I love that Kate knows how to read. She is not a voracious reader like I am (Can you believe that I read the novel "It" when I was 10? One year older than she is now. I remember reading it just to spite this kid in my class who had bragged about reading this 1000 page book and damned if I was going to let that fucker beat me at anything. I learned my lesson, that book scarred me for life.), but she reads everything, signs on the street, papers left out on the table, magazines in their racks. Not so much for picking up a book and just sitting for hours to read, but she has a curious mind and likes to gather as much information about her surroundings as possible. Yesterday, a headline caught her eye and she said, "Crosby goes to jail? What? Isn't he the hockey player? Why is he going to jail? My friends really like him a lot."
"I don't know Kate, I didn't hear about him being in trouble. Wait, was there a picture? Was the man black?"
"Oh, not Crosby babe, Cosby, he's in a lot of trouble and has been charged with several crimes."
We were at Walmart and she'd seen the Enquirer's headline about Bill Cosby going to jail. Glad she picks up on the quality mags. Anyway, she asked me what had he done wrong and I hesitated because she is at a delicate age where she's growing boobs and shaving her legs, but is still afraid of the dark and wants her mummy. How honest are you with your kid when he or she asks you a loaded question in such innocence?
"He's been (or being) charged with drugging and then sexually assaulting several women."
"What's sexual assault?"
"It's when someone touches you in a sexual way when you don't want them to, it's against the law."
"So what do you mean he drugged them?"
"He allegedly gave them a drug that made them sleepy or something and then did sexual things to them without asking permission."
"But how did they know he did that if they were sleeping when it happened?"
"Sometimes when something like that happens to you, when you wake up, you feel different and you feel like something is wrong. You can go to the doctor and they examine you and they can sometimes tell if someone has done something like that to you. Or maybe the drug he gave them made them sleepy, but they still knew what was happening. I don't really know all the details Kate."
"Oh. Wow, that's interesting. Okay, so what do you mean when you say sexual?"
"You know what sex is Kate, right? We've talked about that?"
"Ew, yes, we have, please do not explain it to me again."
"Okay, well, that's what I mean about sexual. He touched them, well he alleged touched them, he is being charged, but it will have to go to trial and he will have a chance to defend himself and they will have to prove that he did it before we can say that he did. That's how the system works. But anyway, he allegedly touched their bodies in private places that he shouldn't have touched without their consent. I'll give you an example. I know it seems strange, but one day you will want a boy to kiss you and if you want him to and he does, that is okay. If you don't want him to kiss you and he kisses you anyway, even after you told him no, that is sexual assault. The reason this is making headlines is because Bill Cosby is a comedian who starred in a TV show for eight years when I was a kid. It was the most popular show on TV at the time and he was the dad on the show. He played a doctor with five kids and wife who was a lawyer. Everyone loved Bill Cosby, so people are even more upset that he supposedly did this to women. The other problem with it is that most of these women trusted him or worked for him or hoped to work for him and he took advantage of them. There are a lot of aspects of this case that have people pretty upset. Sexual assault is one of the worst things you can do to another person, but for someone like him to have done such a terrible thing is shocking to everyone."
At this point I paused and figured, I might as well have that conversation with her. You know, the "No one should ever touch you without your consent" conversation. It's such an ugly thing to say to a child, to make them aware that someone might touch her inappropriately, someone might shame her, end her childhood, destroy her life, but if I never warn her and something happens, will she know how to handle the situation? Will she know it's okay for her to say no? Will she come to me and tell me what happened, or will she be scared that it was her fault?
"Kate, I have something important to say to you. You know it's not okay for anyone, ever, to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. Like, what do you mean?"
"I mean in a sexual way, on the private parts of your body. Again, it might seem crazy, but one day you are going to want someone to touch you that way, but right now, you are too young and no one should be touching you like that. And when you're older and you are curious and you want to kiss boys, it's still not okay for anyone to touch you if you don't want them to. It's especially not okay for a grown-up to touch you. It is against the law for a grown-up to touch a child in a sexual way and it is never, ever your fault if that happens. I don't really want to say this to you, because I don't want to scare you, but a lot of times it's someone you know and someone you trust and that's what makes it so much worse because sometimes that makes you feel like you did something wrong instead of them. But you are a little kid and if something like that did happen, there is no way it's your fault. Even if you were walking around naked, that is not an invitation to touch you. It's never okay without you saying it's okay. Also, trust your instincts, if you meet someone and your immediate impression is that he is a douchebag, he probably is, no matter how much he sweet talks you later. If your first impression is that he's a good person, you're probably right about that too."
"Alright, I get it. And if that ever does happens I will tell you."
"That's good Kate. I'm glad you would trust me with that. I would never be mad at you or blame you for anything that happened, I would help you figure out what we do next. But I want to warn you that you may not want to come to me because you might feel embarrassed or ashamed and sad or scared and you might not want to talk about it. Please come to me anyway."
"Why wouldn't I want to talk about it? And how do you know how you would feel after? How do you know I might be too embarrassed or scared or sad?"
Damn, that kid is astute.
"Uh, well, I read a lot. I know how different people react to different traumas. Those are just a few of the complicated emotions you might have about something like this."
"Okay, got it. Can we get popcorn?"
And with that casual question, the conversation was over. I've always tried to be honest with Kate, but sometimes it's hard to know when it's time (if ever) to have certain conversations with our kids. However, given the statistics below, I think this is an important conversation to have with them at some point. We need to give them support and information before anything happens so that maybe they can avoid being put into that position. Kate may be a little less innocent today than she was yesterday with that conversation, but honestly, if it means that she can protect herself, it's worth that lost innocence.
Sexual Assault Statistics in Canada*
• Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
• 1 - 2% of "date rape" sexual assaults are reported to the police
• 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
• 11% of women have physical injury resulting for sexual assault
• Only 2 - 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
• 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
• over 80% of sex crime victims are women
• 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
• 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
• 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
• 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under 16
• half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
• 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
• 1/5th of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
• 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
*taken from http://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm