The children and teens of today are our hope for tomorrow. It’s important for us parents, caring adults, and communities to help set young people on the path for a healthy future and support them as the work to create positive change. If you follow the headlines, you know that sexual abuse happens. It happens to babies, it happens to children, it happens to teens; it happens to adults, it happens to the elderly. It happens often and close to home. It is happening in our own community. This reality is overwhelming, but it is important to remember that sexual abuse can be prevented when we all play our part. My goal for this coming year is to continue to raise awareness, educate, help facilitate conversations, and to help the people of our community.
Barton and our surrounding counties need to stand up for sexual assault abuse prevention. All adults have a role in sexual assault prevention. We all need to encourage individuals and communities to support healthy childhood sexual development by talking early, talking often, and taking action.
By talking about healthy childhood sexual development, adults are able to support the children in their life. When adults support age-appropriate behaviors, model healthy boundaries, and speak up to other adults, they are an ally to prevention. It is our job to respect children, model healthy behaviors and boundaries, and confront adults when they act in ways that are not appropriate.
Young people face many challenges during adolescence. Stereotypes and negative messages in the media don’t make this process easy. By learning and talking about healthy adolescent sexuality, adults are able to support the teens in their lives. It’s time for adults and communities to be a resource to teens so they learn and grow.
There is often silence and discomfort when it comes to the discussion of sexual development. It’s important to understand that this is a normal experience we all share. The first step is to be open and honest dialogue. Ask questions and, most importantly, listen. By opening up communication, sharing age-appropriate information with children and teens, educating one another, we are taking steps towards a safer community. It’s important to empower the voices of youth and challenge negative, unhealthy messages.
It’s ok to not have all the answers. It’s more important to welcome questions and learn together. Whether you are a parent, educator, or community member, it’s time for you to start talking early and often to create a vision for a future without sexual violence; every voice can play a role in a healthier, safer tomorrow for all.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Great Bend Regional Hospital