Teaching your children about sexual awareness
“Sexual Awareness is Important to Teach to Your Children, Teens and Young Adults”
Sexual violence is a rising problem in our society. Today an estimated 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. 82% of the victims have been females. Women between the ages of 14-24 are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. It is important for parents to talk to their children about “Sexual Awareness” from Elementary to High School, and beyond.
These statistics are not surprising that children of sexual abuse, may be under the age of five years old. Almost all of them knew their perpetrator and more often than not, it was another child or family member.
Parents will frequently tell me that they didn’t think this could happen to them. That they never leave their children with strangers. That they always keep their children within their eyesight. Children need to be taught how to tell an adult that they are afraid, or concerned about being touched. Both boys and girls should understand how to respect their bodies and the body space of others as they develop. A great time to have this conversation is when you consider allowing them to get a cell phone. This is an important teachable moment to have a conversation about respecting yourself, your friends, the Internet and the opportunities they have to access pornography, videos, and R rated movies, all right from their cell phones. Let’s face it; the social media influx, combined with peer acceptance and the rapid growing of cell phone applications that young people have access to has created a maze for parents, schools’ systems, police and mental health professionals to unravel.
Only half the states in this country provide some sort of sexual assault education in schools. High school is the “breeding ground” for sexual assault to take place in college. If children do not know about this topic before college, it tends to be “too late.” It is important as parents to not scare our children but prepare them for what could happen. Many young teens do not realize how harmful these problems can be to themselves and others. Both women and men can be sexual assaulted. It is important to engage teens in safety conversations about sexual violence, going to parties, overnights and trips that are unsupervised or even chaperoned. We need to incorporate, in the conversations, if there is alcohol present or other drugs what to do.
Why should we teach children about sexual violence?
Talking more with children about sexual abuse will lead to preventing sexual abuse. It is important to teach children the “danger of strangers”. It is just as important to teach them about others respecting your body, and how to reclaim the physical distance that they feel comfortable with, along with respect demanded from friends and family members. Because you would do anything to protect your child, start the conversation – talk to your child about sexual abuse. Most media coverage of sexual assault examines the victims, and what individual victims could have done to avoid the assault. Some conversation starters include:
Using media to make this problem relevant: Asking your teen’s opinion on a situation about a sexual abuse incident will allow the parent to see how much that teen knows. Asking their opinion will allow the teen to know you value their opinion and opens the door to more conversation. An example of this opportunity can be taken from the new Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why.” This show is about a girl committing suicide following a sexual assault. Asking children how they feel about this show will allow them to express their thoughts.
Use your own experience to tell a safety story: Sharing your own experience you can make the conversations more relevant to teens.
Talk about caring for their friends not just their own behavior: Talking to teens about how to be a good friend, you can express to your teen that you trust their actions without targeting their personal behavior.
Talk about sexual assault directly: Bring up statistics that relate to sexual assault to show it does happen. Many people do not “look like a rapist” but is someone he/she knows.
“Start Having Conversations about Sexual Safety When Your Kids are Young!”
It is a time for us to reflect on how “sexual influences” affect our society with the growing numbers of sexual assaults, rape and violence against our young people increasing. Assault affects every person in our communities, and it is important to act to stop sexual assault. It is important to teach children at a young age; the appropriate language when it comes to talking about their own bodies. It is also important to teach your children about boundaries he or she should have and when it is allowed, or what is considered inappropriate. Lessons can help them respect themselves and understand when something does not seem right. Here is a list of topics to help children speak up:
- Teach children the names of their body parts. By providing children with words to describe their body parts, they may find it easier to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
This may help express if sexual abuse has taken place.
- Some parts of the body are private. Let children know that there are some parts of the body that other people shouldn’t touch or look at. If a healthcare professional at any time must examine these parts of the body, be present.
It’s OK to say “no.” It’s important to let children know they can say “NO” to touches that make them uncomfortable. This message could be confusing and is not obvious to children, who are often taught to be obedient and follow the rules. Always support your child if they say no, even if it is an uncomfortable position. For example, if your child does not want to hug someone at a family gathering, respect their decision to say “no” to this contact. Talk about secrets. Perpetrators often use “secret keeping” to manipulate children. Be sure to let children know that they can always talk to you, especially if they have been told to keep that secret. If they witness someone touching another child, they should not keep this secret, either, and speak up to the appropriate adult about this.
- Reassure them that they won’t get in trouble. One of young children’s greatest fear is getting in trouble, or upsetting their parents by talking about their experiences. Make sure you are a safe place for your child to share information about things that they have questions about or that make them uncomfortable. As a parent, you are their safety blanket who they should always come to. Remind them they won’t be punished for sharing this information with you.
Show them what it looks like to do the right thing. Modeling helpful behavior signals children by showing a positive way to act. Children model parent’s behavior most of the time because it is what they know, and are used to. By modeling good behavior, your child may exhibit good behavior also.
- When they come to you, make time for them. If your kid comes to you with something they feel is important, take the time to listen. Give them your undivided attention, and let them know you take their concerns seriously. They may be more likely to come to you in the future if they know their voice will be heard.
Sexual Assault Resources
Save is a program of Family Service League, the state of New Jersey’s “designated” Rape Care Center for Essex County. This center provides direct service to survivors of sexual violence and their family remembers. Also, this service wants to prevent sexual violence through education and advocacy.
24/7 HOTLINE: 1-877-733-CARE
Books for teens and families:
- It Happened to Me: A Teen's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Abuse (workbook)
- The Me Nobody Knows: A Guide for Teen Survivors
- The Courage to Heal (This is for adults, but may be appropriate for more mature or older teens)
- Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives (Great guide for expressive writing as a healing tool)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobksy 1999. Childhood sexual abuse, dating violence, and rape are all plot points in this touching novel.
- Inexcusable by Chris Lynch, 2005. The story of a popular high school athlete who ends up raping a girl he claims to love. Short and will appeal to reluctant readers. Unreliable first person narrator.
- Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, 2007. A teen boy reflects on his abuse and sexual relationship with a teacher five years earlier.
- Courage to Heal by Laura Davis. Women and men survivors of child sexual abuse.
- Stopping the Pain by Lawrence E. Shapiro – insight on why you may want to self-harm and reasons and helpful tips how to deal with the reasons
- PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) – PAVE frequently runs survivor-centered Twitter chats, among other resources. They are less ‘activism’ focused, and more healing and wellness focused.
- Know Your IX - Twitter account to empower students and children to come together to fight against gender violence
Videos about Sexual Abuse Awareness:
- Video based on the topic of consent.
- Ted Talk video based on sexual assault
- Video of actresses stating the importance of sexual assault awareness
- Video based on the topic of consent
- Sexual assault awareness video by Lady Gaga
Great article about sexual assault
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape