Award-Winning Author Patty Blount Offers Advice to Parents in #MeToo Age: "Teach Consent"

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Survivors deserve to be heard not blamed

Patty Blount is the author of tough issues novels for teens, including the award-winning SOME BOYS, a story that Kirkus called "...a largely sensitive treatment of an emotionally complex topic." That topic is rape. Since its publication in 2014, SOME BOYS has earned a CLMP Firecracker Award and finaled in the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA and Booksellers Best awards. It's been nominated by both the Missouri and South Carolina School Librarians Associations for their annual best book competitions. This year, Blount followed up SOME BOYS with a new story called SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW, a novel that explores how a family impacted by rape attempts to heal.

"I've done extensive research into the issues of rape, reporting the crime, and healing from it," Blount reveals. "I'm worried about all the cries of "She's lying!" to describe everyone from celebrities accusing Weinstein and Cosby to Dr. Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Our focus should NOT be on preventing false allegations, but on the dozens of ways we all encourage survivors to keep silent...which can indeed result in rapists going free."

"A 2017 report using FBI data collected over a four-year period puts the rate of false allegations at around 5%. The more horrifying statistic is this one: 2 out of every 3 rapes are NOT reported -- probably because of what we're seeing play out on the national stage," Blount explains. "Survivors are blamed for the crime committed against them. Worse, says every 98 seconds in this country, someone will be sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of a sexual crime in her lifetime. This means that every 98 seconds, someone is attempting to touch someone else WITHOUT CONSENT."

According to Blount, here are 8 things parents should stop doing to break the cycle of silence.

1. Stop blaming victims. "Children hear you," Blount says. "Every time you blame a survivor instead of the perpetrator, you're telling your daughter who you'll blame when it happens to her. How likely is this? Check out those statistics above."

2. Stop using feminine labels as insults. "Every time we call a boy a "p*ssy" or mock him for crying 'like a girl," we're teaching him that girls are inferior," Blount states. "Worse, we're teaching him that if he cannot live up to that expectation, he is also inferior. The danger in such thinking is that we're unintentionally teaching boys to compete against girls. When they lose, they're likely to view such losses as attacks against their manhood."

3. Stop forcing affection. "When you demand that your son kiss his grandmother or aunt when he doesn't want to, you're proving to him that he does not get to control his own body," Blount cautions. "When an adult in authority (coach, teacher, neighbor, priest) attempts to molest your son, how likely will he be to say no now? How likely will he be to tell you this is happening to him? How likely will you be to blame him for the crime committed against him?"

4. Stop making excuses. Blount believes, "'Boys will be boys' is an excuse. 'But look at her outfit!' is an excuse. 'But why didn't she say something when it happened?' is an excuse. By pre-school, children begin testing the limits we parents put on them. When they rough-house with their siblings, do you ignore or do you step in? My policy was this: "Your brother said stop, so you stop. It's his body, not yours, and you have no right to force him to do what he doesn't want to do." Reinforce this repeatedly. Bra-snapping and upskirting? Stop that THE FIRST TIME IT HAPPENS. It is NEVER okay for anyone to touch someone else's body without their consent. Yes, it's that simple and yes, you can instill this in preschool aged children. If you shrug this behavior away now, the next instance will be slightly worse. And the one after that."

5. Stop calling girls a distraction. "Enforcing dress codes on the basis of how much of a girl's skin is revealed teaches boys they don't have to be responsible for their responses to sexual awareness," Blount says. "It also teaches girls that their comfort isn't as important as a boy's. Let's teach our children that simply because they like what they see does not mean they're entitled to take it."

6. Stop defining masculinity as emotional control. "Boys are human," Blount states. "As humans, they experience all the emotions girls do including grief, jealousy, sadness, frustration and tenderness. Yet, bizarrely, we expect them to demonstrate or express none of those things and instead, channel emotions into athletic prowess. Maybe, just maybe, this is the reason for the exponentially larger rate of crimes committed by professional athletes than by the general population?"

7. Talk about sex early and often. "You know The Talk we're supposed to have with our kids around puberty?" Blount asks. "Forget it. Instead, make The Talk part of your discussions with your children throughout their lives, adjusting content to ages. When Grandma wants a kiss and your Terrible Two says no, support that. When Two turns four or five, extend it. "Remember how you hated to kiss Grandma when you were little and I never forced you? You can't force your friend to give you hugs either." When they're teenagers, extend the conversation even further. Insist that every physical interaction start with consent. "Can I kiss you?" "Is this okay?" "Can I keep going?" And that activity STOPS the minute either partner says "No", even if in the middle of intercourse."

8. Avoid situations and people of risk. "Parents, it's true. We can talk until we're hoarse and our kids will still get into trouble and most of the time, that trouble is because our children found themselves in risky situations or in the company of the wrong people," Blount admits. "Teach your sons to avoid the type of girl who uses boys. Teach your daughters to avoid the type of boy who uses girls. Teach your children to avoid situations that put them at risk like excessive drinking or whatever your own moral code decrees. Remind them often that if they find themselves with someone they can't trust or in a risky situation, they can call you any time without fear of punishment, without an I-told-you-so, without question."

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