I guess I should start off by admitting that my baby sister is actually not a baby at all. She is a 17 year old woman who I’ve seen continue to grow into herself. However, when I look at her and I think about her – she will always be my baby sis. She’ll always be that little baby whose diapers I changed and who clumsily followed behind my other sister and I, trying to do everything we did – even though she was a good 11 years behind me and 5 years behind Britt Bratt.
Yet, over the past several years, I’ve had to attempt to put those baby thoughts into the back of my mind so that I can have grown-up sister talks with her. This weekend was no different as we all prepared for her to move into her first dorm room. While shopping and packing and doing everything else, I took as many chances as possible to talk to her……. about everything.
We talked about roommates rules, not walking around campus at night by yourself, working hard so you can play hard, how college was a chance to learn so much about yourself, how dating in college was totally different than anything EVER, how she would likely meet some of her best and closest friends during this time period and so forth. Most of the stuff was really reinforcement. Other topics were common knowledge, but that kind of common knowledge that sometimes still needs to be said. And then we got to the nitty gritty – how in an instant, a situation can change on you (especially in college) and as a woman, you can find yourself in danger.
I didn’t actually say rape or sexual assault, but we talked about it nonetheless. We talked about the prevalence of such instances in colleges across the world and how few women report it because they feel as if they did something wrong. They feel that they put themselves in danger; that they were naïve for believing that someone they knew would ever do that to them.
And we talked about one specific time where but for grace, I almost became one of those women. I didn’t sugarcoat it for her. I talked about that scary moment when I realized that someone I called friend was trying to take advantage of me. And I was honest with her in noting that possibly my biggest regret was trusting that I could drink with people who I shouldn’t have trusted.
I talked to her about not letting people make drinks for you if you’re not watching them. And I talked about how that might sound obvious, but wasn’t the easiest thing to put into practice while in college. We talked about how for the longest time I blamed myself, felt like I was the stupid one – “How could I have put myself in that position,” I wondered. “How could I not have known what they were putting in my drinks?”
But then I talked to her about a realization I eventually had to come to terms with – that if I hadn’t been lucky enough (blessed, whatever you want to call it) to get so sick that I threw up and thus ruined any plans the guy had, it would have been an even worse night for me.
And most importantly that that planned attack was not my fault.
As I finally took a second to breathe on Monday and began hearing about the comments Rep. Todd Akin recently made about “legitimate rapes,” I thought even more about the conversations I had with my sister this weekend. I never said the word rape to her. I never said sexual assault. But it was clear what we were talking about, and I was clear in telling her that while she shouldn’t live scared – she also needed to know that it’s a striking reality that many women (esp college-aged women) will be attacked in their lifetime.
And often, it will be by someone they know. Someone they trusted. Even someone they called friend. And I hope that if that ever happens to anyone she knows, no one ever tries to make it worse by calling it illegitimate. It’s bad enough we have politicians attempting to do so.