One of the most important bonds a Black man can have is with his daughters. This magical relationship includes impromptu tea parties, special dress-up days, and watching the silliest movies on rainy Saturday afternoons. I fondly remember taking my daughters shopping and doing their hair when they were much younger. They are young adult women who will not let me touch their hair today!
While seldom discussed, the father-daughter bond can be a profoundly spiritual relationship that helps shape our identity as fathers. The love and attention needed to raise healthy Black girls require tremendous patience, a village of sober and responsible adults, and a clear understanding of Black women’s obstacles and pitfalls in a patriarchal society.
For most fathers, raising daughters challenges our notions about manhood and masculinity and teaches us about unconditional love, respect, and empathy. These lessons are critical for shaping healthy father-daughter relationships and creating lasting bonds that stand the test of time. These bonds will eventually be tested as our daughters grow into womanhood and are thrust into a toxic society.
As fathers, it is challenging to raise daughters in a culture that promotes rape and sexual exploitation of women and girls through various forms of entertainment. Our job is to have courageous conversations with our daughters to educate and prepare them for the real world.
The data on sexual assaults among young women is deeply troubling:
More than four out of five female rape survivors reported being first raped before age 25, and almost half were first raped as a minor before age 18 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Studies show that students are at the highest risk of sexual assault in the first few months of their first and second semesters in college – Campus Sexual Violence Statistics.
Fathers, instead of dwelling on these stats and what could happen, wisely spend time teaching your daughter how to protect herself on campus. You can do this in several different ways.
- Encourage your daughter to establish a buddy system through which she identifies trusted friends with whom she can walk to and from classes, the library, and campus events. Ensure she regularly uses the buddy system and implores her that all assaults do not happen after dark. In other words, given today’s violent society, it would be better for her to walk alone, even in daylight.
2. Stress the importance of paying attention to her surroundings to your daughter. Make sure she knows how dangerous it can be to bury her face in her cell phone, which is frequently a significant distraction.
3. Strongly advise her to know where campus security is located and their telephone number. Likewise, if her campus has security phones stationed throughout, often on poles, ensure she is aware of that.
4. Caution her against excessive drinking. It is no secret that many incidents occur when alcohol is involved. Tell your daughter to be mindful of how much alcohol she consumes. Likewise, tell her never to leave anything she is drinking – including non-alcoholic beverages – unattended. Many women are incapacitated and assaulted after being slipped a date rape drug.
5. Do your absolute best to ensure your daughter understands that her daily routines do not need to be posted on Instagram or other social media platforms.
6. Initiate courageous conversations with your daughter about sexual violence and things she can do to protect herself.
7. Remind her to tell her roommate – or someone she trusts – when leaving campus. Also, make sure she knows to give her roommate the names of the person or people with whom she is going off campus.
8. Advise her to keep her cell phone charged, especially if she will be out at night.
David C. Miller, Ph.D., is the father of two daughters and a son, the author of Dare To Be King: What if the Prince Lives? and a researcher focused on trends among Black fathers.