Tips to share with children to prevent sexual violence and assault
We know what you’re thinking; I shouldn’t have to talk to my children about sexual assault. As a parent or foster parent, realistically we know that it’s important to start conversations about safety with your children, because sexual assault is real and it happens every day. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault. Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. To be clear, consent means affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.
Statistics from Planned Parenthood suggest that parents more frequently speak with daughters than sons regarding how to say no to sexual activity. They are given advice about rape prevention with scenarios like, never let your drink out of your sight, don’t walk alone at night, don’t wear revealing outfits and so on. We live in a society where violence against women is prevalent, but what are boys being taught? Survey data confirms widespread confusion among more men than women over the concept of consent and sexual assault. This alone tells us that boys need educated just as much as girls, preferably with the start of education being at a young age. This equally important for biological children as well as children and youth in foster care.
With that in mind, what can parents do to be part of the solution in educating children and others in their community about healthy sexual development and personal boundaries? According to stopitnow.org, parents or caregivers should follow the four R’s of prevention when educating children and other adults on sexual assault and prevention:
- Rules—Establishing clear behaviors and actions so everyone is aware of what’s considered acceptable sexual behavior.
- Respect—The cornerstone of sexual abuse prevention, respectful behavior is the opposite of abusive behavior.
- Read—Learn to read situations and what is going on around you in order to focus on prevention.
- Responsibility—Be accountable. Helping children establish clear guidelines about what kids should expect from relationships, what’s considered questionable and what’s completely unacceptable.
Empowering your biological, foster and adoptive children to say “no” to unwanted touch and teaching them to come to you with questions and concerns places you in a critical role of preventing child sexual abuse. Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms. When you talk openly and directly about sexuality, it teaches children that it is ok to talk to you when they have questions.
Educating teens can be complicated, but it’s important to realize that teens are learning about sex. Do not put off discussions—instead, help them to define their personal rights. Teens should understand that:
- Their bodies are theirs.
- Past permission does not obligate them to future activity.
- They should trust their instincts.
- It is not ok to engage in sexual behavior with adults.
- Alcohol and drugs can make it hard for them to maintain their boundaries and can cloud their judgment.
It’s important to build a trusting relationship with your child. That’s why SAFY is tenacious in providing services that are responsive to family needs and helping to provide programs to ensure the physical and emotional safety of each individual that we serve. We know this isn’t an easy subject to discuss, but we also know that by being an educator, resource and supportive model for our children, families and communities, we can help develop safe and respectful communities.