My toddler’s cheeks are so kissable. I can barely contain myself from covering them in kisses. Recently, her own little voice is developing. While she is full of sweetness, occasionally her reply is, “No mommy. No more kisses.” Learning to respect her boundaries, even at the tiny age of two makes a difference. It is one way our family is working to raise a strong girl; one that will hopefully be able to stand up for herself, and someday engage in the dialogue against sexual assault.
April is sexual assault awareness month (SAAM). This year’s theme, Engaging New Voices, encourages parents to start conversations within their families. It is never too early to start talking with our children about their choices, bodies, and boundaries. The gift of motherhood is powerful. We can shape little hearts to care for themselves and others, and one day become a voice for the voiceless.
Learn More about Sexual Assault & How to Talk with Little Ones
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center features resources and tools to navigate these conversations. Also, RAINN has numerous statistics and safety support resources for parents. We are still in the early stages of this piece of parenting in our house, but here is what we are working on with our two-year-old:
- Teach the correct names for body parts and encourage independence in washing those areas.
- Allow children to have options for hellos and goodbyes and never force hugs or kisses. Champion instead for high fives or waves if they are feeling less affectionate.
- Model and encourage asking permission before hugging or showing affection with friends or new playmates.
- Respect and listen to their wishes when they ask not to be touched.
- As much as possible, encourage our children to use their words and verbalize how they are feeling.
Learning from other mothers can also be a source of great wisdom especially those ahead of us in the journey. Share with each other articles, books, and experiences that have helped teach our children along the way.
Donating, volunteering, or participating in local awareness-raising events are great ways to engage as a mother and alongside your family. Here are three local organizations to check out this month:
- Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) is a local, nonprofit working directly with survivors of sexual violence. During the month of April, SARC is hosting family friendly activities from a night of local performances to a self-care afternoon. Check out the flyer for their events here.
- The Women’s Resource Center at Portland State University offers a wide variety of ways to engage in Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here is a link to their events calendar. Several of these events might be better suited for parents without young children, but feel free to call their office to ask more questions about the content and space for a particular event.
- The Breathe Network is a newer nonprofit, and a wonderful resource for holistic support and trauma-informed care of survivors. Their website has more information on local events and training sessions.
Know When and Where to Get Help
If you suspect sexual assault or need help now call the local, 24-hour sexual assault resource hotline at 503.640.5311, or nationally at 1.800.656.HOPE.
Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every eight minutes that victim is a child. Hopefully, horrific statistics such as those will propel us into action not out of fear but through acknowledgement of the powerful role we can play as mothers.