I’m sure you are hearing all the reports of sexual assault and harassment that continue to happen in the work place and schools and any other places where people gather. It is devastating that such a huge number of people are effected by sexual assault. Unfortunately, we have known this for a long time, but it seems as a society, we did not want to have these conversations. We wanted to turn our face the other way and pretend this evil doesn’t exist in our world, but as more and more stories come to light, we have to face facts and tackle sexual assault head on.
Sexual assault is never about sex, it is about power. It is about one person being able to control another. We see this when a person wants a job or a promotion, with a coach and an athlete, with a teacher and a student, with one student controlling another, and so many more scenarios. That’s what so many of the stories that have come to light over the last few months have been about – power over another. So, what should we do to change this dynamic that we have in our society?
First, it must begin with respect. We must be able to respect ourselves as well as others. This starts with conversations at home when our children are small. We must teach them that their body belongs to them and no one has any right to do anything to it that they do not want unless they are keeping the child healthy and clean. This gives that child respect for their body, and with that, we then teach them to respect others’ bodies. Let them know that if someone doesn’t want to be touched to not touch them even if it is as simple as a hug. We can have conversations about consent with children that are simple and easy for them to understand. We can give children examples of questions to ask like “Can I give you a hug today?” By doing this, we are teaching children to ask and check in with others to make sure everyone is respected.
As these children grow older into teens, we must continue these conversations. We have to talk to teens about what healthy relationships are and what to do if they are not in one or has a friend in an unhealthy relationship. We must talk about bystander intervention and teach skills about how to speak up if you see something you think is not ok. We also have to teach our teens what harassment looks like. If we are not giving this information to our children and teens, we will not stop the cycle of assault that we keep hearing about each time we turn on the news or look on social media.
The more conversations we have with each other, the more our society will shift from a rape culture to a culture of healthier relationships, love, and acceptance. The Sexual Assault Center makes it easy to have these conversations with anyone at any age level. We believe in taking a multifaceted approach to end sexual violence. We are able to do this through our prevention programs we offer. We have Safe@Last that is geared toward children in Kindergarten through sixth grades and Be Empowered for middle and high schoolers. We also are facilitators for the Darkness to Light’s program Stewards of Children which is geared towards adults or anyone who cares about children.
If you want to learn more about our programs or find out other ways you can start these conversations at your school or organization, please let us know. We can be reached at 615.258.5873 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Conversations are the key to change!