Did I get your attention? Good. Now it’s your turn. Say it loud, say it proud, and say it to your kids. Often. Educate them about all of their body parts, and make sure they know their private parts are private. Period.
I had the privilege of hearing Stacey Honowitz, a prosecutor of sex crimes for the Florida State Attorney’s Office for more than twenty years, speak at my preschool PTO meeting yesterday. She’s prosecuted every heinous sex crime imaginable – from a rabbi who molested his four daughters, to a volunteer who fondled autistic children at school (and lied about his two previous out-of-sate sex crime convictions on his volunteer application), and to a small town gymnastics coach who molested his aspiring female gymnists. She’s convicted men who ejaculate on kids in public bathrooms and janitors who take advantage of kids in schools. She regularly interviews four and five-year-old kids in her office who have been touched, molested, or raped. She’s prosecuted kids and she’s even prosecuted an 84-year-old man. She had one adult victim who committed suicide as a consequence of the statute of limitations (which has since been changed) that made it impossible to charge the perpetrator who molested him as a child. She’s seen it all. She’s also the Mama of young girl who most definitely knows she has a vagina and that it’s 100% private.
Ms. Honowitz is a strong, feisty, and candid woman with an impressive potty mouth (I mean that as a compliment), and you should feel good about the fact that she’s out there putting bad guys in prison. The stories she told us at the PTO meeting were horrific enough to make me never want let my kids leave the house…let alone ride a bike to school, play on a team sport, use a public bathroom on their own, sleep over a friend’s house, or go to summer camp. (I could go on and on here.)
Hearing Ms. Honowitz speak, I couldn’t help but think (a) she’s a bad ass, and (2) evil lurks around every corner. But, here’s the nugget of truth she revealed that made me unclench my fists and my jaw (a little bit): We can’t stop pedophilia from happening. It happens, it can happen to anyone, and it can happen anywhere. It. Happens. But, we can educate our kids about their bodies and we can empower them to speak up if anyone ever touches them (because it does happen).
How do we do that? By talking honestly about our private parts at home and doing so without embarrassment or fear. We need to make sure our sons and daughters know the anatomically correct names of all of their body parts, including their penises or vaginas. We need to make sure they know their penises or vaginas are private and no one has the right to see or touch them. (There are always a few exceptions to this, so figure out what works for you and take into consideration the age and maturity level of your child. I happen to like what my pediatrician says before he examines my boys: “Never let anyone touch you – even a doctor like me – unless Mommy or Daddy is in the room with you.”) We need to empower our kids to tell the truth, speak up, and never be afraid of telling us if something happens…no matter what.
Do you wish there was a book out there to help you find the right words to broach this topic with your kids? There is! Ms. Honowitz has written two of them: “My Private Parts Are Private” (for girls) and “Genius With A Penis, Don’t Touch” (for boys).
Giggle if you need to, but then get to work. These books are age appropriate for young kids and they use fun rhymes and kid-friendly illustrations to gradually and carefully disseminate the message. Both books are available on amazon.com.
There’s so much in the world for us to be afraid of, including talking about all of this taboo stuff with our kids. At the end of the PTO meeting, Ms. Honowitz put it all in perspective when she said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend ten minutes talking to your kids now than end up in my office talking to me?”
You got that right.
Use these books or find others. There are plenty of resources out there to help you educate your kids (and without scaring them). And remember, the “stranger danger” talk is important, but it’s only part of the problem because sexual perpetrators are often people we know and trust. The sad reality is that pedophiles exist, but the glimmer of hope is that we, as parents, have the power to empower our kids to be safe.
I have a vagina, and it’s private. How about you?