It’s a raw subject because my daughter lives on Clapham Common. She walks, runs, socialises & loves the buzz of living in the area where I was born & went to school.
It’s raw because it was so badly handled by the police.
It’s raw because we all have stories of clutching keys, talking on the phone as we feel unsafe, and texting when we get home.
I have a horrible memory of being in an Uber at night, in the fog, as the driver’s Sat Nav took us a long and winding countryside back road that I would never have used, when I was divorced, and coming home to an empty house. There are more….
Sarah did all the right things – she was just walking home.
But she never made it.
So, I wrote a more detailed response here about ideas around my personal story and ideas for real change:
But as always I try and put my parenting hat on and try and be helpful at the grassroots level of raising our children.
It’s got to start in the home.
It’s got to start with respect.
So, here are some thoughts and ideas on ‘talking and teaching’ our boys to respect girls, women, and womanhood, whether we are mums, dads, aunts, uncles, teachers, or neighbours.
Start the conversation about respect early.
Example, Example, Example
If we show respect we will teach respect.
Respect is the key energy of any happy, healthy home.
It is the oil that lubricates long term respect for others, whether that is women, the elderly, the disabled, or the vulnerable.
This means we respect our children too, and don’t shame them, humiliate them or disgrace them publicly or on social media.
We respect other adults, and we respect women. It means that we do not call girls or women names, undermine them or don’t listen to them or disrespect or laugh at their opinions.
It goes without saying that boys don’t ever hit or threaten to hit girls or women.
It may make you uncomfortable but is it time to ‘Pause to Ponder’ why you think smacking is OK ? What does smacking/spanking actually teach your kids about respect, boundaries, temper or ways to handle conflict and compliance?
This is pretty basic, but surely at any age, it’s respectful to say ‘please and thank you’ isn’t it?
Whether that’s to you, their brothers or sisters or to people on a bus, dinner ladies at school or someone who has been kind or helpful.
It’s about not allowing kids to say things like ‘shut-up’ or ‘get lost’ (or swearing at each other) because bad habits start in your home.
Watch how you speak about others, whether you unconsciously disrespect people from different ethnic backgrounds, gender or ages. Kids are looking, learning and watching you all the time as you are their primary role model.
Model respect and kindness.
The habit of speaking respectfully teaches respect.
Pause to Ponder
In one word – what would your kids say is the atmosphere like in your house?
Teach your children to recognise when someone needs help, or feels upset, fed up and down, or in need of a lift, and show them how to help. Teach empathy, compassion and kindness.
Become a ‘Media Mentor’ in your home – not a draconian kill joy – but violent media has become increasingly normalised, particularly during lockdown, and loads of research has undeniably shown that it has a desensitising impact on those who view it.
While most 6 year-olds don’t enjoy violence, by the time they’re 9 or 10, they’re all over it. Allowing kids to watch or play Game of Thrones and similar gratuitous sex and violence games does nothing to help teach respect, gentleness and self control.
Games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Counter Strike, and many more glorify violence (including violence against women).
Is that OK?
Some studies have shown that after playing violent games or viewing violent ‘entertainment’, people are less likely to show empathy or kindness. Minimising exposure to games and films or tv shows that promote disrespect and inhumanity can help.
Don’t be afraid to parent your kids !
Protect Against Pornography
I know you’d rather not think about this subject but the average age of boys’ exposure to pornography is 11.
And we’re not talking the 1980’s Playboy style pornography or sneaking a look at the top shelves in the local newsagent or W. H. Smiths.
We’re talking hardcore, violent, disgusting content that teaches boys that women exist to be violently and sexually disrespected and abused.
At around the age of 8, 9 & 10 we must start ‘talking and teaching’ our sons – both as Mums as well as Dads about this subject.
We need to let boys know that pornography exists, that people might want to show it to them, that others might think it’s funny, and that it teaches bad, dangerous and unacceptable things.
That it’s often about bravado but that it’s not OK.
Talk about it – talk about your values around relationships, love and sex.
Let them know it’s not real. It’s not reflective of what people want in healthy, equal relationships. Let them know they can and should talk to you if anyone tries to show it to them or they come upon it by accident.
Keep them away from it and do not normalise exposure to porn as something ‘all the boys do’. Such attitudes are part of the domestic violence and disrespect problem.
‘Boys will be boys’ is what we are trying to challenge !
Talk about the Issues
When you see disrespect, talk about it. Call it out.
I read an awful article in the Guardian by Marina Hyde where she was harassed by a stranger on the way to picking up her son on the school run at 4.55 pm – two guys working on the road about 15 metres away ignore her and don’t call the creep out.
This is not OK.
Ask your sons how it leaves them feeling.
How they think it makes the victims feel?
Ask them what better ways are there of responding to seeing these things ?
These are the important conversations that promote empathy, perspective, balance and equality, and help boys develop social awareness, conscience and respect.
Boys and sons, girls and daughters should be learning about healthy relationships where people love one another and express that love in healthy, functional, respectful ways.
Where there’s mutual respect, kindness, tolerance, compassion and good communication.
Consent is a Conversation
Don’t be casual about sex, and be totally serious about consent.
A tipsy girl at a party, or walking home needs to know that a boy won’t take advantage of her. He’ll respect her, take care of her, put her in a cab or help her find her friends.
He won’t take advantage of her.
Talk about what consent means, how it looks and how it’s so complicated in certain circumstances.
Consent is a conversation that must be had – repeatedly over time as your son grows & matures.
Call them out on Sexism.
Caroline Aherne as Mrs. Merton was recently on the TV for Comic Relief Week interviewing Bernard Manning, a controversial comic loathed for sexist, racist material that he said was all in jest. She called him out.
We need to make sure we don’t let things slide for a quiet life.
When you catch your sons criticising women because of their maths or their driving ability, or for any other gender related issue, call them out on it. Let them know sexism is not cool and it is not funny.
Of course, this is not intended to bash men – most men are kind, considerate, respectful and don’t demean women, attack them or rape them. But the stories that have come out since the tragic death of Sarah Everard have made it important to speak up, speak out and make sure we challenge and change the world for all of us.
My thanks to Dr Justin Coulson