My sons are still in preschool, and I’m already thinking about how they’re going to treat women. More specifically, I’m doing what I can to learn how to talk to my sons about sexual assault well before they hit their hormonal teenage years, and you should too.
When I was young, growing up in a religious home, sex was rarely talked about. When it was, it was taboo and shameful and wrong, wrong, wrong. Save sex for marriage, or you are destroying your purity. I’m fortunate that I was never sexually assaulted as a teen girl, because I doubt I would have received the understanding and support I needed.
I don’t have daughters, but I do have sons. I grew up in a home where sex was hush-hush, but I’ve already talked to my husband in great detail about opening up the dialogue with our sons when they get older. They are both under the age of 3 now, but we’re gearing up. My husband also grew up in a religious household as a pastor’s kid and was made to feel horrible about normal teenage functions like masturbation and curiosity about pornography.
So, we’re doing our best to talk to our kids about sex openly and at an age-appropriate level. But what I didn’t factor in is that I would also have to talk to my kids about the darker side of sex: sexual assault. These conversations aren’t fun, but they need to be had by parents everywhere.
Whether you have sons or daughters or both, you are an accomplice in rampant campus sexual assault if you don’t start talking to your kids about it.
The conversation is hard, so what is a parent to do? Fumble their way awkwardly through “the talk” during family dinner? Yes, sometimes talking to kids about sex and sexual assault can be awkward. As parents, we have to get over it. Thankfully, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) makes it easy on us by providing a helpful infographic on how to talk to your teen about campus sexual assault.
The first step is easy, and it has to be done: Just start talking. This is pretty straightforward in our age of technology and media-driven current events — bring up a campus sexual assault in the news. Next on the list: Talk to your teen about real sexual assault facts. They will trust your guidance and insight because you are their parent.
Every teen can also benefit from a few practical sexual assault prevention tips that I frankly never heard from my parents as a young adult: Trust your instincts. Do something as a bystander. And always, always, always ask for consent.