When Keith Smith was just 14 years old, he was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger in the woods in his hometown. He was brave enough to report it, which led the abuser to get arrested. Keith became brave enough to share his story to others to help them and educate the public about sexual assault. There are millions of different stories that are related and are just like this one. As a parent, brother, or sister, finding out that your family member has been a victim of sexual assault is not easy to hear. They feel angry, want justice and a solution to these acts of sexual assault. Sexual assault is not an easy topic to talk about, however these topics that are not easy to bring up are the most important. Every 98 seconds another personal experiences sexual assault (Rainn, Scope of the Problem). There are millions of people who are victimized each year, with the different groups and the amount of people shown on the chart. Sexual assault is a huge problem worldwide, and it needs to be seen as something we NEED to prevent and find a solution for.
Before understanding how to end and prevent sexual assault, it is needed to first be aware of the terms and know exactly what they mean. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact behavior without consent of the victim. There are different types of sexual assault such as attempted rape, unwanted sexual touch, force, and penetration of the victim’s body. Force isn’t always physical, there are several types of force such as threats, emotional pressure, psychological force and manipulation. Consent may be seem confusing for someone who has never been taught it or exposed to this type of talk. The definition of consent is “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Sexual or not, consent is an important concept for everyone to learn. There are several precautions a person is able to look out for such as always watching your surroundings, making sure one doesn’t drink too much, how to protect your self and many more. However, these precautions don’t fix the act of sexual assault, they only prevent oneself from being sexually assaulted. I want to focus on how to prevent others from performing the act of sexual assault. Sherry Hamby is an editor of the journal Psychology of Violence who states “If you don’t really understand perpetrators, you’re never going to understand sexual violence.” Hamby has done many interviews of people who have committed sexual assault and his conclusion states, “Their last trait shared by men who have raped in the past believe that they are not the problem.” The question is, what makes these people believe that this kind of behavior is okay? I believe it all leads back to how you were raised. If your parents did not talk to you or teach you about how to respect and treat others, then one will grow up to do whatever they please without realizing what they are doing is wrong.
The solution to preventing sexual assault is to teach children starting from a very young age about consent. Teaching children about consent helps reduce sexual harassment, assault and coercion. When we teach children about consent, we help them and show them how to express their wants and also what they don’t want. By teaching consent to children, we are showing them and are “giving them tools to express their limits.” Starting from this young age, these children are able to learn about and the gain the confidence on how to say no when someone is violating their personal space. Also, they are learning that when someone tells them no, they need to stop what they are doing right away without asking why and understanding that they said no. Teaching consent means showing children that it important to respect others’ wishes and wants, “No means no and yes means yes.” It is never too young to start teaching children about consent. In fact, parents should start as early as the age of 1 years old. Parents should be able to show what the terms “no” and “stop” mean by every day actions. The more children are brought aware of consent, the more they will understand it. Although not all parents will teach their children about consent, I believe that starting as early as preschool, schools should introduce the idea of consent. Teaching this concept in schools will help the children who are not learning these lessons in their own home. This topic is not just to bring up once and never be brought up again, this topic needs to be brought up constantly which will show the children as they get older that it is an important topic.
There are several ways to teach children about consent. A way to teach them about consent is to have firm boundaries. As an example, a way to show firm boundaries is to show them that no means no. If they as for something, and the parent says no, the parents need to make sure that they understand that the answer is no is the final answer without any questions. This will teach the children right away that a no is a no and they will not try to convince them or talk their way into saying yes. Even though children can be hard to teach at times, a way to show them that consent is important is to talk to them nice and calmly. As an example, if two children are putting their hands on each other and are fighting, a way to bring to their attention is to talk to them both separately and talk to them about how putting hands on another person when they keep saying no hurts their feelings. I learned in my Child Development class that sitting with the child and explaining to them why what they did was wrong in a calm and gentle way will help them understand a little bit better.
“Parents.” Teach Consent, http://www.teachconsent.org/parents/.
“Teach Consent.” Teach Consent, http://www.teachconsent.org/#ask.
“Keith’s Story | RAINN.” Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse | RAINN, http://www.rainn.org/survivor-stories/keith.
“Scope of the Problem: Statistics | RAINN.” Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse | RAINN, http://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem.
“What Consent Looks Like | RAINN.” Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse | RAINN, http://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent.
Murphy, Heather. “What Experts Know About Men Who Rape.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/health/men-rape-sexual-assault.html.