All of the recent media coverage has once again brought sexual assault to the forefront of our collective minds. We have so many questions, but as parents, the huge one we can’t shake is this: How could people from loving households grow up to do such harm to others?
Is there anything we can do to help ensure our children learn from an early age that they are in charge of their own bodies and that they don’t have the right to other people’s bodies as well? Here are some easy ideas that you can incorporate into your every day life that can help your kids grow up with a strong sense of self (and others!).
Hugs not necessary: This sounds a little counterproductive, but there are many things we can teach our children about respect and thankfulness to relatives, adults and their peers that don’t have to involve unwanted hugging. It seems so simple; why would a quick squeeze from Great Aunt Gertrude be such a huge deal? If we want people to know that their right to say no matters, start small. Let them know their choices matter, even if it’s not a serious issue!
Sharing is caring, but only sometimes: We learn on our very first day of preschool that sharing is an important part of getting along during macaroni art, and likewise, a great way to set us up for lifelong contributions to society. There’s a limit, though. Give your child chances to have a toy all to themselves, to have the power to say, “This is mine, I’m playing with it,” and let their playmate know that it’s time to wait or find a new activity. Heck, we’re grown ups, and sometimes we don’t want to share that last slice of cheesecake! Give your kids opportunities, within reason, to assert themselves and learn that their no truly means no.
Consider using real anatomical labels: Not everyone will agree on this one. But consider this: Many who sexually groom or abuse children tend to use pet names for genitals in order to reduce the risk that a child will let someone know they are being hurt. Giving kids the power to know their own body parts and empowering them to speak up can go a long way in eliminating shame surrounding the human body.
If you have been a victim of childhood sexual violence or sexual assault as an adult, please consider some of the following resources (along with your local authorities):
Cara Del Favero is a Capital District mother of two, placenta encapsulation specialist and a birth and postpartum doula providing holistic, nonjudgmental support for all childbirth options. To contact her, visit thealbanydoula.net or call 337-6272.