Consent, a seemingly easy word, often becomes rather difficult for certain people to understand. The idea that a ‘no’ indeed means a ‘no’, and one should stop doing whatever they were doing when one is told not to do it any more evades a lot of people. With the rising instances of rape and sexual abuse, it is perhaps time to teach the meaning of ‘consent’ to young children, and it is precisely this that Mike Skerritt, a Facebook user is trying to do.
Father of two, Skerritt recently put up an FB status where he wrote about how his children, a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, like any other children of their age play and fight. But often in the midst of playing while his daughter asks his son to stop, the latter, seeing nothing wrong in his act, continues doing what he was doing. “He’s laughing so hard he doesn’t hear her,” he wrote.
“I come running. ‘What does it mean when she says stop,’ I say. Silence. There is no missing my message. He is upset. ‘It means stop,’ he answers ruefully. ‘When does it mean stop,’ I say. ‘Stop right now.’ ‘It means stop right now. Always. We don’t keep doing it, we don’t ignore her, we don’t make her say it twice. When she says stop, we stop.’ ‘Okay.'” he writes.
But he understands his son is young and is a “work in progress”, and will probably will repeat it again. But Skerritt refuses to give up, “Because where once was urgency there is now desperation,” he wrote.
He also realises that if not he, there would be no one else to tell and teach his son this. This heartwarming and stirringly relevant post was shared by on June 8 and since then has over 18,000 likes. It has also been shared more than 25,000 times, at the time of writing, as people are applauding and thanking him for writing and sharing this important message.
“My son is three years old. My daughter is five. They play. My son is strong and sometimes he gets the upper hand and giggles as he sits on top of his sister. She says stop. He won’t. He’s laughing so hard he doesn’t hear her. I come running. “What does it mean when she says stop,” I say. Silence. There is no missing my message. He is upset. “It means stop,” he answers ruefully. “When does it mean stop,” I say. “Stop right now.” “It means stop right now. Always. We don’t keep doing it, we don’t ignore her, we don’t make her say it twice. When she says stop, we stop.” “Okay.”
He is young and still learning. The lesson remains a work in progress. We will probably have to do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. We will continue as long as it takes for him to understand that my message is not only about his sister.
Because where once was urgency there is now desperation. When he grows up, my voice may very well be the only one he hears telling him to stop. It won’t be the judge, who sees a white, blue eyed, handsome young man and decides he can’t go to prison because it just wouldn’t be the right place for him. It won’t be the lawyer, who warns against admitting guilt when guilt is beside the point. It won’t be the media, whose fickle masters don’t click for truth. It won’t be the schools, whose stated, budget-minded goal of providing a safe environment for students cannot be maintained amidst the perception that they do not provide a safe environment for students. It won’t be the coaches, who prize his alpha male qualities and have no use for nor interest in his understanding of right and wrong. It won’t be the peers, who are products of that same sphere of entitlement.
Someday my children will enter a world without shepherds. Just as we must teach our daughters that they are not sheep, we must teach our sons that they are not wolves. That responsibility and entitlement cannot coexist. That self-worth comes from what is earned, not what is taken. That alcohol is neither an alibi nor a key to unlock the basic inviolate rights of others. That accepting rape culture is unacceptable, no matter how many winks and nudges they get.
They will not learn these lessons unless we teach them. Diligently. Emphatically. Lovingly, but angrily if necessary. And, immediately. As in, right now. Today. If they are old enough to make demands, they are old enough to be told no.
For now, my son’s world is his sister. My job is to keep it that way.”
Skerritt shared that it was the infamous Stanford case where a 23-year-old woman was raped by a Brock Turner, a Stanford University Freshman, that angered him enough to write this, and spurred him to bring about changes in his own parenting methods. In that Turner had defended himself by saying that the woman had initially consented to his actions. According to a report in The Atlantic, he was ultimately sentenced to six months in county jail and three years of probation, that was far less than what the prosecutors had asked for. He was later released in September last year after serving half of the six months sentence.
Here are some of the reactions to his post.