Category Archives: Culture

Before #MeToo Becomes Yesterday’s News, the Truth About Rape on College Campuses

The recent #MeToo movement is a sobering wakeup call to just how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse really are. We hear about it on the local news, but in light of the Harvey Weinstein revelations hearing from the many women who have stepped forward with their own stories has both personalized the problem, and exposed how big a problem it really is. But what we can’t even begin to quantify is the effects of the shame and brokenness these women have been left to deal with because of what happened to them.

Many of these women (some who are still suffering in silence) have been the victim of rape. And for many of these, the rape occured in college. Studies show 1 in 5 college women experience rape or attempted rape. But only about 20% of sexual assualts on college campuses get reported. Likely this is because many victims feel guilt over their own behavior (alcholol and drug use are often a factor) though by no circumstance is a victim responsible. Another reason rapes go unreported is because in most cases the perpetrator is a friend or acquaintance of the victim, who in turn fears consequences of telling on him.

Having ministered alongside my husband at a university for nearly eight years, the reality of date rape, along with the pervasive hook up culture and binge drinking on college campuses is something we have dealt with personally and also read much about. Therefore, when it came time for our own daughter to head off to college last year this was one of our biggest fears. Since early high school we had talked about this stuff, but without any #MeToos she was slow to believe the picture we painted about drinking, dating, sex, and the college culture was as we said it would be.

But after being on campus for almost three semesters, and witnessing what takes place at fraternity parties and in dorms, she now sees we were right.  Thankfully, it has led her to take more seriously precautions about holding her own drink and staying with her sisters. And though she used to be bitter about her curfew in high school and our conviction that, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” I now hear her repeating this mantra to others (with a slightly altered time because of the late hour college kids even go out).

My hope in shining the light on another not-talked-about-enough problem is to spare more women from ever having to say #MeToo. The life-altering experience of sexual assault can lead to deep depression, thoughts of (and attempted) suicide and carry with it shame that will infilitrate into future relationships.

*In my daughter's pledge class of a 115 girls, statistics say 23 of them will be victims of rape
*81% of college rapes happen in a dormitories
*72% of college rapes happened when the victim was so intoxicated she was unable to consent or refuse
*Freshmen girls are the most vulnerable of becoming a rape victim.

Parents of high school and college students, please talk to your girls and boys about this topic. They may roll their eyes, but education is the first step against naivety – theirs and ours.

There is so much on the topic, plus the book we recommend, Unhooked about the culture in general.  It’s not fun reading, and honestly I think sometimes we’ld rather not know what’s happening, but we must in order to increase our kids awareness, and hopefully help protect them- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

If only education were enough to guarantee their protection, but for that I continue to pray.  Not being able to fully protect our kids has got to be the hardest things about being a parent. And it is also my biggest struggle in trusting God. #YouToo?

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Why College Is Harder than It Even Should Be for Our Kids

When I was in college I spent countless hours on the floor in my room of the sorority house pecking out my English paper on a Brother Word Processor. Only one girl in the house had a desktop computer, so for the majority at that time Brothers were the best thing going. Inevitably though in the wee hours of the night before the paper was due is when the cartridge ribbon ran dry. This meant running to the office supply store at daybreak and then very carefully (under the gun of a ticking clock) finish typing. But you better not make a mistake!

If you also had a word processor you know a mistake meant potentially retyping the page from the top. This was because the word processor had no delete button. Instead it required backspacing to the error and hoping the correction tape hit in just the right spot. White Out was an option too (do they even still make that?), but an exact realignment of the type guide after the error was still needed to keep going without restarting.

How nice it would’ve been to carry around a laptop in our backpacks. No cords even restricting work to our rooms. This would’ve been especially great on those nights my room (located right at the top of the stairs) was full of friends watching Friends and I had a paper to do. But then when I wanted to stay in my room because it was too cold or rainy how awesome to have had WiFi and Google and not have to trek over to the library for research!

Thinking about these things now as “hardships” makes me laugh. It’s all we knew so it was just what we did. But somewhere along the way grit has gone by the wayside. Today when the going gets tough, many college kids can’t cope as evidenced by university counseling centers nationwide struggling to keep up with the demand for mental health services.

Now I do think college students are under way more pressure today – thanks to our culture of comparison and standard of perfection. So it is not that I don’t think college is hard (even if the technological changes make life easier). COLLEGE IS HARD. But I’m afraid we haven’t prepared our kids as well as we could for the reality that not only is college hard, but life is hard.

I know there are ways I accommodated our daughter to make her life easier and less stressful. My intention to help came out of love, but I wonder now if my helping became enabling?

One friend described the two like this:

 “Helping is doing for someone what he is not capable of doing himself; enabling is doing for him things he could or should do himself.”

By not requiring our children to do chores or to sacrifice their time and desires for the good of the family, we allow them to live self-centered. In catering to their every whim, we foster an attitude of entitlement. When we swoop in to rescue them from consequences and never allow them to fail, we leave them ill-equipped to handle adversity on their own.

This is not setting our kids up to be college ready!

