We previously heard from readers and experts about how to talk to very young children about consent as a foundation for more explicit discussions about rape and sexual assault when they’re older and more mature—and far more likely to encounter such dangers. But this next reader, based on personal experience, warns against assault occurring when those kids are still so young:
Thank you and Caroline for hosting a sane discussion on sexual safety. I’d prefer to remain anonymous on this; I don’t want to attract unwanted attention.
I was truly bothered by [the reader note from a parent] teaching a 5-year-old girl karate so that she could someday defend herself from rape. Not that I’m against teaching 5-year olds karate; it’s a great way for children to learn self discipline and focus, and it builds habits that will benefit a person throughout their life.
The thing that got me here was the false sense of security, particularly when it comes to a child’s safety from sexual predators—because the most likely predator for that girl, until she begins developing secondary sexual traits, is a friend or family member who actively cultivates her love, someone who grooms her. And no amount of physical self defense will help her through the violation of trust she’ll experience.
Perhaps that’s a different discussion, but the threat to that girl isn’t date rape or violent “forced rape” (all rape is forced); it’s the friend or family member who’s potentially already on the inside of her parent’s circle of trust.
I say this as both a victim of a pedophile and a victim of a rape. Looking back, I see that the arc of the pedophile to the date rapist could almost be predicted. My pedophile destroyed my trust and replaced the concept that I had a right to consent with risky sexual behavior as a way of reclaiming my sexuality from him. It took me a very long time to work it out.
I don’t have an answer to teaching consent, other than to say that setting an example of consent and respect is the best way to teach consent and respect.