To me, rape is a subject that hits very close to home, so for me to go over this topic did not only give me a lot of information, but it also brought back previous memories and emotions. There were two main things that really caught my attention.
Being a parent is compiled of so many firsts and big moments you look forward to with your children. One of them most parents do not look forward to is Sex Education. Most parents find this conversation very uncomfortable. Let’s face it, my generation really didn’t get much talks as our parent’s generation did not talk about Sex at all!! But in this generation, I am surprised that 10 year olds know about Sex and it’s not from our parents, but from the internet, movies and magazines.
Despite all the progress made, our society still puts women through the wringer emotionally. From impossible body standards, to victim blaming, to the pressure to always put others before themselves, there is a whole lot for women to deal with from their teens and beyond. Although parents and caregivers can’t shield girls from the world, there’s a great deal they can do to prevent them from internalizing damaging societal messages. But what are the most important lessons to teach? Parents need to teach the most crucial emotional skills girls need to learn to navigate the world more effectively. Here are some skills to consider teaching your daughter by the time she turns 13.
1. How to respect and express her feelings.
We often neglect to teach our girls emotional intelligence because the popular stereotype is that females are good at getting in touch with their feelings and communicating them. In the real sense, when women are overcome by emotions, they become incapable of making decisions. Emotional Intelligence means having the ability to describe and express the full range of human emotion. But when girls are taught to value being happy and liked over all, they often suppress or can’t acknowledge more difficult experiences. It’s recommended that parents “authorize” their daughters’ emotions. When your girls express authentic emotions, even if they’re difficult, you take them seriously. You don’t deny them or challenge them.
2. How to feel beautiful and have a positive relationship with her body.
Lost in a sea of selfies and reality television, girls might not know how to view themselves beyond objects of desire. Teach your daughter that she is beautiful because of who she is in her heart and mind, not because of how she looks or how she dresses. Point out that, as cheesy as it sounds, real beauty does come from within. Help her understand that trying to be sexy won’t make her beautiful, because she is already beautiful without changing her appearance. Build her confidence in who she is apart from her looks and explain to her that confidence translates into beauty. Make sure her Dad is telling her how beautiful she is too. Also, Parents should discuss sex and know and use the right names for genitalia and do their best to “represent sex as a healthy, beautiful experience that should be had with joy and consent.” That means talking about what consent means early on and emphasizing that a girl’s body belongs to her alone.
3. How to stand up for herself.
Studies show that girls are encouraged by both parents and teachers to be sweet and conciliatory. And while we don’t want to send our daughters into the world with a chip on their shoulder and their fists raised looking for a fight, we need to let them know that it is okay to stand up for themselves and voice their beliefs and opinions. So tell your daughter that she can express herself strongly, but respectfully. And, if someone is mistreating her, empower her to say, “I don’t really like the way you’re treating me, so I’m going to go now.”
4. How to understand boys.
Boys and girls do have differences when it comes to their brains. Boys are more visual. Boys have more testosterone than women. These biological facts make boys and girls think differently, and approach life and problem-solving differently. Teach your daughter that she has great value, not just because she is a girl, but because she is a person and that boys are not better or more valuable than girls.
5. How to learn from friendships
Girls are frequently told that friendships are paramount, and that may be why they can be so singularly focused on those relationships. Relationships help girls learn to assert themselves, compromise, and set boundaries. Parents should view friendships as an opportunity to show girls what healthy relationships look like and how they can relate to others and themselves. Encouraging her to communicate honestly and reasonably assert herself, provides her with skills that she’ll need to push for a raise as an adult.
6. How to work hard and have faith.
Help your daughter understand that working hard is the key to moving forward in life. Reward her hard work with praise. Point out the link in her own life between her hard work and success. A strong faith will help your daughter navigate the challenges of life. It will serve as the basis for her standards and the choices she makes. Teach her about the power of faith. Teach her how to strengthen her faith. Pray with her.
7. How to feel self-compassion
It’s easy to be one’s most unforgiving critic, no matter gender. But girls get a lot of messages that it’s important to please others. So when they experience a setback, it often feels like letting someone else down. Research shows that adolescent girls may be exposed to more interpersonal stress than boys. That makes them more likely to ruminate on negative feelings, which puts them at greater risk for depression. To help prevent this cycle of suffering, parents should teach their daughters how to deal with failure. What we want is for girls to have is the capacity to move through a setback without beating themselves up. This means teaching a girl how to relate to herself and practice self-compassion in a moment of crisis. It’s important that instead of criticizing herself harshly, she focus on the universality of disappointment and practice self-kindness. By realizing others share that experience, she’ll be better prepared to treat herself compassionately and develop resilience.
8. How to deal with the online world.
Help your daughter see that the online world is not the real world. Be sure that she’s spending more time with you and your family than with her online community. The more time that she spends online, the greater her chances of feeling discouraged about what other girls have that she doesn’t, be it their clothes, their bodies, or their boyfriends.
What else are you trying to teach your pre teen daughter? Share your Comments below.
By Caroline Wangechi
WHY DON’T VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT COME FORWARD SOONER?
It is very common for victims of sexual assault to not disclose their trauma as soon as it happens that is if they ever do. But since everybody in the world is continually confused by why women don’t come forward, I offer some information based on the psychology of abuse to help answer this question.
To make sure we are all in the same page, when I talk about Sexual harassment and behaviors, I include cat calling, inappropriate touching, invasion of privacy, sexual jokes, sexual bribery, and coercion just to mention a few.
