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| by Mai Atef

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is one of the biggest problems that societies faces on a daily basis. A lot of us get scared and feel triggered when we hear news about sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape, which any woman, no matter her age, can be subjected to. We've also unfortunately heard of stories about children and kids who were exposed to sexual harassment and assault, and not even knowing of being aware of what was happening. Which is why we need to educate our children  and talk to them about sexual harassment, not only to protect them but to instill in them the awareness and understanding of the importance of speaking up and not being fearful or stay silent.

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It is important for every parent to know that there are many children that horrifically go through traumatic incidents of sexual harassment and assault. According to a report by the Egyptian National Center for Social and Criminological Research, 62.6% of victims of abuse and sexual harassment in Egypt are not over 20 years old and half of them are children under 15. This indicates that we need to educate our children against sexual harassment, whether your children are young girls, boys and teenagers. 

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How to talk to your kids about sexual harassment

Yes, I know that this is difficult and sensitive for many mothers and parents, especially with young children, but it's important to protect our daughters and sons. You can start by talking to your children taking care of their body and personal hygiene and then your can start talk about private parts and their names, especially if your children are still very young and do not know their names, and genital hygiene. Then you can move on to explaining to them that private parts are personal, and private. Their body belongs to them, there are boundaries and that no one has the right to see, or touch them.

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How to talk to your kids about their private parts

It is important to tell your children that males and females have different shaped genitals and you can use anatomical images to help them understand. Also, they must be told that there are some parts that shouldn't be shown or come in contact with any person, only their parents when helping them change or wash up. If your child has a phone, it is important to explain to them that they shouldn't take pictures of their private parts because no one has the right to see them. Also, explain to them that they should respect others and that other people's parts are private as well.  So it is important to give them the same space and privacy when to comes to their bodies and that they must respect other people's bodies.

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What to name their private parts

Studies say that children who know the proper actual names of their genitalia are less likely to suffer sexual abuse. Some parents prefer to use nicknames because they're shy or worried the kids would say the names in front of people, which would embarrass them. But, most doctors around the world say that it is preferable to use the correct and real names of genitals for the child’s sense of comfort, because some studies show that most children who use nicknames or pseudonyms feel ashamed of their bodies. You can then tell your kids to try and not say the name of their private parts in front of strangers. It is also important to explain to them that they shouldn't feel any shame and they can come and ask you anything or talk to you if they have any questions or confusion. 

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Personal space and Contact

Teach them, whether they're boys or girls, that there is person space and it should be respected and they should respect others' as well. It is also important to teach them to say "no" when they don't want to be touched and that any person should ask their permission before they touch them.  The more they grow up and mature, they will apply this to their life and have the strength to say "no" without fear, create boundaries and hopefully protect themselves, as much as they can, from forms of sexual assault. 

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Also, it is important for your child to know that no one has the right to touch their genitals or body, and that it is a violation on their body and is called 'sexual harassment'. They should not accept it or allow this person to do so and teach them what to do if they're exposed to this.

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What can kids do about sexual harassment?

One of the important things is that your children must know, in the case of being sexually harassed or assaulted, is that they should ask and seek help from any person around them or anyone they know.  But if your child is playing somewhere on their own and there is no one near, they can cry out until someone comes to help. It is important to tell them that they don't  have to stay silent and that it is safe and important for them to tell their parents straight away or as soon as they can. 

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How to find out if what happened was sexual harassment or not

Your child can feel confused after talking to her that physical contact is harassment, and it can get them mixed up between what is normal and what is not approved. Give them the space to be able to ask you anything about it to ensure that they now know the difference between them, and that you can help them in the case of any occurrence.

There are forms of contact that can be natural and normal types of touches that can be natural, like hugging those who are close to us and people we trust. But, strangers touching their body, asking to see their private parts or forcing or asking them to touch theirs is harassment and not safe, and in the event of being exposed to anything like this, they should seek or shout for help in order to tell those around that this person is harassing them.

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Give children a sense of security

One of the important things that every parent should take care of, is to be their daughter's or son's friend by giving them a sense of security and safety. This can help your child in the event of abuse, sexual harassment, or even blackmail. They will feel like you're their main source of support and comfort, especially during adolescence.

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It is vital to teach your kids that sexual harassment is a huge problem that happens within our society and that it should never be tolerated. They should become aware that they're not alone and that this is something that so many women go through, whether they're adults or kids. They should also know that they have the right to say no and not stay silent, they can get their rights and this person, whose harmed them, can be punished by the law.

Main Image Credits: Instagram @nataliejust


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Tags: Kids problems  Sexual harassment  Arab women  Women empowerment  Women  Women rights  Women's health  Mental health  Mothers  Parenting tips