How to Protect Your Daughter from Sexual Assault

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November 12, 2007

Protecting your daughter from sexual assault is not as mysterious as it may seem. Despite the abundance of law enforcement officers, urban surveillance cameras and televised sting operations, four out of every ten females in our society, on average, are said to experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. Some disagree and say it's more often than that. When you have a son, you have only one little thing to worry about. When you have a daughter, you have millions of big things to worry about. As our children venture into the wider world at an ever younger age, sexual assault is something that every parent fears for their daughter. There are a few simple things that you can do to prevent your daughter from becoming a victim. They are simple, but not easy. All you have to do is restructure your entire life! I call them the three R's. Well, the other three R's: Rifle, Refusal, and Responsibility. Rifle

I an not implying that rifling through your daughter's things will somehow keep her safe. It won't, she'll find out what you did and it will destroy your credibility and your relationship. Becoming a snooping tyrant won't help your daughter. I'm referring here to self-defense. The marital arts are a wonderful means of teaching a young woman to defend herself from someone much bigger and stronger than herself. Hands and feet become lethal weapons that are always available to you. You may be stripped of your water bottle and nail clippers at an airport security checkpoint, but a black belt can protect you anywhere. You can even bring it on board an aircraft undetected. Physical training and practicing self-defense gives one an instant defense reflex and requires no thinking to put into action. The most beautiful thing, however, about studying martial arts is the fact that when mastered, you will probably never need to use it. The practice of it improves your awareness, your posture and your self-confidence. It changes the way a person carries herself. If your daughter is comfortable inside her own skin and in her ability to protect herself, someone looking for an easy mark will likely not consider her one and will keep looking. Strangers who victimize women are on the lookout for, not the best looking female, (which of course we both know your daughter is) but the most vulnerable one. If martial arts are not something affordable or desirable for your family, or even if it is, firearm protection is a must. By 'rifle,' I mean whatever firearm that is workable for your daughter to feel comfortable using. Don't assume she can handle a weapon--make sure of it. Take her with you to talk to professional, experienced firearm dealers. Make sure she is trained and comfortable handling, loading, aiming and firing a gun. The beauty of firearms is the same as martial arts, but for different reasons. An attacker might spot the bulge of a concealed weapon, which would be protection in itself. Statistically, your daughter will likely never have to actually open fire at another person. Usually just brandishing a firearm is highly discouraging to an attacker, provided that she looks like she knows what she is doing when she assumes the position. In fact, a predator needn't even see her or the weapon. If they only hear her rack a shotgun from inside her door, you can bet they won't stick around to find out what caliber shot she prefers. Refusal

It is a fact that most girls who are sexually assaulted know their assailant. This makes sense; let me explain why. Most children in our culture are taught from a young age that big people get to tell small people what to do, simply by virtue of their physical ability to enforce their will upon others. Having the title, 'parent' can't make wrong into right. Tyranny by any other name smells as bad. The only way out of this problem is to teach your children to question authority, especially your own. They must be given the full sanction of self-determination from the first moment that they indicate they are ready for it. Children are very reliable in this respect. The most practical way of teaching a child to question authority, or anything, for that matter, is to do so by example. I realize I am beating this drum not for the first time, dear reader, but it cannot be stressed enough. If they watch you surrender your responsibility for yourself from doctors, ministers, bureaucrats or any person who assumes authority over you, there is no way that they will be able to do what you say and not what you are actually practicing in your daily living. It is childish, magical thinking to hope otherwise. Saying 'no' to tyranny is so basic and natural that even a two-year old can do it. They fearlessly practice being true to themselves without any instruction whatsoever. Commonly and culturally, this is considered 'terrible.' It is only terrible to the tyrant. It should be celebrated. It is the strength of the human spirit and the genesis of creativity and courage. I'll be first to admit that it can be the greatest challenge for a parent to figure out how to respectfully redirect the energies of a free spirit when their actions threaten the boundaries of someone else's freedom. I also believe it is the real purpose of human reproduction ' another chance to meet the challenge of achieving true freedom in the fire of life. By fire, I refer to anything that makes us uncomfortable. One bit of direct advice I do give is this: The most important thing is to be very open with your daughter (or son) about your feelings and concerns for her and for yourself as a parent. More people need to tell their children the truth about their concerns of their own inadequacy. No one has all the answers, so we may as well be honest about it, especially if honesty is what you would engender in your offspring. Far from appearing weak, children will respect your openness. They know the truth anyway. It's not easy to practice rigorous honesty, especially when our parents were less than forthcoming with us. How sad that most people play the role of a 'parent' and hope their child won't catch on to the fact that they are only human. When we tell the simple truth about ourselves, we take our children into our confidence. When we trust them with this precious gift, they'll be much more open to what we have to say. If you don't believe me, please try it. Living with an open heart is the best protection you can offer your daughter. When one person opens their heart, others must respond in kind. Your daughter's open heart, rather than make her vulnerable, will offer her the greatest protection from victimization. An open heart has a very sensitive radar for detecting dangerous people and situations. Being trusted with the truth is how self-esteem is actually engendered in children, not from the fat-laden bologna dished out in curricular doses in government schools. By opening your own heart to your girl, she will learn to recognize and listen to her inner voice. She will know it for what it is--her most reliable guide. If you've taught your girl not to question you and to lie about inadequacy, she'll do that too. In fact, she can look forward to a possible life sentence of it. She'll believe the lies of the police state in which we live; common, everyday lies. 'To protect and serve,' for instance. In reality, police protect no one. In fact, government courts have stated on record that police are not obligated to do so. Your heart is your own best guide and you daughter's heart is hers, too. If you trust her, she'll trust herself. If you've taught her, by example, to cherish truth and question authority, she will do so. When her heart tells her to run like hell, this she will do, rather than stick around trying to obey some artificial authority, who likely only has his own best interest in mind. After all, 'he makes his living off of the people's taxes' as the old Steve Miller tune goes. I remember what it was like when I was young. I was lied to about a lot of things. Force was initiated against me, even though I'm certain that my parents and teachers thought they were doing the 'right' thing for my own good. It gave me a sick feeling inside, but I conformed because they had power over me. I developed mistrust for myself. I also developed self-loathing for conforming out of fear. Whether it was fear of humiliation (or rather, further humiliation) or fear of punishment mattered not a bit. This placed me in danger of being further victimized, which I was for a number of years. Please don't do this to your daughter. Responsibility

