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A letter to my 13-year-old daughter

I would like to tell you that in a group of men, there will be always be someone who knows it's wrong. The truth is different.
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I would like to let you go out and have fun, but...

I would like to tell you that we live in a world where it’s okay to travel to Eilat or Aya Napa or Marbella or Ibiza or…..with your girlfriends and go out for a few drinks and some music at 16. At that age, my friends and I were enjoying nights out in Glasgow without considering the ugly side of the nightlife.

I would like to tell you to trust your intuition and believe in yourself and in the people you meet.

I would like to let you go out and have fun and know that I’ll be there for you if you want to come home early and if you need a hug.

I would like to tell you that in a group of men, there will be always be someone who knows it’s wrong.

I would like to tell you that even if you drink too much when you’re 16-years-old and encounter a group of men — there will always be someone who says NO THIS IS WRONG!!!  And who will report it to the police.

I would like to tell you that 27-year-old men know the difference between good and evil, and what is allowed and what is forbidden, and to NEVER EVER cross a forbidden line.

I would like to tell you that you will grow up in a different world than the one in which I grew up.

That today, the dirty old man at the kiosk wouldn’t dare to touch you “by mistake” and that you will never sit on a bus and be exposed  to someone who gets pleasure out of pulling out his “manhood.”

I would love to tell you that 16 is a fabulous age, when you’ll celebrate youth and experience the best life has to offer.

I really would love to tell you all this, but the truth is different.

The truth is that there is evil in all shapes and sizes. In fact some of them look like a 27-year-old man who gave you the key to his room so you could use the bathroom.

The truth is that I stayed at that hotel in Eilat, The Red Sea Hotel, when I was 16. I traveled to Israel with a youth group of 16-year-old kids for an experience of a lifetime. Would I let you have this experience today? I really don’t know. Would I let you dance at The Underground, surrounded by a bunch of excited soldiers?? I seriously doubt it.

The truth is, I might tell you that your skirt is too short, not because it bothers me, but because those excited soldiers, those 27-year-old men might think it’s an invitation.

And the truth is that maybe something has gone really wrong in our society and now I’m not  sure I have the tools to raise my sons and daughter in it.

In today’s world, all I can do is send you to learn Krav Maga, or self-defense. To teach you that NO will always mean NO. And that YOUR body is YOUR body and no one has the right to touch it unless you permit it.

As I write this to you, so many red lights are going off in my head.

Please forgive and understand me when I am THAT mum, who refuses to let you out alone in the dark, or who warns you to watch your drink at all times in case someone puts something into it or who tells you to be careful about the men you meet.

But maybe it’s a good thing to raise a girl to fear. Because maybe the fear will keep you safe.

Maybe if you are less trusting of people you will be more confident.

I’ve been trying to raise a safe and confident girl for 13 years, but how the hell do you raise a safe girl in a world where such terrible things can happen?

About the Author
Lisa Davidson Oren made aliyah from Scotland in 1993, competed ulpan at WUJS Arad, and in between intifadas, wars, and COVID-19, has worked in non-profits supporting populations at risk, education, culture, and the environment.
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