April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Parents, It’s Time to Have ‘The Talk’
However uncomfortable it may be, it’s up to us to give them good information. If we don’t, they are likely to get misinformation from their friends, TV or perhaps from an adult or peer who doesn’t have their best interests in mind. In the absence of healthy information about sexuality, kids often end up with skewed ideas about relationships, consent, healthy boundaries and what healthy sex is all about.
As much as we’d like to think that our kids will find appropriate partners and experience nothing but warm and tender sex, it’s a sad fact that they are vulnerable to victimization. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the U.S. is intended to raise people’s awareness of sexual violence and to educate people about how to take care of themselves and others.
This year, the emphasis is on ensuring that young people get the information and skills they need to keep sex safe and happy. To accomplish that, we parents need to take seriously our role in educating and supporting our kids in their sexual development. If we don’t, there are malevolent people in the world who will take advantage of our kids’ ignorance or confusion. Here are the facts:
- One in four girls and one in six boys will experience a sexual assault before the age of 18.
- One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
- More than 25 percent of male victims of rape report that their first rape was when they were 10 years old or younger.
- Over three-quarters of the women who reported having been raped stated that it happened before they were 25.
I don’t list these grim statistics to scare you (although they are certainly frightening). I include them to underline how important it is for adults to give our kids both sides of the story. They need to hear from us that sex is potentially a wonderful experience, but we also must give them the information they need to protect themselves from unwanted or violent sexual encounters.
We can’t leave the job to the media. Too often, what is portrayed in movies, TV and video games is steamy sex as solely recreation. Often kids have seen more scenes of exploitative sex than of tender sexual connection.
It’s crucial that we give them the tools they need to ask for and give or refuse consent. It’s important that we talk very specifically about how to assert themselves without feeling embarrassed if they don’t want to get physical. It’s equally important to teach them to take no for an answer.
The talk can’t only be about self-protection. It needs also to include the hows of healthy connection. We need to counter images of violent and manipulative sex with the message that healthy sexuality is about more than orgasms.