My daughter is turning 5. She’s not at the age when I can remotely have discussions about such insane acts of abuse and violation like rape. And really, how do I ever sit down and talk to her about the things that real-life monsters do? How do we ever explain these real-life monsters to our children? Many of us don’t have to until we come face-to-face with one of these true-life villains.
As parents, we don’t come equipped with an employee handbook—there are no clear-cut rules to raising kids beside the golden rules. I can’t “power up” my daughter to avoid every single possible instance of sexual crime, hate crime, general crime, and then some.
But I can teach her a few things to help guide her to not only protect herself as best as she can but to also value herself so she associates with positive people and not “dogs who have the fleas.”
1. No is always no — no matter what.
I don’t care if a boy or girl really likes you. I don’t care if he or she feels it’s owed to them. I don’t care if you gave this person “signs” or “signals” that gave off a sexual impression. No means no — always.
If you ask him not to touch you, no means no. If you ask him not to call you again, no means no. In every sense and in every situation, no always means no!
2. Keep good company.
When in the company of a mixed-gender group or a group in which there’s potential sexual tension, keep good company. This means—don’t leave yourself alone in the company of people you don’t know.
When out and socializing, have a trusty wing girl—this means someone who won’t let you go to some stranger’s house alone or someone who won’t go off and leave you alone while she’s drinking or making poor choices. This means befriending people who have good value systems and make smart decisions. And if you do find that a “friend” is making poor choices, back out of the friendship gracefully and quickly.
You are the company you keep. If you surround yourself with trouble, you’ll get trouble.
3. You can tell me ANYTHING.
There’s nothing you can say that will stop me from loving you and there’s nothing you can say that will make me turn my back on you. Even if you messed up, made a bad choice, or did something you know I wouldn’t approve of, you can tell me anything and I will always love you. Even if someone tells you that you MUST keep something a secret or he will hurt you, tell me.
There’s no bogeyman or monster I won’t try to take down. You should never be ashamed if someone makes you feel worthless, small, or inferior. That individual should be ashamed, but not you.
You can tell me anything. Promise.
4. Your body is a temple.
It’s OK to dress sexy and to appreciate your body and it’s OK to own who you are and what you were blessed with or perhaps, if you end up a fitness buff, what you work hard for. Even if you walk naked to and from a bar, no one has the right to rape, force, cajole, or bully you into sexual behaviors and situations.
But, I still hope that you realize that you don’t have to show any skin to be sexy—that you don’t have to be provocative to be loved and that attraction doesn’t equal love, that sex doesn’t equal commitment, and that flirtation doesn’t mean respect.
Your body is a temple and the only one you have—you decide who to share it with and how you share it. You decide what’s required for you to refuse or participate in sex.
No matter what—remember that you’re special and that how you choose to use your body should indicate that you believe and know this.
5. There are no promises.
Don’t let a date tell you, “You promised me sex” or any other thing. Promises can be revoked if the person doesn’t deserve the action.
A date isn’t a guarantee—a relationship isn’t a guarantee.
There’s no comprehensive guide that could adequately cover all I would want to share and instill in my daughter for her to have — God willing — a sexual violence and violence-free world, but I know that as a mother it’s my job to help her love and respect herself and others.
One seed at a time, I’m nurturing a young girl to blossom into a strong and respectful woman. It’s all we can truly do as parents because let’s face it—there are all kinds of “bogeymen” in this world and we can’t control that.
Laura Lifshitz is a writer, a former MTV personality, and Columbia University graduate. You can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, PopSugar, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother, and numerous other sites.
This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.