I recently spoke to a group of women and a young mother posed this question to me: Has Being Raped Affected My Parenting? Absolutely! How could it not? My immediate response was to emphasize private areas and inappropriate touching. I discussed being open with my kids and sharing facts when appropriate, because I feel education is empowerment. I never share to scare, I share to empower. I also mentioned that I have told my kids they can confide anything in me and they will not get in trouble for telling me something.
Case in point – my six-year-old daughter walked into her brother’s room the other day whilst I was changing a diaper and said “______ told me not to tell anyone, but…” Hold it right there! I was all ears, but also elbow deep in a diaper change. So, I immediately responded to her with “I really want to hear what you have to say. Let me finish changing this diaper and we can talk.”
After that we had a sit down talk about what had been told to her. Luckily, she was just told of an expletive we do not use in our home. For me, that was one of the best possible scenarios I could think of that would include the phrase “don’t tell anyone” and a great learning experience. She felt safe to confide in me despite her friend’s warning not to tell. We had an open discussion full of praise for her. I told her she was not in trouble for telling me. That she had the exact right response. In fact, I told her anytime someone says: “don’t tell____” that is a huge red flag to immediately tell me, dad, nana, papa, etc. I praised her for her mature response to a difficult situation and told her I was proud of her.
Then I started spreading the praise. I wanted to drive this point home. I bragged to dad, nana, papa, you name it! Since, my husband was away at that time, he later had a sit down with her too and praised her for her response. I wanted her to know she was amazing for coming to me. Later, I overheard her bragging to her younger brother how proud I was of her for confiding in me. Moments later my middle son approached me and told me of something one of his friends said that was not ok. I praised him and thanked him too. He was learning through his older sister that coming to mom is good. I am so grateful this scenario came about in such an innocent way and we could handle in constructively.
However, there is another huge way being raped effects my parenting – respecting the word “No.” I know what it feels like to have someone disregard my “No” and my protests, because of that I am super sensitive and respectful of “No.” That said, when it comes to my kids I respect their “No’s.” Now obviously, as their mom my number one concern is their safety and I am not about to let them get hurt. I am not talking about those scenarios. I am talking about comfort and preference. A good example is that I will frequently ask my kids for a hug or a kiss. If they say “No” – I respect that. I don’t hug or kiss them regardless.
Regardless of the form it takes. Stop. Don’t. Leave me alone. No. No means no. I want them to know that when they say “No” to another person that other person should respect that and if they do not there is a problem. I want my children to know they have the right to dictate what they are comfortable with when it comes to physical contact. I don’t always feel like a hug or a kiss either – that’s ok. I am not going to demand it from them.
A sillier example of respecting “No” is tickling. The tickle monster makes a lot of appearances in my home. I love making my kids laugh. Inevitably when one of my kids is getting tickled they get to a point where they are laughing so hard they say “No.” At that moment, I immediately stop tickling them. Nine times out of ten they immediately say; “Tickle me again Mommy with a grin,” but the moment they say “No” I respect that. They get to dictate what is happening them, not someone else. They get to dictate what they are comfortable with, not someone else.
I also place an emphasis on my kids respecting other people’s “No’s.” We have had many time-outs in my house for not respecting another’s “No.” I want my kids to know they should not only expect others to respect their “No’s,” but they should respect other people when they say “No.” We should never impose our will upon someone else against theirs.
The last area that I emphasize is not hurting others. Every child hits, pinches, kicks, etc. at some point, but I emphasize that it is never ok. I think most parents would agree with me on this point, regardless of being raped, but I still think it is worth mentioning. It is never ok to hurt other people.