The Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault investigation has the majority of people agreeing on one thing.
Conversations about consent, sexual assault, harassment and misconduct must continue.
The more we talk, the more we confront the issues, the more we listen to victims and the more we educate ourselves and our children about consent – the less chances there are of someone we love becoming a victim.
We need to stop shying away from these topics and engage our kids in honest (age appropriate) discussions about their bodies and who may touch them.
It’s going to take a collective effort to make some real changes regarding respecting personal boundaries and teaching consent. It starts with me. And you.
Empowerment Starts Early
My husband and I take every moment we can empower our girls and give them the support to be confident in themselves regarding their bodies and boundaries.
With so many outside influences, teaching our girls to protect and respect themselves is already a concern. From music to television and movies, they already have sexual imagery and vocabulary.
Our girls began daycare when they were weeks old. By age three, we felt it important to talk with them about their bodies and setting personal boundaries.
There was no danger from staff or students, but we wanted to arm them with the age appropriate knowledge of their bodies. Also, to ensure they knew we supported their feelings about who can engage in contact with them.
We explained their bodies are their own and that areas covered by a bathing suit are private. These areas should not be touched by anyone unless it was mom and dad during bath (they were toddlers) or the doctor when mom and dad were in the room.
They knew if anyone touched them in way they didn’t like, they could tell a trusted adult if mom and dad weren’t there. And we would believe them.
Daisy went to school the next day and walked up to a group of kids saying, ‘These are my boobies, and you can’t touch them.’ While she presented it a little more directly than we talked about, she knew well enough to say this is my body and I say what goes. I love that about our girls.
Don’t leave it to the teachers
Our youngest loves all things feminine – high heels, bras, fancy dresses and accessories. There are times we have say no to certain outfits inappropriate for her age. Ev usually replies, ‘It’s my body, why can’t I wear it?’
Explaining that some people will look at her clothing and make judgement about her is too much for a five-year-old. She will learn soon enough how those judgement can lead to sexually charged comments and behavior.
It’s our job to ensure she knows those behaviors are wrong and she isn’t to blame for other people’s actions.
Teaching our kids to feel comfortable in their own skin and confident in their sexual boundaries is essential. Sexual education isn’t just for the classroom. Parents must take an active role.
In a time when only eight of the 24 states that require sex education include discussion of consent, parents need to make consent a main topic of regular dialog.
It’s an uncomfortable conversation. However, if we don’t all get on the same page of what these definitions of consent, harassment and assault are, we’ll be treading water here for years to come.
Sexual misconduct, harassment and assault are not the same
Sexual boundaries and the laws to protect victims are confusing. While federal law has specific language, state laws can vary on whether actions are civil violations, criminal acts or just tacky behavior.
For example, in Minnesota, sexual misconduct can include groping and fondling of breasts and is classified as a misdemeanor. However, in New York, sexual misconduct includes actually engaging in sex.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, The Barna Group found discrepancies between men and women in the what constitutes sexual harassment.
According to their survey, 86% of women stated making sexual comments about someone’s looks at work qualifies as sexual harassment. When asked the same question, 70% of men equated those same comments as sexual harassment – a significant difference of opinion.
How can we get those definitions and viewpoints aligned? We advocate for improved legislation, active investigations, and victims’ rights. We talk with our employer/employees, with our government leaders, our school administration and our youth.
Discussions about engaging in sex is not enough. Conversations with our boys and girls must include consent and ensuring that any sexual interaction is mutual.
Talking Points for parents
- Understanding body language – what do visual signs of discomfort look like
- Listening and respecting other people’s feelings
- Discuss how they would respond to specific scenarios
- Explain that changing your mind about a conversation topic or action is okay
- Encourage them to look out for their friends and tell an adult if they think a friend was hurt
If you have additional helpful sites, messages or dialog points on how you plan to help our youth understand sexual consent please share. Conversations lead to action.