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My son isn't learning about consent in school. I'm furious.

How did my son learn about drugs, alcohol, STDs, birth control, and sex in school without emphasis on sexual assault?

My son met a girl this year, and they started dating. Now my "little boy" is someone’s boyfriend.

I feel like this relationship puts him in a slightly different light for me. He’s about to learn to trust someone in a new way and to care for her emotionally. She is someone’s little girl, and I want my son to treat her well.

Because of this, I decided that I wanted to talk to him about boundaries and consent. But then I got stuck.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this subject. It’s a tough one to just drop in his lap, but it’s important. When I thought about this, my mind flashed back to when he came home from school in the second grade and told me he learned about drugs and alcohol.


I remember my brief surprise: At 7 years old, my child is learning about the ways people abuse their bodies? I wondered if he was too young to understand.

Photo via iStock.

Then I remembered his 11th birthday party. One of his friends decided it would be fun to test my reaction by very casually mentioning that they were learning about STDs at school.

Then I thought of a day when he came home in seventh grade and told me about a special assembly. A man talked to the middle school students about his difficult journey through life. Until that day, he hadn’t ever thought deeply about suicide.

A few years later, as a sophomore in high school, my son proudly showed me his passing score on his driver’s ed test. He boasted about memorizing the penalties for the first, second, and third offenses of driving while intoxicated. He reminded me that he had been learning about the dangers of drunk driving for years in school.

Each of these new lessons, taught in school, pushed my child closer to "real" life, beyond the safety of youthful innocence.

Each time, I wondered if he was ready, but my concern quickly changed to gratitude when I realized that these lessons would open doors for us to talk about difficult subjects in the years to come.

I found relief in the fact that the school curriculum always seemed to be a few steps ahead of me. This could make it easier to talk about consent.

So I sat down and had the talk with him. I asked him who she was, what she was like.

I did my best to casually say: "Always keep this in mind: Never do anything with anyone who doesn’t want to do it as much as you."

Then, I asked him if he understood why this was so important. He raised an eyebrow and nodded. I tried (and failed) to be subtle when I told him that if he ever finds himself in a situation where he wants to do something physical and he’s not sure if she wants the same that he has to refrain, no matter how difficult it is. He has to protect her heart, and preserve his integrity, and make sure he doesn’t do anything without her consent.

He nodded his head and endured my impromptu lecture, and I said: "I know this is a little tough to hear from your mother. I’m sure they covered all of this in school."

But then he said no, he had not learned this in school.

He said it was obvious to him that he (or anyone) shouldn’t touch someone who doesn’t want to be touched, but he had never heard it said like this.

Photo via iStock.

As his mother, I was appalled.

How did my son learn about drugs, alcohol, STDs, birth control, and sex in school without emphasis on sexual assault?

As I talked to other parents with kids at other schools, I learned that this is common.

How is it that at school, he learned to recite the penalties for driving while intoxicated, sort through a list of illegal drugs and decipher which is a stimulant and which is a depressant, rattle off several forms of birth control, and name the symptoms of STDs I’ve never even heard of — but he has yet to hear anything about sexual violence or how to prevent it or the importance of enthusiastic consent?

My son knows that every 120 seconds, someone is injured by a drunk driver. He knows the dangers, preventative measures, and consequences of drunk driving thanks to the many years it was a major subject in health class.

He didn’t know (until I told him) that someone is sexually assaulted every 109 seconds. There is no curriculum that directly addresses the long-term effects, preventative measures, and consequences of sexual assault at his school.

As a mom of a teenage son, I can’t help but wonder: Why aren't we talking about this?

I don’t expect my son to grow up to be a drug addict or an alcoholic or a drunk driver.

I don’t expect him to contract all the STDs he can list.

And I sure as hell don’t expect him to become a rapist or the victim of one.

Photo via iStock.

But if 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime, how many perpetrators are out there?

How many were just as kind, conscientious, and mindful as my son and his friends when they were kids? This is a hard question but one I feel obligated to ask.

If we can reduce the risks of other dangerous behaviors through education and awareness, sexual assault should be part of the curriculum in every school.

I did quite a bit of research, hoping to find schools that taught more than just rape prevention focused on victim behavior, and I couldn’t find any programs. Not one. Kids are STILL being taught that prevention is mostly the responsibility of the potential victims.

Photo via iStock.

I want my teen son to know what sexual assault really means.

I want him to understand why rape is so damaging and traumatic.

I want him to know what to do if he or one of his friends is ever a victim.

And as difficult as it might be to state, I believe every young person should know the severity of the consequences of committing sexual assault.

If 1 in 5 women are survivors, that means that there are far too many perpetrators in the world. And prevention should not be the sole responsibility of the potential victim.

If we are teaching second graders not to do drugs, we can certainly teach teenagers about rape prevention, and the consequences of sexual assault.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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