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.
I’ve done a lot of research into what keeps kids safe in the world they live in today. I’ve actually come up with nine essentials that all parents must do and know in order to keep their kids safe. Can you guess what the first essential is?
Yep. A study done on over 90,000 kids showed that a strong parent-child relationship is the number one factor in keeping kids safe as they grow up. In research terms, this is called “parent connectedness.”
Parent connectedness happens when a child feels like his parent is available to him, when he feels loved by his parent and—pay attention to this—when a child feels like his parent has set clear guidelines. Kids want rules. They need rules. This is what makes them feel safe and loved.
Nothing can replace parent-connectedness. No after-school program or activity or club. A parent’s ability to connect with her child is still the most effective at keeping her child safe.
(I share all nine essentials you need to keep your kids safe in my online course How to Keep Your Kids Safe in a Tech-Sex-Drug-Filled World, which is available here.)
Sexual assault is a serious issue, but it is not one you should feel afraid of so much as you should prepare for. Stay connected to your child, limit her time online, and teach her from an early age about consent. You have the power and ability to keep your child safe and instill the invaluable lessons that will help her keep herself safe someday.
To read more about how to keep your child safe from sexual assault, read my article “Sexual assault is every parent’s nightmare. Here’s one thing parents can do to keep their child safe”.