#MeToo No More: How to Talk to Your Children About Sexual Assault

The #MeToo movement supports survivors of sexual assault, bullying, and harassment. It creates many conversations, including when the appropriate time is to address these topics with children. It may seem like a tough talk to have, but it’s vital so they understand their rights. Here are some things to teach your kids as you navigate discussions about consent.

1. Discuss How to Say No

The #MeToo movement has sparked significant changes like support, increased compassion for survivors, updated policies, and enacted laws. However, many still suffer in silence. Whether they remain quiet due to fear of victim-blaming or retaliation, awareness, and support should be at the forefront of society surrounding sexual abuse.

Teaching kids boundaries and consent can start as early as you want as long as they’re old enough to understand. Telling them it’s OK to say no by teaching them about consent and what it means when someone else says no can empower them. Let them have a choice regarding their body and instruct them that no one should touch them without their permission.

Physical affection shouldn’t be forced, regardless of age. Teach kids when to say no, which can be challenging if you have a young child. Try roleplaying to give them real-world examples and explanations of scenarios. Ensure to stress the importance of how respecting boundaries shows you care. You ask before you touch someone and vice versa, and listen when others say no.

2. Listen to Your Intuition

You should instill in your kids that going with their gut is best. Typically, your intuition will tell you when something feels off, so listen to that and let it guide you to make the right choices. Allow the conversation to continue as your child grasps the concept of saying no, setting boundaries, and understanding consent. 

You should encourage your child to take chances and step outside their comfort zone in many situations, but not when it comes to their bodies. Allow them to say no to things that make them uncomfortable, especially regarding touch. Ensure your child knows what to do when they feel unsafe. Give them the tools they need to make the right decisions.

Following your instincts is a learned trait, so let them navigate their intuition early. When your child says no to something, prompt them to explain why they’re refusing and talk about it. Open dialogue can go a long way in establishing trust and making kids feel safe.

4. Be Their Safe Space

It’s important to communicate openly with your child so they know they can talk to you about anything. You want to be their safe space, so hold back any judgment or critique when they’re vulnerable.

Pay close attention when your child is talking to you, and notice how you react. Respect how they feel and ensure their feelings are validated, no matter what they are. Be a good listener and encourage your children to talk to you about things. Use scenes in movies or television to start conversations about potential scenarios and how to react as your kids age.

Discuss empathy and avoid victim-blaming language when talking about sexual assault. Encourage your kids to hold people accountable for their actions by reporting abuse when they see it. Give your child options by letting them know they can come to you or another trusted adult.

4. Teach Self-Defense Tactics

Teaching your child how to protect themselves from harm can also help them keep others safe. While violence isn’t encouraged, bullying is unfortunately still prevalent in society. Children should know how to defend themselves. Self-defense can be useful in many situations, but holding the abuser accountable by reporting them is crucial.

Teach your child where to hit an abuser, like the knees, head, or groin. Ensure they know how to make a proper fist and master the stance to maintain balance and encourage attackers to get back. An open-palm hit or a straight strike is effective since aggressors won’t be prepared to block. Repeated punching and proper footwork like knee strike maneuvers are excellent self-defense techniques to teach your child.

Ensure your child knows not to take things into their own hands if they witness abuse. Encourage them to act in other ways, like becoming an ally for victims. This means extending friendship, listening, and checking on them. If your child is older, you can encourage them to participate in school policies or protests that align with the #MeToo movement.

Talking With Children About Sexual Assault

Discussing tough topics with your children can be challenging, but the door should remain open. Allow the conversation surrounding sexual assault to be ongoing between you and your child so they know questions are always OK. The #MeToo movement has helped many kids feel more confident in saying no. Parents should encourage their kids to set and respect healthy boundaries and keep themselves and others safe.

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you’ll find her in a yoga class, advocating for her children, or doing her part to save the planet.

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