DISCUSSING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ASSAULT TO PROVIDE SKILLS RATHER THAN FEAR

I am very fortunate to be spending my summer on Lopez Island the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. Small communities build a very special kind of camaraderie and sharing that might not necessarily take place in the hustle and bustle of a large city or a large workplace.Many of my mornings are spent helping a friend who owns one of the northwest’s finest small restaurants. Sometimes the greatest discussions related to parenting about sexuality occur when you least expect them. In my work I speak often about “teachable moments” and one of those occurred a few days ago several of us were working in the kitchen at the restaurant. We were talking about the release of my new book, 101 Questions Kids Really Ask… when one of the moms said her biggest fear for her children was that someone would take advantage of one of her children sexually but she didn’t know how to prepare and protect them without scaring them and making them paranoid.

Unfortunately this fear is well founded and is documented by the following statistics (Source www.darkness2light.com):

• One in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age 18.

• One in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age 18.

• One in 5 children is solicited sexually on the internet.

One of the very best ways to deal with this problem is to begin communicating early and age-appropriately with your children, teaching them to respect their own bodies and the bodies of others. When communication on these sensitive issues begins early and is continuous, “the talk” is not overwhelming…it is part of on-going dialogue within a family. Within appropriate on-going dialogue a parent can be pro-active in helping the child learn skills to identify potentially harmful situations as well as skills to cope with those situations. A Time To Talk and 101 Questions Kids Really Ask…And The Answers They Need To Know both provide concrete information to help parents address these difficult issues.

The important information in these resources conveys the definitions of sexual harassment and sexual assault, also defines the victim and the perpetrator, states what a person should do “if it happens to you”, and teaches skills on how to do the following.

• Tell the person to stop

• Tell a caring adult

When parents and children discuss these issues in a safe and comfortable environment, practice the skills necessary, and are reassured that “it is never the victim’s fault”, the child is much more prepared to cope with these illegal situations should they ever occur. Another reason to take a pro-active approach is that research shows that confident and knowledgeable individuals are less likely to become victims.

Take a deep breath, parents, and think of these on-going discussions as verbal self-defense classes. Your child deserves to be prepared and your loving communication can build confidence rather than fear.

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