Talking to our littles about preventing sexual abuse is essential. Yes, we can all agree, but so is talking to our not-so-littles. According to the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study, 1 in 4 women has experienced sexual abuse as a child, as does one in six boys. As adults, there is still a significant risk of sexual assault; research estimates that between 10% and 29% of women are victims of rape or attempted rape after starting college. What can we do? First of all, we can talk about it. We can continue to speak to and parent our children through high school, college, and beyond.
We can talk to our sons and daughters about appropriate sexual behavior and respecting boundaries. We can talk to our daughters and sons about treating others with compassion and empathy. Likely, we teach our daughters how to protect themselves, be on guard, and be safe, but why do we stop there? Why do we tell our daughters not to get raped when we should give equal focus to teaching our sons not to rape? We should guide and expect all children to be respectful and compassionate toward their fellow humans.
What should we expect from young men? We can expect them to be a product of their upbringing, certainly. We should also expect to hold our boys to the same standard as our girls. “Boys will be boys” is no longer an acceptable phrase to excuse an entire gender for undesirable behaviors. This sentiment is detrimental to boys and men. It gives us the inaccurate picture that males are incapable of acting respectfully, dignified, and compassionate.
Talking to our male and female children about appropriate sexual behaviors, boundaries, personal safety, and respecting others is another topic that isn’t suitable for a one-time conversation. We need to consider that if we start early and have a running dialogue with our children about their bodies, boundaries, and personal safety (age-appropriate, of course), we will be the “go-to” choice when they seek answers to their difficult questions. When we talk about and listen to our littles about the little stuff, they will come to us as they grow older about the big stuff too.
So, what do we tell our growing children as they are near college age about drinking, the meaning of NO, and sex beyond biology and into issues of consent, contraception, peer interaction, and even the law? There is no one “right” answer here. The important thing is to talk about it, whatever that looks like for you and your children; begin there – in the car, over ice cream, while preparing dinner together, or wherever, whenever feels most comfortable to you and your child.
The only way to get a conversation about sex abuse “wrong” is not to talk about it.
So talk about it!
You can help make sure child sexual abuse never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.
Editor, Ask Lala