Every parent’s worst fear is having their child subjected to sexual harassment and defilement.

In many communities, most especially traditional ones where the culture keeps kids at bay by the unsaid kids-are-to-be-seen-but-not-heard, listen-to-your-elders, treat-your-elders-with-respect mentality, the topic of “safe” and “unsafe” touch is rarely discussed. But when it is, it’s often because that child has already experienced sexual abuse.

I come from a very traditional pacific island family – traditional in discipline, respect and hospitality towards others.  Our family is strict, but loving. Everyone who cared for us did their very best to raise my siblings and I. Yet, I can not recall having a single discussion of unwanted touch.

Like many parents, those who took care of us may have relied on the education system to discuss puberty and all things surrounding it, including its dangers.

I remember asking an Uncle (my guardian at that time) what the word “masturbation” was, which I had read in a women’s fit magazine. I was in 7th grade then and with my sheltered life, I really had no clue. His response? “You know what that is,” and he quickly walked away. But, I didn’t know. And I didn’t know the definition for a very long time.

Needless to say, I never had the “unsafe touch” discussion with any adult. I slowly learned what molestation, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape was by watching the news or seeing it in movies where it was part of the plot. Honestly, I think majority of my awareness of sexual offense came from watching Law & Order: SVU. How sad is that?

No child should have to learn the way I did and there are two important reasons why.

First, unguided children may not know how to react when someone is sexually abusing them.

Research shows that victims of sexual abuse are abused by the closest persons they trust most – family, relatives, family friends, their parents, coaches, neighbors, etc. If children are not taught to report the incident, they won’t report it. If they are not taught to say, “No!”, they won’t say it.

If they are taught to respect every elder and not answer back, how does a child tell an elder who is abusing them to “Stop!” without feeling that they are breaking a cardinal rule of respect (which, in many families during my childhood, resulted severe consequences, like  multiple spankings and having privileges taken away)?

Secondly, children need to know how to help other children who confide in them.

My heart aches knowing that a very dear person who confided in me continued to get abused because my response to her initial confidence. I effectively said, “Tell me when it happens again.”

How could I be so naïve? How come I didn’t report it?!

I should have known better, but I didn’t – and it’s because no one ever spoke to me about sexual abuse.

Her abuser is no longer able to abuse others, however there are still sexual predators and offenders out there in the midst of our company. We need to prepare our children to be aware of this.

I encourage everyone to tune into Bump Club & Beyond’s webinar on “How to talk to your kid about body safety”.

Please help parents become more comfortable in talking about an uncomfortable subject.

Share this article and register to the event. The event is free and only requires you to register using your email address. The webinar goes live on Wednesday, January 18 at 6PM PST (8PM CST). Register here.

Have questions or want more parenting resources? Go to http://www.bumpclubandbeyond.com or sign up here for a lifetime of free webinars and hundreds of BCBVIP perks.

The Guam Daily Post published an original version of this article.

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Betty Rose Cortes

Betty Rose Cortes

Betty Rose is a writer and the voice behind The #MomLife Column. Born and raised on the beautiful island of Guam, she now resides in Seattle with her daughter and fiance. She features stories of pacific island communities and shares her new role as a Chamorro mother living in the states.
Betty Rose Cortes

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