“My greatest fear and worry is that one of my daughters will be sexually assaulted in her life … it scares me to no end.”
These words were printed in an interview Busy Philipps, the 37-year old actress of “Dawson’s Creek” fame, gave to Mini Magazine just a few weeks ago. As I read her response to a question about her greatest parenting worry, my breath hitched and my heart raced, struck by the voice she was giving to my own fear.
I, too, often feel paralyzed by the dangers that await my daughter outside our home—dangers I worry I might not ever be able to truly protect her against.
It seems morbid when I put it like that, I know. My daughter is only 3 years old, and her world is a relatively safe place. We are insulated by a strong network of support, friends who have become family and a life that is so very comfortable and predictable in all the best ways.
I don’t want the same fate for my daughter. I don’t want her to ever be a victim or to ever blame herself. I don’t want her to feel dirty or stupid or wrong. I don’t want her to be a statistic.
I don’t see dangers in her world today, but I fear for the dangers that await the older she becomes. I worry about how to protect her when the day comes that she isn’t always in my sight. Her friend circle will expand beyond those whose parents I already know, and slumber party invitations will arrive hosted by parents I consider merely acquaintances instead of family. She will become old enough to go on dates, to go to parties, to potentially have too much to drink or to make the mistake of drinking something someone else has handled. How will I protect her when she leaves my home, goes off to college, and is truly on her own?
I worry about how to save her from the fate of sexual assault that has already claimed far too many girls and women before her—the fate that claimed me when I was young and trusting of the wrong man at the wrong time.
I don’t talk about the one and only night I found myself victim to someone else’s desires very often. I hesitate to even use the word I know is real. He was someone I was dating. Someone I had slept with before. I went to his house that night with every intention of being with him in that way. But then … it turned aggressive. And painful. And I cried for him to stop. And he didn’t. And for days afterward, I bled. And I cowered. And I refused to leave my home.
I know what the word is for that. But even now, even nearly a decade later, I’ve never been able to really use it. Because he was someone I knew. Someone I chose. Someone I trusted.
And even when he hurt me, even when he ignored my pleas of “No. Stop. I don’t want this.” I kept talking to him. I kept seeing him.
The relationship was doomed from that point forward, of course. And we stopped speaking a few months later. But in the weeks that followed the initial event, I was so afraid of acknowledging what had happened, so afraid of being “that girl,” that I told myself again and again it hadn’t been as bad as I remembered.
I kept seeing him, I think, because I needed to somehow wipe away the memories of that night. I needed to pretend it wasn’t real. That I hadn’t been a girl who had allowed herself to become a victim.
Except I had been. And on that day, I became a part of the statistic.
One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. And on college campuses, 90 percent of sexual assault victims will choose not to report what happened to them.
“This is a fucking dark answer,” Philips said in the context of her interview, when asked what worries her most about motherhood. “But I feel like being truthful. My greatest fear and worry is that one of my daughters will be sexually assaulted in her life. I know the statistics and I will try to help by starting conversations early about sex and protecting themselves, but it scares me to no end.”
It is a fucking dark answer, but it’s one I can relate to completely—it’s a fear that haunts me as well, and the reason those conversations have already started in our home.
I am a strong, determined, independent woman who never believed she would ever find herself in that position.
I am not a victim.
But I was.
I am not a stupid girl.
But choices I made put me in harms way.
I don’t want the same fate for my daughter. I don’t want her to ever be a victim or to ever blame herself. I don’t want her to feel dirty or stupid or wrong.
I don’t want her to be a statistic.
And so I will do everything in my power to protect her from that fate, while also recognizing that the world is a fucking brutal place for women and young girls, and that no matter what I do … it might not be enough.
It might not ever be enough.
Like Busy Philipps, that realization scares me to no end.