Are You Talking With Your Kids About Sex and Sexual Assault?

Monday April 22, 2013

By Sherri M. Gordon

This month is sexual assault awareness month. One look at the headlines and anyone can see why an awareness program like this is needed. Our young people are experiencing one of the worst types of assault. In fact, statistics indicate that young girls under the age of 18 are at the greatest risk for sexual assault.

Until it hits close to home, it's easy to feel insulated and to assume things like that don't happen near you. It's easy to tell ourselves: "those things happen in cities far removed from my little community." But that's a lie. And believing that lie can lead to a false sense of security. And when parents feel secure, we may put off discussing difficult subjects with our kids like sexuality, teen pregnancy, sexual assault, sexual abuse and even sexual bullying. But I am here to tell you, sexual assault happens everywhere, even in my small town.

Imagine the shock and horror for the parents in Steubenville, Ohio when their town was catapulted to the national spotlight after a young girl was raped and videotaped after having too much to drink. Then, the students bullied her with nasty comments and photos of the incidents. Instead of students helping her, they harmed her. They made fun of her. They took advantage of her. And her life is forever altered as a result.

A similar situation happened in California. Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott was allegedly sexually battered while passed out at a party and then sexually bullied and humiliated online with photos and comments about the ordeal. Eight days later, she posted to Facebook that her life was ruined and she committed suicide. Her death is yet another senseless tragedy.

It's time for parents, teachers and community members to stop avoiding the difficult subjects. We need to teach kids about healthy sexuality - no matter how much it makes us blush. We need to teach them the warning signs of controlling and abusive dating behaviors. We need to teach them to recognize and report sexual bullying and sexual abuse - no matter how much we believe it won't happen to our child. And we need to teach them digital etiquette and talk to them about the consequences of sexting.

But most importantly we need to be involved in their lives. We need to know what they are doing, who they are doing it with and how they are communicating. Being involved in our kids' lives and talking with them about the tough issues is the best way to prevent future tragedies from occurring.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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