Why Abuse In America Hasn’t Stopped

Karen Patten

I’ve had this post, half-written, on the back burner, simmering in my brain, almost since day one of starting Spoil My Family. It’s not pretty, so I’ve been a little afraid to write it. It’s forced me to admit some ugly truths and to make decisions about what changes I want to make to feel better about myself and my impact on the world. I hope this story and others will inspire you to examine your own life to see if you play a part in normalizing abuse in America.

I’m trying to understand my place in our society that allows, and even encourages, sexual predators to target babies, children, young women and men, and even adults. One in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. Let. That. Sink. In. How many friends do you interact with routinely? Ten? Twelve? So you can do the math. And how many friends are in your more extended circles? Chilling thought, isn’t it? And it’s estimated that less than ten percent of child sexual abuse is ever reported to police.

Child abuse isn't something we like to talk about, but we need to. We need to help one another heal; we need to discover what causes predatory behavior and figure out how to make it genuinely unacceptable. #stopbeforeitstarts www.themidlifemamas.com

So now I have questions. Is this an acceptable place for us to be? Have we unknowingly normalized this behavior in our culture – day after day?

So, just to take you down the rabbit hole that started this whole thought juggernaut… Confession: while doing cardio on an elliptical, I listen to… thump, thump. I’m using “thump, thump” to refer to a particular beat and tempo and not to any particular genre of music. This is not what I would listen to while I’m doing anything else – just at the gym. I’m typically focused on the thump, thump and trying to power through.

Thump, thump keeps me going.  It gives me the rush of whatever I need to do 30-60 minutes of cardio without wimping out. Or going easy on myself. Or deciding that the present moment would better be spent on a latte. And my experience is completely backed up by scientific research. Music facilitates exercise performance by (1) reducing feelings of fatigue, (2) increasing levels of psychological arousal, (3) inducing a physiological relaxation response and (4) improving motor coordination. Score one for the thump, thump.

And, truth be told, I’m not really “listening” to the music in any real way. I am not wanting to understand, remember, or even know, the lyrics. My experience is again backed by the research. We have a limited capacity to process information; so reading lyrics would take 100% of my focus. However, if I’m dancing in a club (and presumably working out in the gym), I’m processing a lot of other information at the same time so it’s easy to gloss over lyrics and images and not be as easily offended.

Nevertheless, one day, I caught a seriously disturbing string of lyrics.

“Take ya ASAP, to the room ASAP; Zoom zoom ASAP, boom boom take that; Ooh, I like that when you fight back.

Really?  Boom, boom, take that?? I like it when you fight back???? Here’s a tip for ya’ stud: if she “fights back,” she’s just not that into you. And it’s not consensual. And that’s called rape. If she’s asleep or unconscious, she’s just not that into you – at least in the moment. And it’s STILL not consensual. And it’s STILL rape.

And let’s not forget Blurred Lines, “the most controversial song of the decade.” And any number of 100’s of other lyrics, tv shows, movies, and videos out there positing women as sexual objects instead of human beings. It’s everywhere. Just everywhere. My friend is sending her daughter off to college this fall. You know the most important piece of advice she gave? “If you didn’t bring it with you to the party, don’t drink it.”

And lest you think this is a new phenomenon, remember “sweet” little tunes like “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” According to her, “the answer is no.” According to him “Put some records on while I pour…” And if you don’t know the lyrics at the beginning of the Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” I can’t even. Who writes this stuff? And why would anyone want to sing it? And still. We listen. I love the Stones.

I could never have written such lovely words or thought more true thoughts as the acutely wise Dr. Maya Angelou:

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pegoratives and sexual pegoratives and all that ignorance.  Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are all things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. The get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”

5.1 people out of 100,000 are murdered each year. Simple concept: murder is bad; society discourages it. The relatively small (although still tragic) numbers reflect that. One in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. Compare the two statistics. Do they reflect different values?

Our society promotes and even glorifies molestation and sexual violence in all forms of media – television, movies, print, and radio. Or these numbers wouldn’t look like this. There. I said it. If molestation and rape were not normalized in our society, one in three girls and one in six boys wouldn’t have experienced sexual abuse before they turn 18. It’s this normalization of thoughts, words, and lyrics that numbs us to the atrocities taking place.

[bctt tweet=”It’s this normalization of thoughts, words, and lyrics that numbs us to the atrocities taking place. #endbeforeitstarts #preventabuse” username=”@SpoilMy”]

The concept has been termed “rape culture.” I used to think this was an absurdity. Who, in this day and age, would live in a “rape culture?”

