Many of us were saddened and angered when we found out another case of sexual assault, child murder, gang rape, sexual harassment of women, and so on. I said “many of us” instead of “all of us” because some people still believe that all those bad things are inevitable, and that the only thing we can do is to keep ourselves and our loved ones from falling victims to them.
A lot of us think that we, ourselves, bear the responsibility for not becoming a victim to an assault. Don’t be a deer to a hyena. In the case of a recent gang rape and murder: don’t walk alone near a bunch of out-of-control drunk boys.
But they don’t think about what would happened if it was their child who were the perpetrators? What if it was their child who had let the assault happen? What if it was their child who turned a blind’s eye to the people who was being attacked? And what if their future child believe this was normal?
Yes, bad things happen. There will always be sexual assaults as long as there are bad people. But I believe that unless we do something to prevent things from happening, to ensure that sexual violence is not considered a norm, nothing will change. We let teenage boys think that it’s okay to harass girls and bully gay people. We let teenage girls and homosexuals believe they invite their own harassment. We let girls and women think that their bodies are dirty and a vessel for temptation so they accept being treated as sexual objects. We let boys and men think that their penis and testosterones can rule their brain.
I’m not married and I don’t have a child yet, but I have been thinking what would happen if I do. What can I do to prevent my child from being attacked or being the perpetrator of violence? So I came up with a list of what I plan to do.
When my child is a toddler or a kid.
- No matter how old my child is, she will know that nobody owns her body but herself. Nobody touches it, sees it, uses it, caress it, makes fun of it, basically does anything to it – let alone hurts it – without her consent. When it comes to private areas like mouth, chest, buttock, groin, anus, nobody can touch or see those parts, except in certain conditions, like when her parents are giving her bath, or changing her clothes, or cleaning after her; or when a doctor or nurse examines her under strict parental observation.(I even plan to always ask for my child’s permission when I bathe or clean her up to emphasize on the concept of consent.) If somebody does something bad to my child’s body, she will say a firm NO, or run away to find a trusted adult, or scream as loud as possible.
- Other people’s bodies are also owned by those people themselves. Yes, it means that my child isn’t allowed to do things to others without their consent. But it also means that those other people are not allowed to show their private body parts to him/her, or trying to tell him/her to do anything to those body parts.
- Privacy is important. No getting naked in public and no naked pictures or videos.
When my child has grown into his teen years, all the rules will still be valid, in addition to these:
- While he can explore sexuality, he must know the difference between hormonally driven urges and reason.
- My child’s body is beautiful and precious as it is, not evil. If other people blame his body for causing their evil doings, it’s them who are evil.
- Other people’s bodies are just as precious and they deserve as much protection as my child’s own body, regardless of their gender or age. My child must respect and treat others the way he wants to be respected and treated.
When my child has entered adulthood
- He or she has the rights to choose to be married, or not, and to have a child, or not. But the decision must be made after careful and rational deliberation.
- Though I hope she will not have to experience things like contracting a sexually transmitted disease, or having an unwanted pregnancies, or being sexually assaulted, or having an abortion, when those things still happen I will always love my child unconditionally.
It won’t be easy to do these, but it will be worth all the efforts, to, in the words of Sam Ratulangi, a National Independence Hero, be humanized by other human. Because often the hyenas thrive inside our minds, and it’s for us to decide whether we want to stay in our own cage, or whether we want to hunt them down.
Putri Widi Saraswati is a feminism and writing enthusiast. She’s not a big fan of how people impose their concept of morality on others today. Unfortunately, she’s a doctor – the one profession that morality cannot let go.