During the COVID-19 crisis, instances of domestic violence are on the rise. With families cooped up at home together, parents have a unique opportunity to talk with children about healthy relationships, boundaries, and sexuality. Hear more from NO MORE Co-Founder Jane Randel on the TEDx stage.
I have been working in the movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault for nearly 25 years and have seen significant strides in that time. For example, today we talk about these issues far more openly than we ever have before. This is huge progress, but I believe it’s the next generation that will really make the difference. They will be the ones to lead the culture change, and it’s our job to prepare them to do it.
If you have kids in your life, you know that the older they get, the harder it is to have important and often awkward conversations with them. We know we need to make time for the “sex talk” and the “alcohol talk” and the “drug talk,” but we tend to skip over the one talk that links all the others together: the “healthy relationship talk.”
Here’s why we can’t skip it. The statistics in the US alone are staggering:
- 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a partner in one year
- 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in her lifetime
- 1 in 6 men is sexually abused before the age of 18
- 1 in 5 women is a survivor of rape
And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a sharp increase in the outreach to hotlines and first responders related to domestic violence, as survivors are trapped at home with their abusers.
So, as concerned parents and caregivers, what if we could take steps to change these statistics for the future and prevent violence for our kids and our kids’ kids? We can. Right now, with everyone together at home, it’s just the right time to do it.
How? By giving our kids the tools to know what healthy relationships look like. Teaching them to resolve disagreements without violence and to expect mutual respect in all their relationships. Helping them to appreciate personal boundaries and to understand consent beyond “no means no.”
These tools are not just for teens. And they’re not just for dating relationships. They’re valuable in friendships, too. Conversations about healthy friendships, boundaries in friendships and conflict resolution can start at any age — as young as kindergarten or first grade — and evolve along the way. This will help set our kids up to have stronger, better relationships of all kinds going forward – with peers, when dating, at work, and so on.
For sure, discussing healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships with a teen who would rather be anywhere else is not easy, but it is necessary. Because when kids want to know something, they turn to the internet and social media, meaning we have less control than ever over the messages they’re getting.
Rather than risk them learning about relationships and sex from less trustworthy sources, we have to get in front of it and be more proactive in giving them the tools and the words to make good decisions.
These are not easy conversations on a good day, and having them while homeschooling during a pandemic may not seem the most obvious time to start, but I think it is. You are home together and serving as their teacher in more ways than one. To me, it seems like the perfect time.