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

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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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