Instead we need to teach them to deal with adversity, to see the world does not revolve around them and things are not always easy. So next time you are tempted to take things into your own hands by emailing the teacher/coach, calling the school or gossiping with other parents, encourage your child instead in how to handle the conflict on their own. This may mean for them a difficult conversation with a friend, teacher or coach. It may mean you helping them accept second string. Or it may mean backing the teacher for giving them a late grade (even a zero) if work wasn’t turned in on time. But I firmly believe what they will gain is for their greater good.

To raise kids prepared for adulthood, we must rethink what we’re doing to get them there. Because honestly, shielding our kids from hardship and responsibility, not holding them accountable and allowing them every indulgence is not real life. Real life is hard. College is hard. Relationships are hard. Work is hard. Let’s start doing the hard thing this school year and give them proper training ground while in the safety of the nest.

Did you miss the other two posts in this mini college-related series? Check them out here: Your Identity is Not in Your Greek Letters
Embracing a New Normal After a Child Leaves for College

Underneath “13 Reasons Why”

Since publishing my recent post on teen suicide, the new Netflix hit series 13 Reasons Why (based off Jay Asher’s book) on this very topic is what everyone is watching – at least what teenagers are. But considering the subject matter and some graphic content I didn’t want my boys holed up with their devices watching and processing alone. So we decided to watch it as a family.

I am not necessarily recommending it – there are some scenes even I couldn’t watch – but for us it was useful for worthwhile and necessary discussions. Not just about suicide. Many themes are brought out through the circumstances and lives of each character. Evaluating all of this with our boys I think helped them see more clearly the root cause for Hannah’s suicide (the main character) and what was going on underneath the surface of each character.

**Spoiler alert: Stop now if you haven’t seen the show and don’t want to read her 13 reasons why.**

Each episode is centered around the cassette tape Hannah Baker leaves behind for the twelve people (one is the subject of two tapes which makes for 13) she indicts as contributors to her death. And while there is much to be said about what Justin, Jessica, Alex, Tyler, Courtney, Marcus, Zach, Ryan, Sheri, Clay, Bryce and Mr. Porter could and should have done differently they are NOT ultimately responsible. What happened to Hannah was her doing.

Please hear me, I absolutely don’t mean this to sound cold and I do not dismiss mental health as a contributing factor. I know mental health can absolutely color how we see oursevles and the world around us. But we also cannot overlook the spiritual.

The show is without religious bent, but I think we need gospel glasses to clearly decipher what is going on in Hannah’s heart, and the others. Looking through these lenses we see Hannah’s thoughts, emotions, and actions so tied to her circumstances, other people’s opinions and sin that she was blinded to who Christ is for her. All she saw were the actions and inactions of others as the basis of her worth, in essence making them her savior. Therefore an identity and hope secured in Christ is missed.

Whether we are a Christ follower or not, each of us are made in the image of God and therefore have intrinsic value. But we are also all tainted by sin. Ever since Adam and Eve took the fruit in the garden, humanity has fallen for the same lies. We think something other than God will give us “life,” or you could say significance or an identity. So just like Adam and Eve we turn to false sources looking to fill our “soul hole.”  But no matter how hard we try we come up empty. Nothing apart from God will ever do the trick because the hole is a God-shaped hole. Anything else we try to stuff it with won’t make us whole.

So for Hannah like all of us, she wanted approval, acceptance and love. She wanted to know she was okay. There is nothing wrong in these desires in and of themselves; we were created this way. The problem is where and how she (and we) look for approval, acceptance and love.

Even had Hannah’s classmates been better friends to her, they would never succeed at perfectly meeting her desires. Both because they are sinful humans and because they were never meant to be the source of satisfaction and fulfillment. Only in Christ do we have the perfect approval, acceptance and love that we long for. And because we do, it is in him that our true identity and worth must lie. Who he is for us must be the gospel self-talk we replay over and over again in our minds to root out the lies Satan would have us believe about ourselves.

By the same token, every character in the show needed the same gospel self-talk. They needed to be reminded that in every way they failed, Christ never failed for them. They need to hear that Christ became sin and bore their shame so they could be free from it. And nothing they did or didn’t do was outside of God’s forgiveness.

Had this been the tape running through their minds instead of Hannah’s, the self-preservation, self-atonement and self-justification we see displayed in them throughout the show could’ve been trumped by grace. By God’s grace they might have been free to admit their failures and sin, and call it for what it was. By his grace they might have been even willing to accept the consequences. And by his grace these things would not define them had they known their identity secure in Christ.

Did some of them do and say some horrible things that hurt Hannah deeply?

Yes.

But Jesus took on all of our hurt, all of our pain, all of our suffering and all of our sin, so he could identify with us in the midst of ours and ensure the end of the story never be without hope. Hope of things to come, promised way back in the garden and secured at the cross. So instead of “Welcome to your tape,” we can hear, “Welcome, my child, you are deeply loved. Always. No matter what.”

Face Time, a book for teen/college girls on identity and worth, comes out May 29th. You can preorder it now: here. Want to join the Book Launch Team? Click here.