My favorite job was when I spent four summers working at a summer camp as a counselor to the women counselors. I loved the experience, getting to know the different personalities of women who all had a love of children, encouraging them throughout the long weeks, and, of course, lots of trips to relieve our stress with ice cream.
One summer, as I was getting to know the women on our staff, I discovered that two women were only recently starting to deal with the fact that their older brothers had abused them when they were young girls. This was their first time to acknowledge something that neither of them had even shared with their parents. Their emotional needs were great as they sought to make sense of something that was so senseless. Both women wrestled with feeling unsafe with their brothers and anger at their parents for not protecting them somehow.
Suddenly, I needed more than ice cream to fix a problem. Unfortunately, this was an issue that went way beyond my experience and my ability to counsel. For me, this was the first time that something this devastating and horrific had even come close to touching my world. I grew up with one other sister. I may have dated some weird guys, but no one came close to abusing me. How could something like this happen in an otherwise normal, happy family? If even brothers were capable of such terrible acts, was it possible ever to feel completely safe around men?
Thankfully, both were able to get counseling from another resource. All they wanted from me was a listening ear and affirmative friendship. Together we all began a process of acknowledging that there are men out there who hate women as well as wonderful men who treat women with proper love and respect.
Stieg Larsson wrote a crime thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that on the surface seems to be about international criminal fraud. As one gets deeper into the book, however, one learns that the book actually reveals a deep-seated and chilling tale about men who commit horrible and horrific acts against women. While this novel is a work of fiction, Larsson reminds the reader throughout that the statistics of men who mistreat women are high, even in a seemingly peaceful country like Sweden.
Now that I have a son, as well as three daughters, I find myself trying to find a balance between being aware of the potential risk and dangers of abuse and being aware that my kids are just normal, average kids who don’t have thoughts along these lines. Of course I don’t want to be a paranoid, hypersensitive mom on the verge of a freak out about something that probably won’t happen. I also don’t want to be a naive mom who lets something happen right under her nose without any awareness of it.
My goal is teach my son to be a man who loves women appropriately, with respect and honor. I want to teach my girls to love themselves enough only to date men who will love them this way as well. Hopefully my only contact with such horrors will be limited to what I read in books like Larsson’s.