We must have seen each other at parents’ evenings, we might even have interacted at the school fete. We bump into each other in the shops, you even smiled once in recognition, but you do not know who I am.
You have two boys, I have one of each. Your boys are sporty, my children are bookish. Our children do not attend the same school any more: my daughter and son have moved on to other schools and I guess both my children will fade from your son’s memory.
You are blissfully unaware that anything is amiss: the school refused to intervene unless my daughter pressed charges and the consequence was that she did not pursue her complaint but chose to harm herself instead.
In any case, she said, your son apologised so that was that.
Yet you still do not know. You have been sheltered from all this and it bugs me. Does rape not enter the minds of the mothers of boys?
Boys get raped too. And as logic dictates, although not exclusively, boys tend to do the raping, be it to a boy or a girl, so should you not do your utmost to ensure your son is not one of them?
My daughter was not the only one that your son raped or assaulted and your other son’s reputation as a predator is even worse in the school, so this is no accident of nature. I can only assume you did not teach your boys about consent and I wonder why.
Is rape for you only something that happens in dark alleys? Do you understand the concept of consent? Perhaps you have been taught that boys are stronger and good girls don’t have sex. Perhaps you oblige your husband even when you do not want to. Are your lines so blurred that you failed to teach your boys about the law?
I taught my children the basic principle that sex without consent is not OK. I was keen to drill this into them because, like many women, I myself was raped. I also taught them that you have to pay taxes and not be a fare dodger, regardless of your interpretation of the law.
I do know that rape shapes you, that to get on with life is a choice, and that to choose life is to choose power. I chose not to wrap my children in cotton wool, but took them to martial arts classes instead. I told my daughter to be careful to wear shoes she could run in and told both children that people who are drunk or high can be unpredictable. Yet boys like yours exist and nowadays such boys are the new norm.
My daughter sometimes feels guilty about not going further with the police as your son is free to go on doing what he does. Perhaps the other girls would have had the courage to complain too if my daughter had done so. But one girl did not want her mother to know as she had been drinking on that day, one thought it was just “one of those things” even though your son locked her in when she tried to get away; and the third dares not tell her boyfriend as he might think she asked for it. In any case, my daughter’s friends say that is just how things are nowadays. I am unique in that my daughter told me. None of her friends told their parents.
I have toyed with the idea of suing you personally for damage and loss of earnings as I think this is a language you might understand: between lost working hours for therapy, suicide attempts, abortion, private schooling and self-harm, it tallies … I am angry and I am sad and you, like many other mothers of boys, are just your usual unaware self, merely wondering why I do not smile back.
Then I remember the first unthinkable thing that popped into my head when my daughter told me: it would be so much worse if I had found out my son was a rapist. That I really would not know how to deal with.