BY VICTORIA SILVERMAN
Following the recent Harvey Weinstein debacle, it’s time to talk to them about power danger.
Power Danger is where one person does something to you because they know their position prevents you from rebuffing them or complaining openly. Almost every adult I’ve spoken to about this – man or woman – has a story of someone in power over them acting sexually towards them.
Yep, me too. When the stories broke and social media fizzed with anger last month, something felt wrong. No court cases, no burdens of proof. Careers dashed. Possibly even lives lost.
But then I dug into my own memories. They’re distressing. Moments of small frustrations that left me feeling impotent, uninvited lunges from hulks of men, my thighs explored by an unwelcome hand. From the earliest age and then as a young woman trying to make her way in editorial roles, predatory men were never far away.
However, an ambitious working class girl does not make trouble. Remember that Mungo Jerry song In the Summer Time? “If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal. If her daddy’s poor just do what you feel”. And we know that these impossible-to-prove moments happen across genders, across class, across cultures. So what’s the answer?
Let’s start teaching children in school about power danger at the same time they learn about stranger danger. Every child should know that there are people who hold power over them and that for some reason they feel that they must assert their rights over theirs.
The key message is you don’t need to please them. The only way you need to please your swimming coach is by swimming faster, the only way you need to please your scout master is by earning more badges. You can speak out and you will be heard. Girls especially should attend karate or self-defence lessons and be taught “don’t mess with me” techniques.
Having a strong sense of self and a bolshie attitude creates its own problems, but as a young person it’s probably all that stands between you and the hands of someone older, important and opportunistic.
Let’s start this training young. Back it up with stickers and posters in schools, locker rooms and in places where youngsters gather. The stickers should say something like “Speak out, never let anyone touch you inappropriately” or ‘Been messed with? Tell someone now’.
Make sure you speak to your sons as well. Power danger affects boys, and it’s probably as hard or harder for them to come forward.
Being touched inappropriately by someone with power over you is just so damn embarrassing. Luckily the #MeToo campaign gave people a chance to show how widespread this problem is without disclosing the details, and proves that we need to start speaking to our children about how the desire to please and be pleasant is overrated.
Power Danger exists, let’s start tackling it visibly. So when all the noise of the current incidents is replaced by the next issue to hit the zeitgeist, no longer being talked about, our kids are armed to stop this silent tyranny that so many of us have faced.
Bringing up teenagers is a job and a half, so I’m delighted that the website some of us parents set up three years ago has been nominated for a Best Parent Insight Blog.
We all run it voluntarily and on top of our day jobs. Please vote for BeTeenUs as a top 10 best parent insight blog. https://tutora.co.uk/blog/best-parent-insight-blogs
Parent-owned and run, we seek to share learnings from parents and experts to help mums and dads navigate the teenage years. We have just started discreet WhatsApp chat sessions to help parents with specific problems. We have a unique gallery for parents to showcase their kids’ messy rooms. In other words, we’re determined to capture and share the joys and agonies of this phase in our lives and
our children’s – and offer the best advice we can.
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Victoria Silverman is founder of BeTeenUs.com, online community for the parents of teenagers.