities.

Here are a few suggestions for parenting against rape:
  • If you have sons, actively teach them healthy attitudes towards girls and women. Not only that, but model out respect. Live a lifestyle of kindness, dignity, integrity and non-violence, and let your sons and daughters see these.
  • Don’t have double standards when it comes to sons and daughters; such as kidding that your daughter will never date, and then slapping your son on the back and asking if he has his condoms when he goes out.
  • Never, ever joke about rape. In fact, if you’re used to making jokes about women as the “weaker sex”, it’s time to stop.
  • You could attend parenting classes to help you make the most of your role as a parent, and to help you identify and resolve problematic issues in yourself and in your children.
  • Steer your kids away from behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse which could make them vulnerable to criminal activity- both as victim and perpetrator. Keep the lines of communication open, and find out who their friends are. 
  • Don’t keep secrets. This applies to parents, children and extended family. If someone you know has been raped, openness in the family may help to lessen the sense of shame, and even encourage the rape survivor to tell of her ordeal and press charges. Expose anyone in the family who has committed rape, and get rid of the “it’ll destroy our family” mentality.
  • No means no. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating to your sons and other young men over whom you may have influence. It’s not ok to place pressure on anyone, ever, to participate unwillingly in sexual activity.

What about other 'sons' in your community?

You have a primary responsibility to your own children, but think about how you can use your time, skills and resources in affecting the lives of boys who may not have access to appropriate male role models or positive, constructive lifestyles:

  • Consider your community- Perhaps you could get involved in an existing initiative aimed at mentoring young people- many schools, community centres and religious institutions have opportunities for men to help younger men develop life skills. Don’t limit this to your immediate neighbourhood, but find out where the needs are in other communities too. Volunteering does take time, but it can help to change lives. It could even be as much fun as coaching a sports team, or taking some guys on a hike. Find out what’s going on in your community and do some research into various initiatives being run by NGOs and other organisations.
  • Can’t find one? Start one! You and your friends could easily put together a plan to do outreach work into vulnerable communities. Even with no resources other than a little creativity, you could get something going.

Keep relevant emergency numbers handy, and always report crime.

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Can you think of effective ways to help boys become men of sexual integrity?

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