Sunday, August 22, 2010

Should I talk to my teen about sexual assault?

Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Timeliness Politeness Nomination?
10                       10                           10            10             Yes
Comment: Thank you for replying, sometimes hearing some advice from another person other than family or friends just makes you feel you have done the right thing you're words were great and i feel better for hearing them. thanks again and i will be contacting you again if i have any problems.

Questioner: Anonymous

Subject: Talking to son about sexual assault

Question: Dear Ms. Keller; I am the mom of a 16 yr old son. I am also a survivor of a "date rape" at age 20. I later volunteered for a rape crisis service and went on to make this field my career, becoming the director of the agency, speaking at public events and to the media about the problem of sexual violence, and sometimes relating my story as a survivor.

I left that work when my son was about 5, but the issues remain important to me. Although my husband & I have discussed some general sexuality issues with him and taught him respect for other people's boundaries and as a young child we taught him about inappropriate touching, etc., we have not spoken to him specifically about sexual assault. I feel it's important to do so; as a rape crisis volunteer I saw many young men who believed no means yes and that if they took a date to dinner they were owed sex, young men who were victims themselves, and who had close friends who were assaulted but didn't know how to help.

My husband is reluctant to tackle this subject. I feel the need to talk to him about it if my husband won't. In this discussion should I share with him what happened to me? I wouldn't go into any detail, but would simply say that this happened to me on a date and my life was greatly affected by it, and that I am OK---I sought help and eventually recovered from the emotional trauma. Or should I leave it completely out of the discussion?

Thanks in advance for your viewpoint.

Answer: Dear Anonymous, You son is 16 years old and in our society trust me when I say that because ever 7 minutes in this country a woman is raped he most likely already knows about, has heard about sexual assault. You won't be doing the wrong thing by talking to him about sexual assault or your own experience.

Talking to him about your experience and expecting him to make it better or somehow support you is unhealthy however just sharing your experience and why this is such an important topic may actually make him feel like you see him as emotionally mature and trust him to share with him. I can't see how you can go wrong.

Sometimes though parents are surprised at their teens reactions and what they share. You may find out he knows way more than you think he does. He maybe relieved to be able to tell you things he knows or people who have shared with him too.

Remember to LISTEN to him as well.

M Kay Keller

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