Below I have listed the most significant reasons why women do not come forward more often or delay in coming forward.
One of the primary reasons women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment or assault is shame. Sexual abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing. The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously feeling the indignity of being helpless and at the mercy of another person.
Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. Most people who have been deeply shamed take on the underlying and pervasive belief that they are broken, unworthy and unlovable.
Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in adulthood or sexual abuse in childhood tend to feel shame, because as human beings, we want to believe that we have control over what happens to us. When that personal power is challenged by a victimization of any kind, we feel humiliated. We believe we should have been able to defend ourselves. And because we weren’t able to do so, we feel helpless and powerless. This powerlessness causes humiliation which leads to shame.
- Denial, Minimization
Many women refuse to believe that the treatment they endured was actually abusive. They downplay how much they have been harmed by sexual harassment and even sexual assault. They convince themselves that “it wasn’t a big deal.” I know a lot of women who were brutally raped, and I have friends who were sexually abused in childhood. So when a scenario of a girl being sexually harassed by her boss arose, she said that it was nothing compared to what these women went through. She tells herself to just move on and forget the whole thing.
Other women are good at making excuses for their abusers. I have often heard victims of sexual harassment say things like “I felt sorry for him,” or “I figured he wasn’t getting enough sex at home,” or even “I knew he couldn’t help himself.”
And finally, women convince themselves that they are the only victim of a sexual harasser or abuser. It is often only after other women step forward to say that they were abused by a perpetrator that a victim may realize that they are dealing with a serial abuser.
- Fear of the Consequences
Fear of the repercussions is a huge obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual harassment or assault. The fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job, fear they will be failed in school, fear of being blamed, fear of being branded a victim, fear of being blackballed by people, fear of their physical safety. This is so true.
Many don’t disclose, because they fear they won’t be believed, and until very recently, that has primarily been the case. The fact that sexual misconduct is the most under-reported crime is due to a common belief that women make up these stories for attention or to get back at a man who rejected them. Victims’ accounts are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. Victims are often labeled opportunists, blamed for their own victimization, and punished for coming forward.
- Low Self-Esteem
Some victims have such low self-esteem that they don’t consider what happened to them to be very serious. They don’t value or respect their own bodies or their own integrity, so if someone violates them, they downplay it. Sexual violations wound a woman’s self-esteem, self-concept, and sense of self. The more a girl or woman puts up with, the more her self-image becomes distorted. Little by little, acts of disrespect, objectification, and shaming whittle away at her self-esteem until she has little regard for herself and her feelings. There is a huge price to pay for “going along” with sexual exploitation. A woman doesn’t just give away her body; she gives away her integrity.
Even the most confident girl cannot sustain her sense of confidence if she is sexually violated. She feels so much shame that it is difficult to hold her head up high. She finds it difficult to have the motivation to continue on her path, whether it be college or a career.
- Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness
Research has shown us that victims who cannot see a way out of an abusive situation soon develop a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and this in turn contributes to them giving up and not trying to escape or seek help. Specifically, learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed and considered to be one of the underlying causes of depression. A concept originally developed by the research of psychologist and Steven D. Meier, learned helplessness is a phenomenon that says when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they tend to simply give up and accept their fate.
Women feel it is useless to come forward, because they have seen the way others have been treated. They feel it is hopeless, because they won’t be believed, and their reputations will be tainted, if not ruined. Women who have already been sexually assaulted or harassed feel especially helpless, since the chances are extremely high that they did not receive the justice they so desperately needed. These fears can cause women to think there is nowhere to turn, to feel trapped and even hopeless.
- A History of Being Sexually Violated
Women who have already been traumatized by child sexual abuse or by sexual assault as an adult are far less likely to speak out about sexual harassment at work or at school. Research shows that survivors of previous abuse and assault are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted again. For example, research shows that 38 percent of college-aged women who have been sexually violated had first been victimized prior to college.
Those who experienced previous abuse will likely respond to overtures of sexual harassment much differently than women who have not been abused. A friend shared with me that she freezes every time a guy makes a sexual advance towards her hoping he will just walk away. This “freezing reaction” is a common one for those who were sexually abused in childhood. And as was mentioned above, those who have previously been victimized are more likely to keep quiet about the abuse, since they may have already had the experience of not being believed and not receiving justice.
- Disbelief, Dissociated, or Drugged
Finally, sometimes women don’t report sexual harassment or assault, because at the time of the abuse they were drugged, inebriated, or dissociated. Others may have been so drunk before the assault that they doubt their memories, and as we know, some are so traumatized that they dissociated during the attack and have only vague memories. It usually takes one woman coming forward before a woman is able to trust her own memories of the experience. Unless other women come forward to make a complaint about someone, most will continue doubting themselves and assuming they will be doubted if they report.
It is understandable that women have a difficult time coming forward for a number of reasons. These women deserve our recognition about how difficult it is and our compassion for what they have been through. Women need to be encouraged to begin to push away their internalized shame with anger and to learn how to give the shame back to their abusers.
Instead of focusing so much energy on trying to figure out why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask, “Why do we allow men to continue to sexually harass and assault women?” Perhaps even more important, we need to stop asking why victims wait to report and instead focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.
Information provision: creating an effective communication framework in terms of confidentiality and reliability to the prospective victims or Good Samaritan witnessing or informed of a rape case.