teach them to speak

October 24, 2017

There is such sadness and heaviness with all the news of sexual harassment/assault stories that have been coming out these past few weeks. As a mother of 4 girls, it reminds me to be especially vigilant, and teach my girls to do the same, but most importantly, I want them to learn to speak.

A week ago, I told Ben of one instance in my life when an older male made me feel uncomfortable. I was in 11 or 12, and older male in our church (I think he was either 19 or early 20s) came up from behind me when no one was around, and gave me a kiss on the cheek as I was cleaning a table. He just laughed as he walked away, and I was shocked, so I laughed it off too. I never told anyone because I just chalked it up to it being a joke, but it was kind of weird. I thought he was just trying to be annoying or something, and he very well may have been, but it certainly was not right. After I told Ben, he said that was not okay for him to do. I know that now and would be angry if someone did that to True, who is the same age I was when it happened, but at that time, I was unsure, so I just never told anyone (until a few days ago when I told Ben). Knowing what I know now, I should have just said something to my parents (I told them last week too for the first time).

We’ve always told our daughters, “If anything ever makes you feel uncomfortable, just tell us. We won’t get mad at you.” Also, another rule we have is there are no secrets allowed in our home. In case someone tries to disguise something harmful to them as a “secret” that should never be told to us, it’s our hope that would raise a red flag, make them feel uncomfortable, and tell us. If we are planning presents or doing something for someone we don’t want them to know (for birthday or some sort of gift), we call it a surprise, and never a secret. We want the channels between us and them to be as wide open as possible. Additionally, we never discount that something harmful can be done by someone close to us. We ask the girls all the time, about people close to us, and if “so and so” made them feel uncomfortable. Not that I have any concerns, but I do ask them, “Has Papi ever made you feel uncomfortable?” And Ben asks them about me too. Our hope and prayer  is that we foster a safe environment where they feel comfortable speaking about anything. Even if they’re unsure of something, we want them to speak.

We aren’t naive to the evils in this world and we want to equip our daughters as much as possible. One of the most powerful things they have is their voice, to use it with gospel intentionality and to speak up when needed.

4 comments on “teach them to speak”

  • Leire says:

    I agree totally with you!

  • thank you for sharing this. I have a toddler son and also a daughter who is 4 months old, and one of the things I have been feeling heavy about is what it will be like for her as a female to grow up in this world.

  • Cassandra says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I don’t have kids yet but this is a subject I wonder about when the time comes. Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge as a parent. Love you and your little (big) family 🙂

  • That is very weird about what you had happen to you, and it was wrong.

    The youth pastor of the church I went to when I was 12-16. . .well, I had a hard time with him because he would pick up the 13 year old busty girls wearing bikinis (which he shouldn’t have allowed to be worn at a youth group anyway) and throw them into the pool (I had no breasts and my body looked 10 when I was 15 other than the height I have). While he would pretend like it was funny and innocent, it just bugged me. One time we went to a weekend retreat somewhere and he told me an embarrassing story for himself. He thought he saw me talking to someone, snuck up behind “me” and gave “me” a hug. The girl turned and it was not me, but some other young girl who was frightened by it. He told me how awful he felt doing that, but the point is, he was trying to hug me. He never did touch me at all, which I am thankful for, but every time I have run into him at funerals or dinners to celebrate mutual friends now that I am in my thirties, I think about what else he might have done that I did not witness. It worries me.

    As a mom of two boys, I too talk to my sons about how if anyone tries to tell them to keep a secret, it is because they know they will get in trouble for doing something wrong. I tell them to let us know if people try to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable. I do that because my husband was sexually abused by an elder in his church, my brother was gang raped by boys, and one of my best friend’s husband was raped as a teen at his first job by the owner of the store.

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