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Ways to Educate our Teenagers about Sexual Assault

As a teen and college student, I knew plenty of people who were victims of sexual assault—I’m guessing you did too. While alcohol and binge-drinking have long been at the core of this problem, many other issues need to be discussed with our kids. This includes spiked drinks, date-rape drugs, and the importance of consent.

We can’t afford to ignore these pervasive issues with our children. As parents, we need to recognize that whether or not something has impacted us directly, we still need to arm our kids with the knowledge and power to protect themselves.

But how do we do that?

6 steps to help prevent sexual assault:

1. Provide sex education.

Damien Sendler, clinical sexologist. works and evaluates teenagers and young adults who are victims of sexual assault. He underscores the importance of talking to kids about sex education around the age of 10 because of the “current pace of life, and increasing speed in psychological and physical maturation among teenagers.”

Sendler continues, “Sixty percent of young people say that by the age of 13 they have already been sexually exploring their body either individually or with a partner the same age.” It might alarm parents to hear these statistics, but it’s important to know so we can educate our kids about safety precautions at the appropriate time.

We all know as our kids go through puberty they are more likely to pull away, experiment, and rebel. It’s our job to shed light on things, even that which we think may scare our kids. That way when they are off with their friends or at a school dance or party and dangers arise, they are equipped to handle it. This must include how alcohol and drugs impacts inhibitions and decision-making—even if your teen is not the one consuming the substances.

2. Don’t judge your teen.

Sendler suggests sitting down with your child and getting a feel for how much they already know about sex. Then, parents need to tailor the conversation according to the information your child provides. It’s important not to make your teen feel judged in any way.

Cyndy Etler, a board-certified teen life coach, says parents must “make it clear that the door is always open for non-judgmental conversation” by being willing to discuss their personal experiences or things they have heard from their friends or the media. We need to be looking at their reality, so we have a better sense of what life is like for them. Additionally, reassure your teens that they won’t get punished when they share information with you.

3. Clarify the difference between sexual assault and appropriate behavior.

Many teens don’t like to admit that they do not truly understand what sexual assault is—they either can’t relate to the experience or it’s not on their radar. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), it’s crucial to share statistics and information that are relevant to your child, such as the fact that 93 percent of victims who are minors know the perpetrator and that no one looks like a rapist.

Sendler discourages “talking to kids in a way that makes one gender feel more vulnerable than the other.” We should not tell our daughters they are more likely to be sexually assaulted because of their “femininity, physical weakness, and clothing,” he says.

This also means we should not tell our sons they are more likely to be accused of sexual assault. Instead, these conversations should be framed to discuss appropriate behavior. This includes setting boundaries, consent, and respecting both your own and other people’s bodies.

You should also discuss legal issues with your teenagers. For example, explaining that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent—including with someone who is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol—is rape.

4. Review safe party behavior.

There are simple habits your teens can follow to keep them safe when at a party or social gathering to reduce the possibility of sexual assault:

  1. Stick together with a friend that keeps tabs on any irregular behavior (yours or someone else around you)
  2. Stay with your drink at all times. When at a crowded venue, try to drink from a bottle or cup with a lid
  3. Never accept a beverage from anyone you don’t know well
5. Encourage them to trust their judgment.

In addition, we need to teach our kids how important their intuitive voice is without “invoking fear” in them, says Sendler. We do this by telling them if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. We should encourage kids to trust their gut and get out of the situation as quickly as possible. And we should let them know that they can call their parents for help without fear of repercussions.

6. Emphasize getting help if necessary.

Finally, encourage your teen to get involved if they believe someone is at risk. If your teen sees someone in trouble or pressuring another person, they should intervene—or get help to do so.

We all have to look out for one another.

Katie Bingham-Smith

Katie Bingham-Smith had three kids in three years and crafts herself silly in order to stay sane. She loves to write, wear faux leather pants, eat at burger joints, and make beautiful things. You can see more on her blog www.philigry.comFacebook and Instagram.