Thoughts about assault messages:
In my memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, I describe how, as a first grader, I had been surrounded by boys who stuck their fingers up my skirt during recess. They only stopped probing when they heard the bell that signaled playtime was over, and we all raced back inside.
Hair disheveled, dress torn, I ran to the principal’s office to complain. I remember him sticking his lardy nose in my face and scolding me, “That’s what you get for playing with boys!” I was stunned.
The next time, I was groped in Crotona Park Pool in the Bronx. I loved going to that pool as it was one of the few things the Bronx had to offer kids like me.
The summer I turned eleven I readied myself for more aquatic fun. Five minutes after my first splash I was surrounded boys, about my own age, who handled me enough to hound me out of the water.
What is remarkable is that I didn’t blame the boys. I blamed my developing body. I stopped going to the pool and sullenly and resentfully accepted having my life curtailed and narrowed even more than it already was.
By that time, I had subconsciously learned lessons taught in the macho society I was being raised in. Boys will be boys and copping a feel was what they did in order to grow up into being real men.
In fact, I had already heard many cheating husbands excuse their behavior by telling their wives’ they had no choice. That cheating was simply following their manly instincts. As a little girl I accepted that my only option was to steer clear of danger. I wonder how many little boys felt their only option was to attack.
Behavioral lessons are taught very early on. But I never thought creepy sexual messages I received as a kid, would inadvertently come from a presidential hopeful. Children are smart and pick up all cues we send them. Though it’s true they digest information and then come to their own conclusions, responsible adults are careful what ideas they broadcast.
This presidential election has made children hear so much negativity already. What will we do to control the damage?