Parents are reaching for teachable moments on sex harassment

NEW YORK — Kenna Cook is a sex educator by profession, so it’s natural that at home she teaches her two boys, ages 4 and 7, about the nuances of consent and the importance of being the bosses of their own bodies.

 

When sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein hit, she sat them down once again.

“I told them that there have been people in my life, men and women, who have not listened when I have said that I am the boss of my body,” said Cook, who lives in Sacramento, Calif. “They were unkind to me and did not respect my words. We talked about how many other women and girls have been hurt by men and boys.”

Martha Mendez-Baldwin, an assistant professor of psychology at Manhattan College in New York, said parents should seize the moment.

“Parents should speak to their younger children about the difference between a good touch and a bad touch.

“They should remind their children about boundaries and privacy related to their bodies and encourage children to say no or stop if anyone, including a trusted adult, crosses those boundaries,” she said.

Parents should also reinforce the message that if this happens, “it is not their fault and they are doing the right thing by reporting it, that this is not tattling,” she added.

Karen Soren, a professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, urges parents not to shy away from dicussing the allegations against Weinstein.

“The Harvey Weinstein case and the ‘Me Too’ movement (are) exposing the scale of sexual abuse and harassment for women worldwide,” she said.

“These are serious issues and parents may often feel that they’re ‘adult topics.’ However, kids of all ages and genders pick up on these conversations at school, on playgrounds and on social media, so it’s important to address them openly at home as well.”

 

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