My beautiful daughter is ten years old. She is amazing. A track star, honor roll student and competitive cheerleader. She is popular at school and a class ambassador. She binge watches Nailed It on Netflix, still looks for swings at the park, climbs trees, and looks forward to going to the playground. As her father, I have enjoyed many dates with her where I treat her the same way I envision a decent young man treating her eventually in life.
Now, imagine some grown man or woman sizing her up and eyeing her down. A predator wouldn’t think twice about her innocence and could not care less about her being a track star with dreams of running in college or her cheerleading back handsprings, handstands, and tucks. This knowledge would only get in the way of a predator’s vile plans. Swings, trees and playgrounds would definitely be a thing of the past if they were successful. There are those who wish to strip children of anything that allows them to enjoy their childhood. The predator’s hope is to develop a child into a dependent slave whose mind is taken over, stripping the child of mental, emotional, and spiritual stability.
As a man who lives for his children, When I run through these scenarios, I instantly think in my mind that “I wish a muthafucka would.” That I would kill anyone or anything that would want to harm my children in that way. While this may be true, as the father who was given the gift of helping my daughter lay the groundwork for a wonderful life, I have to approach this in a more strategic manner.
Obviously, this conversation is being sparked by the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. A series that has brought light to the entertainer’s penchant for targeting young, underage girls. These exploits left him feeling in control but diminished the teenage years of the young girls that were a target of his acts. The truth of the matter is what R. Kelly has done is well known in black communities, which in no way, shape, or form makes these deplorable and heinous actions excusable.
Generations have passed, and rape, molestation, and child endangerment have dwelled within the back of our closets with a rug draped over the door as we ask the victims to never uncover this truth about their lives. This leaves them scarred emotionally and mentally with seemingly no place to go. If one has ever loved, supported, or cared for a survivor then suppressing a numbing and hurtful life-changing event would be the last thing that we should ask of a victim because silence is a killer.
I don’t have all of the answers, and I struggle at times to find the right ways to engage my daughter with topics of this magnitude. What I do believe is that I, as a caring man in her life, can partner with her mother and other caring women around her, to garner the right words to start the conversation. Yes, I think it’s a conversation men need to have with their daughters to show them that a man can care for you in a way that’s other than sexual and physical in nature.
Surviving is realizing that these predatory acts can only be prevented by not only hiding our children from despicable acts but by giving them the proper tools needed to recognize predators. Surviving is unpacking those generations full of skeletons in our closets and allowing our children to be present so they can see that being a victim is not a mental death sentence, and it can be overcome. Surviving is knowing there will unfortunately always be people who coddle, protect, uphold, and even assist predators that we are attempting to keep away from our children. Predators go where children are, such as cheer competitions, track meets, playgrounds, and even at home. Let’s equip our children with knowledge to protect their lives now and in the future. It’s a conversation that is long overdue.