If women were getting carjacked or kidnapped in these numbers – one in five – “we’d call it a public crisis. That we accept it as normal, even inevitable, is all the evidence I need [to substantiate the existence of rape culture.]” Jaclyn Friedman, author Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape. “If we already despise rapists, why are they so rarely held accountable in any way?,” Friedman asks. An analysis by RAINN found that 97% of rapists never spend a single day in jail for their crimes. “What we really despise is the idea of rapists: a terrifying monster lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce on an innocent girl as she walks by,” Friedman says. “But actual rapists, men who are usually known to (and often loved by) their victims? Men who are sometimes our sports heroes, political leaders, buddies, boyfriends and fathers? Evidence suggests we don’t despise them nearly as much as we should.” – Time Magazine, March 27, 2014.

The issue is normalization. What we hear in our music and see on our televisions seems normal. And the more often we see and hear it, the more normal we think it is. So, each time I buy a CD or download a song, the portrayal of women becomes slightly more normalized for me. I buy in just a little bit more. In downloading any given song, I send a message: Hey, artist! I like what you’re singing! I want to hear your words! Keep those words coming! I’ll keep rewarding you and your words with money, fame and prestige. Let’s recap:

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pegoratives and sexual pegoratives and all that ignorance.  Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are all things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. The get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”

Not only are words “things,” but so are images. The images in videos, advertising, on television, in print, and in movies are all “things” that can get on the walls. So when I reward misogynistic and otherwise creepy song lyrics, videos, television shows, or images with my attention or my purchase, I become just a little bit complicit in a society and culture that inflicts real, tangible, and lasting harm. On real people.

I’m not saying that we, personally, created the status quo – but we aren’t stopping it either. It’s been around for a long time. The words are there. They are in the air, on the walls, in your wallpaper, your rugs, upholstery and clothes. Have they gotten into you yet?

Child abuse in America isn't something we like to talk about, but we need to. We need to help one another heal; we need to discover what causes predatory behavior and figure out how to make it genuinely unacceptable. #stopbeforeitstarts www.themidlifemamas.com

This month an amazing group of bloggers is joining together to share stories and take a stand. Click on the image above or here for more information on child abuse and to get links for all of these great stories. Some stories are personal, others will share tips on keeping your children safe, or even how to start a conversation with your children about personal safety.

26 Comments

  1. Tiffani on June 8, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Powerful post! It amazes me how much society chooses to practice “tolerance” instead of speaking up against this horror. Has this become the norm? So sad. I enjoyed your post and love the Dr. Angelou quote, too! 🙂



    • Karen Patten on June 8, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you so much for stopping by! The Dr. Angelou quote is one of my favorites of hers. Along with “When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” (I hope I got it right…)



  2. Kita on June 8, 2015 at 10:45 am

    So many people brush it up under the rug or the first thing people say is well that person isn’t quite right in the head and try to make excuses. Great points and I myself find it strange that they put names to things like rape culture…when we name things it sometimes bothers me because for some it’s like it’s accepted.



  3. Victoria on June 8, 2015 at 11:22 am

    This is a great post. I cannot agree more with you about how such much stuff is just swept or locked away in today’s world. Wonderful post and thanks for having the courage to put all of this out there.



    • Karen Patten on June 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      Thank you for reading the post! Confession: I was pretty nervous about putting it out there. I do think, however, that it is part of our overall wellness as a society!



  4. Erica @ Coming Up Roses on June 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    All of these stats and lyrics…it’s all just so sad. It makes me sad to hear these songs and know that people actually like it, sing along to it, send it to friends. It all perpetuates this bad, bad thing, and I feel like it’ll just keep going so long as people with a louder voice continue to make it so.

    cominguprosestheblog.com



    • Karen Patten on June 8, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      It is sad… I just want to make sure that I communicate to my boys how to be responsible and respectful 🙂



  5. Dogvills on June 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    In my case, I’m an overly protective mother and grandmother. Open discussion between family members and even friends to raise awareness on this evil perversion will help; and the more people are aware, the more it can be eradicated.



    • Karen Patten on June 8, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Discussion is key. I just hate that I have to have it! But I have two boys and I want to make sure that they understand how to be kind, responsible young men. Thanks for reading!



  6. Jeska on June 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    This was an interesting read and I see both sides in a way. I see where you are coming from but at the same time I don’t think of it that way personally. Yes, rape, sexual abuse, and even worse, your family covering it up is not okay but I don’t know that liking certain music is necessarily condoning it either.



  7. Amanda on June 8, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    This was a thought provoking post. I’m not sure how much I blame music for what happened with the Duggars or other families….I tend to look at the parenting and lack of community. As a teacher I make it my goal to build a community within my classroom and strong relationships with my students and their parents so that I can be a support for whenever it might be needed.