It's a good thing for me that the publisher of Strike The Root is open-minded about liberty, regardless of whether or not he agrees with a writer's opinions. Otherwise some of my columns, which sometimes manage to irritate just about anybody, would not see the light of day, this one included. That being said, I must offer this food for thought and address one more aspect of parental responsibility: alcohol and drugs. I have no moral qualms with either. However, when you have a child, your life ceases to be your own. No one wants to hear this, but it is the simple truth. The biggest responsibility a parent bears is to adopt a self-responsible lifestyle. Your children watch what you do and they do the same. No teenager wants to hear lies about things that are good for adults but not good for them. The fact that young people are interested in the freedoms of adulthood before they are interested in the responsibility of adulthood is irrelevant. Don't try to use it as an argument. It has never worked. Take a moment to think back and you'll remember: example works, preaching doesn't. The simple fact is that there are few people more vulnerable than an intoxicated female. Her reaction time is slowed, her awareness is dulled, her will and strength wane and I'm not even talking about the drug 'ecstasy.' If your daughter has learned at home, where most behavioral learning actually takes place, that drinking is considered harmless and essential to relaxation or entertainment, you can bet it will be an integral part of her lifestyle as well, probably long before you think the time is ripe. The long and the short of it: intoxication places your daughter more squarely into the category of potential victims for sexual assault. In another of my informal surveys, I've been told by some extraordinarily honest men that getting all the sex they want is the easiest thing in the world, provided they pursue drinking women. These men I've spoken to are not what I would consider dangerous. A man needn't be tall, dark, handsome, wealthy or even stealthy to be successful with intoxicated women. So long as they are both consenting adults, again I make no moral judgments against these men or women. In fact, I appreciate the honesty. It is my hope that most people are interested in something other than instant gratification, but, as my Dad used to say, live and let live. 'But Retta,' you say, 'promiscuity is a far cry from sexual assault.' I agree, dear reader, but bear with me. There is a fine line between a heavy drinker and a substance abuser. In my extensive volunteer work with recovering alcoholics and addicts, I'm astounded at the number of women and men who were sexually assaulted, many as children, but it doesn't end there. As I stated, I do not consider the men I spoke with in my informal survey to be dangerous. However, there are men who are, and they are on the lookout. You want them to look right past your daughter. I can't count the number of women I personally know who have suffered sexual assault while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. I know countless intoxicated women who were raped or date raped and several who were gang raped. Sexual assault is so common that it doesn't surprise me any more. Of the females I know who were victims of sexual assault, pregnancy and abortion were not uncommon. Naturally these experiences were not isolated. They left permanent scars on the psyches of the victims. Some were unable to bear children later in life. Sadly, many victims turn to the cause of the problem (alcohol) in hopes of finding a way out of their pain. Many cross the fine line and die from the drink, having never recovered from the assault or the substance abuse. If you love your daughter more than anything, and I know you do or you would not be reading this, you need to put the plug in the jug, dude. If you insist that drinking is not that important to you, then why resist eliminating it from your life and potentially helping to ensure the security of your family? (Luckily you can starve the leviathan of government from tax revenue at the same time ' something will help make the whole world a safer place.) Have you ever actually wondered why there is so much hype associating alcohol with good times? Is it a huge coincidence or is a sleepy, intoxicated populace easier to take advantage of by the powers that be? Could the glorification of alcohol and its exclusive association with good times be another smoke screen, a snow job of mass media? I have not had a drink or drug in ten years, and I can honestly say that it is the greatest factor in improving my quality of life, freedom and self-determination. Sobriety is the most profound change I've ever made in life and the single most important basis for every other powerful change I've ever made. If you have children, it is your responsibility to find a sober way of enjoying life before it is too late. Aren't there some nagging things in your life you'd like to change? You might be very surprised at the improvement in your own quality of life and the powerful changes you are able to implement when you don't allow yourself to 'medicate' your senses and sensibilities with alcohol and drugs. In the wise words of a dear friend, 'there were lots of times I wish I hadn't gotten drunk, but I never woke up in the morning wishing I had drank the night before.' Dear reader, please think about what you're actually teaching your daughter. It could make all the difference in the world when it comes to her being a victim of life or one who is free to pursue true happiness. It can't be done under the influence of mass media, the massive government, popular opinion or any other 'sleeping-walking' aid. It doesn't happen by accident or by traveling the wide, easy road. It happens when one person takes complete responsibility for themselves and makes uncomfortable, inconvenient choices that pay off in the long run. What is freedom if not the opportunity to choose?

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Retta Fontana lives in the Great Smoky Mountains. Children are her favorite people. She loves to connect with readers - please writer to her here: