(Sexual assault, rape and suicide are mentioned but not in detail)
You may be expecting a post about my depression/PTSD/anxiety with it being “Mental Health Awareness Week” and I have done one yesterday. Today though I thought I would discuss something close to my heart that very much is intertwined with my mental health. I will again not go into too much detail as I am still very much on my journey to recovery from the wounds it has caused but I think it definitely needs to be talked about. So today’s post is about consent.
To give you a sort of background on this I will just say I have been sexually assaulted/raped so this is one reason why I am so passionate about this issue. It is something that should never happen but is so prevalent in society. There is often a lot of victim blaming and shaming which just encourages a stigma and leads to people suffering in silence, increased mental health disorders and even suicide. It is partially the cause of my own PTSD and I am still learning how to live with it whilst not seeing myself as broken and dirty.
Something you often see around today is adverts and articles about consent, such as “no means no”. They basically talk about how you should talk to your children about sexual consent and if a woman says no you should stop. This is a very positive step on the road to reducing the occurrence of these vile attacks. But sometimes people find it awkward talking to their teenagers about sex even, so wonder how to bring it up without it being awkward. Plus they want it to actually sink in rather than being a weird conversation with mum or dad that their child brushes off embarrassed. Also not forgetting that it is not just women that get sexually assaulted.
The thing is consent isn’t just about sex. Consent is saying yes or no to anything. People give consent all the time without thinking twice about it. People can ignore someone’s consent without even thinking twice about it. Sharing secrets they shouldn’t have. Taking pictures of strangers. Now maybe I think more about this because of my experience but maybe we all should.
Most people would agree that prevention is better than the cure. And although we cannot 100% prevent these depraved acts we can help by the way we educate our children. Now I’m not gonna start talking to my 5 year old son about sex and assault. He would not digest and understand this and it would probably do way more harm than good. However I can teach him about the idea of consent.
I can teach him that if someone says no then you stop what you are doing or not start something. For example, he may tickle his little sister to make her laugh but if she says no that means she has had enough and he should stop. I also will try and teach my daughter the same when she can understand so he sees that he also should have his word respected. Starting off small is the way to go but it can then gradually lead up to important conversations about more serious issues and it will not be such an alien concept. Better informed children leads to better informed adults.
Children are individuals smarter than we often give them credit. So as well as teaching him I also need to show it in my behaviour. So if he says no to me (in a reasonable situation, not just in defiance) I must also respect this. I read an article somewhere about a mum who doesn’t force her child to share. She respects his ability to choose and honestly this will lead to better adults who respect other people’s choice as well as their own. I will link it below when I find it.
So to summarise. 1) Consent is crucial in sexual and non sexual situations. 2) If someone says no, you stop/don’t start. 3) If you say no, another person should stop/not start.
This is just another aspect of respect for yourself and others. If we can teach our children this then maybe it is one way we can leave this world in a better state than we found it. And who doesn’t want that?
ps. Check my About Page for ways to contact me and share any stories or advice on this issue
Article mentioned above: 6 Reasons Why I Don’t Force My Children To Share