Positive tools for thriving families.

In this day and age, as in the past, it is unfortunate that we still have a critical need to teach teens how and why sexual harassment and assault is wrong. With one in five women men and women reporting rape in their life time, and one in twenty men and women reporting sexual violence in their life-time, we cannot continue to bury this crisis (CDC, 2012). The rate of sexual assault and rape of high school students is alarming. According to the CDC, 42% of women report being raped under the age of 18 years and 30% of girls report being first raped between the ages of 11-17 years. Hence, it is imperative that we pay close attention to helping our youth in middle and high schools learn the definitions and behaviors of sexual harassment and assault, and how they are an abuse of power. There is clearly a critical need to address sexual harassment and assault in schools.

Navigating the terrain of sexual harassment and assault with minors is complex and painful, given the myriad of emotional, legal, social, and ethical issues, as outlined by The Washington Post. The possibilities of backlash, victim blaming, self-harm, expulsions, suicide, denial, and apathy create a high-risk landscape for young students and their families.

Stop Sexual Assault In Schools is a national organization that proactively educates and provides resources to K-12 schools and parents, to address the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in schools. With a unique model of Prevent, Support, Inform, and Empower, this organization provides us with a model that should be implemented in ALL K-12 schools across the country. Schools, educational organizations, administrators, and teachers need to make a commitment to their students to develop and implement similar prevention and support models, thereby creating safe classrooms, playgrounds, and after-school environments for their students.

Although there may be disagreement on how to approach the national crisis of youth sexual harassment and assault, here are some possibilities that could foster awareness, empowerment, and prevention amongst teenagers in middle and high schools:

  • Begin raising awareness early. Elementary and middle schoolers are overly exposed to sexual content and aggression, yet there is little discussion about inappropriate, unsafe, and abusive behaviors.
  • Define sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape to middle and high schoolers over and over again. The statistics show that even our younger students are at high-risk, and raising their awareness and attention to sexual violence is necessary.
  • Definitions are not enough: explain the behaviors involved in sexual harassment and assault, so that the teens can understand and relate to the words. Provide training, case studies, role modeling, and videos in supervised discussions, so that the students can internalize the positive messages and learn healthy sexual boundaries and respect for others.
  • Share the message frequently. It is insufficient to simply provide an annual training day for this crisis. Frequently repeated information is far more likely to have an impact.
  • Outline and broadcast on campus how bullying includes sexual harassment and assault.
  • Have overt and clear structures, process, rules, and consequences for how reports of sexual harassment and assault will be addressed by the school.
  • Engage in a zero tolerance policy, as you do with bullying.
  • Provide safe, confidential, and appropriate resources for reporting that are made well known to students. As we know from recent media cases, victims are often afraid to share and don’t have safe access to reporting harassment and assault.
  • Provide repeated and frequent training for school teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, and administrators. These are our front line professionals who can be safe and informed adults for students to turn to.
  • Role model healthy, safe, and respectful behaviors in all our interactions with others. Social learning theory has demonstrated how kids learn from watching and listening to adults; kids are likely to re-enact our behaviors with their peers. If we are kind, respectful, healthy, and appropriate in our daily interactions, we are likely to have more success with our children role modeling similar behaviors and language.
  • Invite and join with parents to stop sexual harassment and assault in schools. Provide training, education, awareness, and support to parents so that they can protect their children and have appropriate conversations with their teens. Collaboration is key, as the more adults we have working on this issue, the better our children will fare.
  • Empower, Empower, Empower. As parents and professionals, we are responsible for the safety of our children at schools, at camps, at friends’ homes, and on the playground. We must empower ourselves to fully understand and address this crisis if we are to make any significant change.

Be a part of the change and make a commitment to take the steps to teach our teens, in schools and homes, how and why sexual harassment and assault is wrong and an abuse of power.








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twenty − 5 =

  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf