Raising a “Sex-Wise” Child: Answers for Antonio Brown and You!

April Rosenzweig jpegBy Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA and Author

Antonio Brown asks, “How can we fight what we do not know or refuse to see what is hiding in plain sight?”
We can start by finding the courage to be uncomfortable and step up with our minds and resources as adults to address all things sexual with our children in age appropriate ways. Kids didn’t ask to be born, and it’s our job as parents to teach them everything they need to know.

It is a sad fact that almost everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by sexual victimization. Look at the published numbers – different studies suggest 70,000 kids each year; others suggest 90,000 kids each year; some say one out of four kids; others, one out of six. Regardless of the source, the number of affected children is enormous and these findings have become the rallying cries of advocates and many professionals who remind us that these reports are only the tip of the iceberg.

Frankly, I have little use for the statistics about child sexual abuse. Besides the obvious differences in definitions and counting methods that make statisticians cringe, statistics dehumanize the unbearable pain caused to children who are victims expressed to eloquently by Mr. Brown.

More meaningful than any statistic is the heartbreaking truth that almost everybody knows someone who was sexually abused and don’t necessarily even know it: remember that sad friend from childhood? A college friend who confided why they have lousy relationships? Someone you dated or a friend of your child’s? Startling statistics pose another problem: they can leave us feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed – and rarely inspire any specific action to take place.

But there are steps a parent can take and they start in your home. Make a conscious decision with your partner about how you will deal with sexual issues in your family. What words will you use for the sexual anatomy? What are your rules on nudity, or privacy? How will we teach our children to show empathy? I devote an entire chapter in my book, The Sex-Wise Parent, to this challenge – helping families define their norms – including a series of questions for the adults to ask each other.

To truly keep our kids safe, parents must look outside the home and consider the sexual climate of the institutions serving children. A study published by the US Department of Education tells us that at least 5% of all kids report sexual contact with a school employee by the time they graduate. What is your school doing to prevent this from happening? Too many child-serving organizations rely on criminal background checks as a sole source for vetting an employee; only a tiny fraction of offenders are caught and convicted; and the majority of them will have no criminal record at all.

We fight the sexual abuse of children by doing everything in our power to raise a sexually safe and healthy child in a sexually safe and healthy community. There are steps each of us can take, starting with educating ourselves.


Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, MS., PhD, MPA is the author of The Sex-Wise Parent:  The Parent’s Guide Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family, and Talking to Kids about Sex, Abuse, and Bullying. To learn more about Dr. Rosenzweig’s work and book, please visit:  www.SexWiseParent.com.

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