There would be very few amongst us who have not been touched directly or indirectly with the issue of injury and hurt caused by sexual misconduct. The pervasive nature of this issue can be seen in the varied context in which it arises:
- Within Intimate/ close relationships –
- Adult and Child pornography and trafficking
- The Workplace
- At Schools/ Educational settings
The recent reporting of:
* Year 10 school-boys at a Northern Beaches High School using mobile phones to video-record under their teacher’s skirt;
* A teacher at a Co-Ed High school in the City doing the same to girls in his school;
* A public enquiry into past child sexual abuse at a boy’s High School in Sydney;
* And an increase in sexual assaults conducted by school children on their peers;
has highlighted the prevalence of this oft unspoken malady (sexual misconduct/abuse) in an area (schools) rightly held by parents as ‘haven for their children’ and not normally associated with this issue. In doing so it has bought into greater focus a key concern for our society today namely….
How to protect our children (and our teachers and schools) from sexual misconduct
As we grapple with this issue by lowering the age by which we start providing sex education (10yr) and vaccines to protect girls against cervical cancer (12yr) we appear to not be asking the questions (and generating measures to address the issues) of:
*How have children become so sexualized (defined as actively engaged in the pursuit of sexual stimulation) at such a young age – that they no longer fit the traditional definition of children?
* What is their number?
*What is the average duration of childhood in our society now?
*What is causing the desensitization seen in the children that are assaulting classmates? Is there any link with increased viewing of violence through access to violent computer/video games and pornography?
*Who is parenting children?
*Who oversees children’s physical, mental, emotional and moral education in our society today?
*What does children’s diet – physical/emotional/mental/spiritual – consist of? Who feeds them?
As sexualized children age into adults it should come as no surprise that there are adults so sexualized that they have lost moorings to values of right and wrong and to an ability to effect self-restraint and so regard even children as sexual objects.
*How are moorings to values established?
*How is self-restraint developed?
These are currently the most important questions that we need to ask and address in our society. Without addressing them we cannot hope to see a reduction in the escalating social ills recently publicized viz., suicide, domestic violence, workplace bullying, and sexual assault.
Helping parents raise non-violent children/teens who are not sexualized and who have a chance to grow up free from addiction be it sex, alcohol or other substances – must come into the forefront of our aspiration (our goal) for our society.
Parenting is perhaps one of the hardest occupations in our society today. Yet due to non-recognition of its difficult nature and the nuclear nature of our society (the absence of extended family/social relationship network) there is inadequate support provided to those who parent. Parents need the support of the community in ensuring that greed and vested interests are not put before the interest of children receiving a ‘safe and healthy’ childhood. They need the support of the concerned community who is interested in their child being safe and well.
“Who is gaining from the sexualization of children?” is a question we all need to ask and share our findings with others. As a part of that endevour, is the effort of those raising awareness of the role of magazines, books, TV, programs, computer games and radio talks in the sexualization of children. A long-standing advocate on this issue is Melinda Tankard Reist. One recent example is the petition of Laura Pintur of Collective Shout on Change.org. Please have a read and let me know your comments below.
Raising non-violent, compassionate children/ teens who are not sexualized is not possible without adults’ having tools for practicing non-violence and compassion themselves. The most vital tool being – the capacity for self-restraint/ impulse control!
There is an increasing body of research evidence that meditation/ mindfulness/ calming practices, healthy diet, exercise, and maintaining of supportive interpersonal relationships aid in strengthening the capacity for self-restraint and compassion.
In our fast paced life – in pursuit of all things material and ego boosters of others applause and envy – we are not only ‘not nourishing ourselves with a proper diet’ (of restraint, kindness, civility) but are increasingly becoming incapable of nourishing anyone else. In this light it is important that each adult member of society, and especially parents make a conscious endeavour to acquire tools for healthier living which then can be passed on to children through instructions and modelling.