  8. Pailine C. on June 8, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    This is very honest and brave. Thank you for having the courage to speak up on this topic. Yes the world we live in now is a difficult place and parents/ adults need to be responsible.



    • Karen Patten on June 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Thank you for stopping by. This rumbled around in my head for a long time. And I was nervous when I hit the “publish” button!



  9. Jenny on June 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

    The statistics about this are absolutely scary. I hope some good can come out of this story and help to raise awareness that is much needed. Music is one scary influence on teens these days.



    • Karen Patten on June 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I’ve even had a friend who’s a therapist in this area tell me that the stats I provided are wrong. It’s more like one in 2 or 2.5 women and 1 in 5 men. I didn’t put that…I just went with the “official” numbers. It’s all so disturbing. Thank you for reading and commenting!



  10. Fi on June 9, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Such an interesting post and one which will no doubt spark thinking and debate. I have to say that whilst I’m against rape, anything which seems to wants to normalise it – that Blurred Lines song for example, I don’t think that it’s a song that will make someone go out and rape someone else. I was molested as a child and I know for sure that that person was not exposed to any songs/videos/movies of that nature when he did that to me. I think it’s something deep rooted in someone which causes them to act in such a disgusting way. That’s just my opinion.



    • Karen Patten on June 9, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      I do agree – I don’t think a song can make anyone go out and rape somebody. What I do know from personal experience growing up is that there were behaviors that I thought “everyone was doing.” I didn’t feel any peer pressure, per se, but I just felt like certain behaviors were ok – because everyone did them. They were acceptable and had been normalized. It wasn’t until I was grown up that I felt SO stupid… I figured out – geez! everyone wasn’t doing that! I think music lyrics and video images contribute greatly to that normalization of certain behaviors. Thank you so much for reading and giving your opinion.



  11. Jennifer Tammy on June 9, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I think what was shocking one day to me was when the #yeseverywoman hashtag went big was having a conversation over coffee with some friends and discovering that each and every once of us had been sexually assaulted or molested at some point in our lives. Drugged date rape, a dentist, a babysitter’s boyfriend — the experiences were so widespread and pervasive, especially as some of us had grown up and experienced these things in different cultures.



    • Karen Patten on June 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      This is so shocking! All of you have been sexually assaulted. I’m so sorry. I’m hopeful that, as parents, we can teach both our girls and our boys a different way. I would love to teach boys not to rape. Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped. I’m a mom of two boys, so I’ll have to have some hard conversations with my boys. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. Thank you for reading.



  12. Shonda on June 9, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Thank you for this article. Not just the Duggar’s but most situations of high profile families are often kept quiet or dealt with far too privately. With reality TV, we the public are part of the problem. Thankfully I’ve not had such experiences, but I know many women who have been these things.



    • Karen Patten on June 10, 2015 at 12:34 am

      It is truly sad. Thanks for stopping by and reading!



  13. Erica @ The Crumby Cupcake on June 10, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Wow – incredibly thought provoking post you’ve written here. While I agree with a previous commenter that a song or a TV show may not necessarily make someone go out and rape someone else, that’s not to say that they don’t encourage the behavior. There are people out there who only need a trigger to do something wrong, and they could easily use media as their excuse. People have been doing it for years – remember when cigarette ads got pulled from magazines and billboards because they were promoting an unhealthy habit that way too many people were taking up to “look cool?” I feel like this is the same concept – but in this day and age, it’s a lot harder to just “pull” anything “rape culture” related, since it’s so ingrained in our society. Sickening. Thanks for speaking up! Maya Angelou was so wise!



  14. Tiffany on June 11, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Very insightful! I have caught myself singing along with a song unconsciously and then when I actually think on what was said I am almost embarassed for even listening much less singing along.

    I think we do have a tendancy to simply agree or disagree to ourselves but then faily to express our support or disgust with a situation to anyone else. We simply think things will be what they are. Yet we can make a difference and it is so important not to forget that.



  15. Rose on April 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    This is a very powerful post. This Really enforces the power of the spoken word. I, personalky chhosebthe music i listen to carefully. I believe music, words in general, are powerful. You did an amazing job conveying your message!



    • Karen Patten on April 2, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      It was something I really wrote from my heart! Thank you 🙂



  16. […] Normalization of “bad” behavior is something I actively work against with my boys. If we don’t speak out when we see something that is not right, it normalizes that behavior for anyone who sees it. This is especially true with children who expect parents to speak up when we see injustices and not just hide in the closet with a glass bottle of chardonnay. […]



Welcome!

Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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