to talk to my daughter about rape?

This visceral question posed by a sincere, blogging mother in, “What is the Right Age To Talk to My Daughter About Rape?” blocks an airway quicker and more completely than a too hastily chewed chunk of steak.  Her most accurate, chilling and speak-for-themselves-statistics about violence against young girls furthers the gasping need for an emotional Heimlich maneuver.

This gestalt of revulsion, however sincere, is not enough to protect our daughters unless we leverage the valuable information Lisen provides and communicate with our daughters.

I have three daughters, 10, 8 and 5.  Would I prefer to chat with them about Because of Winn Dixie, or plot delicious excuses to creatively infuse a recipe with Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Baking Chunks than discuss rape?  Absolutely.  Nothing hard about that math.

However, I’d rather prompt some uncomfortable conversations than hold any one of their hands in an Emergency Room as a physician completes a rape kit.

And that’s what it boils down to… the deferral of denial… that this tragic offense can happen to me or mine. It’s the real life version of the willing suspension of disbelief in reverse.  Instead of the maintenance of the happily ever after story line, we must acknowledge that rape isn’t something that only happens to other women or other people’s children.

It’s what a Mamma must be willing to acknowledge if she wants to protect her kids.

In most families, I expect it wouldn’t be starting a discussion from whole cloth either.  Parents have been teaching their kids about Stranger Danger for generations now.  I can’t be the only Mamma that’s been asked what might bad strangers do.  However vague the language, most of us have already seeded the idea that there are people out there that might want to do children harm.  This assertion is reinforced by our pediatrician.  Every time she does an annual exam on one of the kids, when the time comes to check his/her “private place,” she will state, “You know that no one should touch you here except Mom or Dad or a doctor.”

After every physical for years,  I add to the doctor’s statement, “You know that no one should touch you there except Mamma or Papa, or a doctor with Mamma or Papa’s permission.”

I have already begun to talk to my son and daughters about rape.  We need to talk to our boys too as the sad reality is, they can also be victimized.  In our family, we talk about how they are in charge of their bodies. We teach them that they own the permission of who can and cannot touch them, hug them, or offer them physical attention. Recently, one of my daughters expressed discomfort about an extended family member hugging her when she didn’t want to be hugged and holding her hand when she wanted to let go.  We discussed as a family that this was good practice for us all to consider how to tell a person verbally and nonverbally that we don’t want to be touched. As a shockingly high incidence of rape occurs by an assailant known or related to the victim, this kind of preparation is fundamental.

What is the right age to talk to our children about rape?  I think we begin to indirectly talk to them about rape, the threat of rape and abduction as early as preschool. For that age group, it is age appropriate to employ other language like Stranger Danger and personal safety.  Shocking as it is to assert, however, I believe that children should learn about the threat of date rape and rape before Middle School.

That said, I also assert children should be educated in STDs, birth control, drugs and tobacco, and the warning signs of suicide before Middle School.  I expect this list to outrage some… and I accept that.  However, children can’t make informed personal decisions without information to balance and make them critical of their feeling.  Middle School is a completely inward, ego centric, identity defining time in an individual’s architecture.  Without a map to help create context to their roller coaster reactions, tweens and teens can make big mistakes.  Worse yet, the mistakes they make can promote them relationally, sexually, or legally into adult situations that they do not have the life skills, maturity or experience base to bear.

We need to fortify our children with appropriate, timely, factual information so that they don’t get ensnared in the shadows and dragged away.

We also need to pray a fortification of protection and wisdom around their precious hearts, bodies, minds and relationships.

Speak the truth, row, pray.  Pray, row, speak the truth…

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah