April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the growing problem of sexual assault in our nation.
Did you know…
- 1 out of every 6 women in the U.S. is a survivor of attempted or completed rape?
- 1 in 9 girls has experienced sexual assault at the hands of an adult?
- 82% of all sexual assault survivors under the age of 18 are female?
- Survivors of sexual assault are four times more likely to develop a drug abuse problem and three times more likely to experience depressive episodes as an adult?
I don’t share these statistics with you to scare you. I share them to equip you. You may think sexual assault is completely out of your control as a parent, but it’s not. In fact, parents hold a lot of power when it comes to keeping their children safe from predators and harm.
Because of social distancing, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has chosen online spaces as their focus for this year’s National Sexual Assault Awareness month. As a parent, you can do a lot to protect your child from online predators and monitor your child’s screen time.
Remember, you are in control of how your child uses technology. Technology is not in control of you or your child. Set healthy boundaries around screen time such as no phones or computers in the bedroom, not screen time an hour or more before bedtime, and make sure you know and approve of all apps your child is using, social media and otherwise.
Teaching a child about sexual consent should not start during sex-ed when she’s in high school. It should start as early as possible using simple language and examples. For example, we used to tell our children, “Give your aunt a hug! Give your grandpa a kiss!” But this does not teach a child consent. This teaches a child that an adult can tell her what to do with her body, and she has to comply.
I now recommend that parents allow their toddlers and children to choose whether or not they want to give their uncle a hug. Ask, “Do you want to give Uncle So-and-so a hug?” If your child shakes his head no, simply say, “OK. You get to choose what you do with your body.”
This will instill bodily autonomy in your child from a young age so that he is equipped to know when he is OK with doing something with his body and when he is not and needs to say no.
To learn more about how to teach your child consent at every age and stage, I recommend reading this article.