My daughter posed a question last week that pierced the Back-to-School haze. She asked me how she could prevent a boy from raping her. My daughter’s only 8 years old. Naturally, I asked her what she thought “rape” meant. In the past, I could rely on her defining complex terms and words with remote accuracy. So all that was required from me was to make the necessary adjustments I thought appropriate for her age and adhere to the sage advice “Answer the question she is asking with the facts, not sophisticated concepts because that’s not what she’s asking for”. Afterwards, I was pleased with myself and relieved at how easy it was to answer her questions simply, without much detail. I also marveled at how quickly she transitioned to a new impending question she had like, did I believe in fairies.
This time, though, was different. She delivered a dead-on definition of rape that made me wince. Turns out, a girl she met at Summer Camp informed her that she had been raped by her Stepfather, giving details on how he restrained her. We talked about it for a good amount of time and I could sense her mounting anxiety over the realization that someone “could” overpower her into submission, hurt her, and more. She kept asking me how she could prevent something like this from happening to her, and soon enough we were head-on discussing other issues concerning coercion and abuse, like bullying at school.
I called my daughter’s Pediatrician and we discussed some strategies to help her cope. He supported my idea to find books my daughter and I could read together, as a foundation from which to build upon. I was pleased to learn that some of the books my daughter had already read as required reading in elementary school. Here are some recurring themes and strategies we’ve read about so far:
- Self-respect and giving respect to others.
- How to get it and give it.
- What it feels like to be disrespected.
- Gaining confidence and courage to speak out and ask questions.
- Setting boundaries.
- How to handle when boundaries are crossed.
- Listening to and honoring your “gut”.
- Defending yourself.
- Bullying; what it means and how to handle.
- How to say “no”.
- Opening up about your feelings with adults and friends.
- Listening skills.
- Seeking out caring adults who will listen and talk over problems, feelings, and confusing situations with you.
As I put my daughter on the bus this morning for her first full-day of school, I felt more assured that I’d done my homework and that we’re both better prepared for what lies ahead.
Lesson learned? It’s never too-early to start talking with your child about abuse because if we don’t, someone else will. Below is a suggested reading list I’ve provided to assist with the initiation of that dialogue categorized in ages ranging from Pre-K through Young Adult, with the help of Suzanne Harrison-Thomas, Children’s Librarian, Milford Public Library, and Sharon Breslow, Children’s Librarian, BA, MLS at the Bridgeport Public Library.
Cynthia Dartley is Publisher/Editor of Macaroni Kid, a FREE weekly newsletter featuring recipes/crafts, events and activities for kids and their families. Follow her on Face Book, Twitter andPinterest.
From The Fairfield Patch