Dear Mr. Wilcox, Mrs. Fretwell, and Editors:
I am writing to ask for your advice on how I might go about getting married. I’ve just learned that, as an unmarried woman, I’m at increased–one might say terrible–risk for sexual assault. Since I’m also the mother of a small child, I’d like to make sure I minimize the risks to myself, and to my child, as quickly as possible, and according to your op-ed of June 10, the best way for me to do that would be to get married. The subheadline even proclaims that “#yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.” [Note: the original subheadline actually read “the data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.”]
Clearly you have the data on your side. Indeed, you’ve convinced me with your links that not only am I unsafe as an unmarried woman; my child is at risk, too. I’d like to end that situation for both of us as soon as possible, but I have one problem: how do I go about getting married?
Let us set the stage here a bit. I am a 38-year-old heterosexual* white female with two masters degrees. I live in a community with excellent schools and a low crime rate. People tend to assume I’m married. Just this morning the dental hygienist asked what my husband did. A medical assistant once asked me if she could just put husband on her form, because my situation sounded “too complicated” (I assume “baby daddy” was not in her drop-down menu.) My child’s father and I are friends but we do not live together and we never have, and we have never married.
I suppose the obvious answer might be that I should marry him, since we have a child and we get along, but, you see, I’ve asked him if he wants to get married, and he said no, so that’s out. As a WASP), I wasn’t raised in a culture that does arranged marriages, so I’m not in a position to ask my parents to find a husband for me. (Actually, my mother would also like your advice on how to get married in order to protect herself. She was widowed 33 years ago and thus also raised me mostly as a single mother.)
The obvious answer to my problem would seem to be that I should date, but I’m concerned about that, because it sounds as though having a boyfriend would create enormous risk for both my child and me. The report you quote notes that “only 0.7 per 1,000 children living with two married biological parents were sexually abused, compared to 12.1 per 1,000 children living with a single parent who had an unmarried partner.”
So I’m stymied, and I’m asking for your advice. How do I find a husband without first finding a boyfriend? Should I have accepted the one proposal of marriage that I did once receive, from a man outside the Omaha, Nebraska Greyhound station when I was nineteen? He approached and asked me if I was married, if I spoke English, and if I would like to get married. I said no and yes and no. Was that the wrong thing to say?
I would very much appreciate any assistance you might give. With a toddler and a full-time job, I don’t have a lot of time to date anyway, and clearly if I could just skip that step and go right to getting married, we’d all be better off. (At least I think so–your studies don’t seem to indicate what the risk factors are for a child living in a home with a nonbiological parent that their biological parent is married to, only those for when the parent in question is living with someone they aren’t married to.) Or, of course, I could just go on being single. It seems to have worked for us so far, but I hadn’t been aware before of the terrible dangers I was facing.
I understand that you have busy jobs and lives yourselves, but if you could help me out here, I would be be forever in your debt.
*For the sake of brevity, I’m not even addressing here what the situation might be for unmarried homosexual, bisexual, or transgender women, many of whom do not have the option of getting married even if they have a partner and would like to do so.