It's never too early to talk to your kids about sexual assault. Here's how.

Sarah Shanley Hope's story is frighteningly common.

As a kid, she went over to her neighbor's house one day to play with her best friend. While there, her friend's older brother sexually assaulted both of them.

Hope was only 6 years old.


Being so young, she didn't know how to verbalize what happened or how to process it. She carried the pain with her for years, until she had daughters of her own.

She told her own girls from the beginning, "You're in charge of your body." But at times, the message seemed to ring hollow.

Mostly, Hope recalls her older daughter, now 8, rolling her eyes, having heard the refrain so many times before: "There goes mom being overprotective, again."

But one day Hope got a call from school. A boy in the class had been caught inappropriately touching some of the girls. Her own daughter had even had a run-in with him.

"He kept hanging on me even after I said 'stop'! It was so annoying," Hope recalls her daughter saying.

Hope decided that, finally, it was time to tell her daughter her own story — her own "Me Too" moment.

"I finally said, honey, the reason I'm paying such close attention to this is that mommy had an experience when I was a kid, where someone did something to my body that wasn't OK."

"I don’t want you to feel badly inside like I did," she continued, according to her impassioned post on Medium. "I want you to know that we can always talk about the hard and confusing stuff.”

An uncomfortable but, sadly, necessary conversation. You can watch what happens next in the video below:

7 might seem like a very young age to tackle such a weighty conversation. But it might be necessary even earlier than that.

The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates that 20% of women (and 5-10% of men) recall an incident of sexual abuse as a child, with kids between 7 and 13 being the most vulnerable.

Those are horrifying statistics for any parent, so horrifying that we might wish we could be with our kids every second of the day to protect them from the horrors of the world. But we can't.

The best we can do is make sure they are aware of the danger and armed with knowledge about what to do if they need help. That includes direct talks — like the ones Hope has had with her kids — and modeling proper boundaries in our own lives.

In Hope's case, sharing her story has triggered a wave of positive change in her own community. She says several of her parent friends have called her recently for advice about how to have these conversations with their kids of all ages. And that's definitely something we need more of.

"We can’t undo the harm," Hope writes. "What we can do is choose discomfort over hiding from the pain  —  or worse, repeating it."

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.