April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here are some statistics from RAINN’s website:
- 44% of victims are under the age of 18
- 80% of victims are under the age of 30
- Every 2 minutes some in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
- There are approximately 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year
- 54% of sexual assaults are not reported and 97% of rapist never spend a day in jail
- About 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
- 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim
- For more statistics, information and to find resources for help go to RAINN’s website at rainn.org
I would like to talk about those last two statistics for just a moment. These two statistics point out that a good portion of victims know their attacker or abuser. Yet, when talking to our children we tend to stress the importance of stranger danger. Don’t get me wrong, it is vitally important to teach stranger danger to our children. So then, we are taught from a young age that harm at the hands of a stranger is to almost be expected somehow. However, harm at the hands of someone we know tends to be either over looked or not stressed as much as stranger danger…and yet it is just as important as stranger danger.
Our children need to know that they are safe, and can trust those around them. This too is vitally important to our children. They also need to know they do not have to comply with requests or even demands by people (and yes those who they know…even authority figures in their lives) who are asking them to do things they just aren’t comfortable with or doesn’t seem right to them (I’m not talking about requests like cleaning their rooms or picking up trash). They need to know it’s ok to ask questions about why they are being asked to do something. They need to know that it’s ok to go tell other adults, and to seek clarification on things before doing what is being asked of them. They need to know they have boundaries that others do not have permission to cross, and when not sure to ask…ask another adult about it. They need to know that just because someone they know, trust, love and is an authority figure in their life does not mean they do not have a right to ask questions and to not do things they are uncomfortable with.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the right of a child to be rude or nasty when asked to do something. Being disrespectful is not alright. Even when a person’s actions are such that respect is hard to show; we must learn to look past the person to the authority of the position the person holds, and to give respect to the position. There are many respectful responses we can teach our children. Such as: no Sir/Ma’am; no, I’m not comfortable with that; I would like to have someone else also explain that to me; and even just a simple use of tone when saying “No”. However, if the child feels they are in immediate danger they need to know it’s ok to scream for help or to scream NO. We need to teach our children how to excuse themselves from situations they are not comfortable with. Our children must know that they can not only respectfully decline to do something they are uncomfortable with, but that they should also immediately tell an adult who they trust, to receive clarity on the situation. Our children need to have the confidence and sense of security that will allow them to open up to an adult when someone tells them something that may sound right, in a funky kind of way, but doesn’t seem quite right somehow, and they just aren’t sure.
So yes, by all means I beg you to teach stranger danger to your children, but I also beg you to teach your children it’s ok to speak up when it’s someone they know such as: (and it pains me to have to say this) a parent, step-parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, relative of any kind, family friend, friend of the child, a teacher, a daycare worker and anyone the child may feel close to…that it’s ok to speak up no matter who the person is. Really that’s the key isn’t it…for a child to know that it’s ok to speak up no matter who the person is…stranger or not. That even when they are gown and, God forbid, something horrible were to happen that they will have the strength to speak up.