Talking to children, teenagers, and young adults about boundaries, consent and sexual assault isn’t always easy. With trends on social media like “#whyididntreport” and “#metoo,” what could be difficult conversations are often more readily discussed on social media and in headlines.
Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is accused of sexual misconduct as a young man.
In one accusation, Christine Blasey Ford alleged she was sexually assaulted many years earlier by a future federal judge, according to sworn affidavits her lawyers said Wednesday they submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
These claims are now making national headlines and bringing up the question of how to talk to young people about consent.
“We start talking about consent with young children. A lot of times it’s even those, we talk about hugging. We’re teaching them consent and boundaries, and that they’re in control of that decision of whose touching them of not,” said Catherine Oaks, the director of victim services at the Helen Ross McNabb Center in Knoxville.
Oaks says education about boundaries can start at any age. With toddlers, she says it normally begins with conversations about hugging.
“Safe touch, bad touch that we’re going to do with the young ones. As they get older, we talk about friendships, relationships, cycle of abuse, specific sexual encounters, consent,” said Oaks.
Oaks says many times, open communication with young people can make all the difference in education. That could begin, she says, with headlines online or on television.
“When you see specific topics in the media, I think that’s an easy outlet to start conversations. That’s an easy way to bring up specific topics. From there, you can bring up what education they’ve had around it,” said Oaks.
The Helen Ross McNabb Center’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline is (865) 522-7273. It can be used at anytime, according to Oaks, even outside of crisis situations.