My Stanford Manifesto

Our foster son has quite the imagination. This morning, he was sitting in his car seat, snuggling with Lamby, his stuffed animal (you guessed it—it’s a lamb).

He said, “Oh no! Holly! Lamby got bit by a dinosaur.”

I responded without hesitation.

“What was Lamby doing hanging out with the dinosaurs?”

I sat in silence for a second after I uttered those words, and then I spoke up again.

“Hey buddy. I take that back. Lamby should’ve known that the dinosaur was dangerous, but it was the dinosaur’s fault for biting Lamby.”

And in that 45-second exchange, I tried to bestow the tiniest bit of wisdom to our three-year-old: biting is the biter’s fault. Not the one who was bit.

Rape is the rapist’s fault. Not the one who was raped.

Recent news of the Stanford University rape—and the rapist’s subsequent sentencing—has absolutely wrecked me this week. It just hit so close to home.

I’m close in age to the attacked.

I made stupid decisions years ago.

I hung out with crappy people.

I work on a college campus.

I parent a son.

In this world of pop culture that glorifies promiscuity, in an age when internet access is more common than not, in a time that pornography is cool and abstinence is lame, I parent a son. His future, of course, rests not just on me, but I sure as hell have some power in his three-year-old mind right now.

There’s no hard and fast rule, but I can only imagine that a child raised by a man who calls a violent sexual assault “20 minutes of action” is on the fast track to disrespecting the female population. His father’s letter reeks of entitlement, blame-shifting, and disgusting belittlement. Quite honestly, it’s disturbing.

And his son’s fellow student who was horrifically assaulted now has to know, in six months, that her attacker is out of jail, possibly living a more normal life than she is.

I’m horrified of the possibility of being in the shoes of this rapist’s mother one day. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that there are 747,408 sexual offenders in the United States. (Yeah, yeah, some of those are for streakers and public urinators. Whatever. I don’t want a son who is known for that, either.) Those numbers are insanely high, and I’d be willing to bet it’s because there’s a widespread ignorance regarding rape culture, the respect of women, and “no means no.”

Per usual, Ann Voskamp approached the hot topic with a boatload of grace this week. (Way more than me, because I just want to curse.)

“…The prevailing thinking is boys will be boys—girls will be garbage. And that is never the heart of God. That’s what you have to get, Son—Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart…

This is what God chose as best, this is where He first became one of us: God chose to make His entry point into the world through the holy space of a woman, to enfold Himself inside of a woman, to drink of a woman, be held and nourished and cared for by a woman—that’s the jolting truth of how God loves his daughters with His honor.

What if our world took that to heart?

I’m learning so much from this justice system tragedy (and it is exactly that), and my hope is that there’s change universally because of it. But regardless, I pledge an impact on me:

  1. I refuse to be a mother who coddles her child. I will snuggle him, I will kiss his face off, and I will shower him with love. But believe you me—he will own up to his mistakes. Bless. If he was ever sentenced to a mere six freaking months for rape, you best believe he will receive the wrath of a mother when he returns home. He’d want to go back to prison.

  2. I’ll call them survivors. I have a childhood friend who courageously shared her story of rape on Facebook, and she boldly and consistently says: I am a survivor. And she so is. And so is this girl at Stanford. And so are they all. “Victim” in our culture conveys weakness. She’s anything but weak.

  3. I’ll use my platform for awareness and advocacy. We’ve all got a voice, and I’ve declared mine on the internet in this weird bloggy way. This doesn’t mean a daily creed, but it does mean a celebration of people. Because when our words degrade the worth of any group, it keeps this awful cycle of disrespect rolling.

  4. I’ll attempt to love like Christ. Our words matter most, but our actions are a close second. If my life looks like Jesus’, my prayer is that it spurs others to want that too. And that includes boys (ahem…young men) that I come into contact with. (Can I be perfectly honest? This one is the scariest for me. I think we underestimate the impact our witness has.)

  5. I won’t be ignorant. This is happening. The Association of American Universities reported that 23 percent of female college students said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact. That’s nearly one in every four college students. In a typical classroom of 20-ish students, five of them were taken advantage of sexually. Let that sink in. I won’t pretend like this is an isolated incident, and I won’t pretend like all other rapists are getting more than six months in prison. Because some are getting zero.

My prayer for the Stanford survivor:

May God comfort you in your pain, your fear, your insecurities, and your unfounded but unquestionable shame. May He wipe away every tear from your eyes. May you rest in Him and not shirk from Him in the midst of suffering.

May His example of a man—His humanness as Jesus—be your comfort.

[I highly recommend watching The Hunting Ground. It’s on Netflix and dives deep (too deep for comfort, sometimes) into the incidences of sexual assault on college campuses.]

f you want to read more on this topic, Rachel Dawson shared a post on called "Christians & Consent: Powerful Responses to the Brock Turner Case"