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Talking to My Son About Harvey Weinstein and Sexual Assault

As parents we might not be ready to talk about sexual harassment and assault — but we need to be

Published on: November 02, 2017

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Thomas Hawk / Flickr

My 14-year old son came into the kitchen a few weeks ago and asked, “Who is Harvey Weinstein and what did he do that was so bad?” It was only 7 a.m. and I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee. I had no idea how to respond to his question.

I bought myself some time by suggesting that the conversation was going to take a little longer than the four minutes we had before he left for school that morning. As I watched him walk toward his bus stop with his friends, I poured myself a second hefty mug of coffee and began to really think about what I was going to say when he came home that afternoon.

In this age of constant connectivity, kids know more than ever before about what’s going on in the world around them. As parents we might not be ready to talk about topics such as sexual harassment but we need to be — our kids are already formulating their own opinions. The recent news about Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner gives parents a starting point for these difficult conversations with our kids. But how?

“Parents can open these conversations by asking their child what he or she has heard about these cases," says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, child psychologist and author of many books about raising children. "You may need to correct some misunderstood facts. These stories are an opportunity to help kids think through important issues, and foster awareness and empathy."

Rather than giving your children a lecture, create an open dialogue. Kennedy-Moore suggests asking children thought provoking questions such as:

  • Why do you think they did what they did?
  • What excuses might they give to justify bad behavior and what's wrong with those excuses?
  • Why do you think they got away with it for so long?
  • Why do you think it sometimes takes people who have been victimized or harassed a long time to speak up?
  • What's the middle-school version of this kind of behavior?
  • What would you do if someone harassed you?
  • What would you do if you saw or heard about someone being harassed?

When my own son got home that day, he had pretty much forgotten our exchange in the morning and instead was focused on a funny story from lunch and how much homework his math teacher had given him. It would have been easy for me to walk away and allow this topic to wait for another day — but instead I chose to discuss it.

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to make sure my son is fed, studies for his tests and doesn’t forget his lunch money. It’s also on me to make sure that I have raised him to be a good, caring and kind person who knows how to treat people.

It’s on me to raise a son who is a good, caring and kind person who knows how to treat people

Our conversation about Weinstein, sexual consent and sexual harassment in general was awkward. I know he felt uncomfortable at points and I did too. We talked about why it is important to speak up if we see someone being bullied or harassed and that he can always talk to his dad or me without judgment. Our conversation didn’t last too long but I think he heard me and I heard him too.  

But one conversation alone isn't enough. We will have to keep talking as he gets older and has more questions. These conversations are critical, but actions speak louder than words. It's also important that my son sees my husband and I modeling appropriate behavior towards one another and with family, friends and even strangers. 

My son also has two older sisters that he adores. He is very protective of them and I know he would be very upset to think that anyone was being disrespectful to them. I hope all of these relationships in his life will help him to know how to behave as he enters adulthood and begins dating himself. 

Hopefully, his peers are having similar awkward conversations in their homes. Together we can educate the next generation on how to treat one another.

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