My mother was a nurse but she never had the “talk” with me. My father was definitely not going to have the “talk”; that was my mother’s job. I did not grow up in a broken home but there were some roles and responsibilities that were gender exclusive.
I learned about the birds and the bees one sunny spring afternoon with my classmates. I attended Martin Luther Christian School, a now defunct small Lutheran school in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY.
The school nurse corralled the 8th graders into a classroom, showed us an unsophisticated film on the anatomy of males and females, gave a rudimentary explanation about the the hormonal and physical changes that will occur, for girls this included the why, how and when we should begin menstruation.
There was minimal discussion on birth control methods. Basically the message was “Don’t do ‘it’!”
That was 1981.
Before Music Videos
Before Reality TV Shows
Before Amber Alerts
Before Sex-ting (Texting sexual messages)
Before The Burning Bed
Before To Catch A Predator
That was before citizens and lawmakers discoursed about the plight and pervasion of sexual, mental abuse and domestic violence in this country.
That was before Rihanna and Chris Brown.
This morning I watched the web clips of Diane Sawyer’s interview with pop star Rihanna. She talked about the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of Chris Brown. She talked about the physical abuse she witnessed between her parents. Chris Brown has spoken of being exposed to similar circumstances with his parents, a charge his father denies.
You can watch the Sawyer interview here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
I have been a victim of physical abuse by a boyfriend. I was a little older than Rihanna; I was in my mid-twenties. I watched her. I listened to her. I was empathetic. I even cried a little.
Take away the celebrity status and they are any girl and any boy. He is your son. She is your daughter. She is the girlfriend. He is the boyfriend.
I don’t have any children but that doesn’t mean that I do not I care deeply about the physical,mental and social health of young women AND men.
As I watched, all I could think about was how times have changed and how much they haven’t.
Tween and teen boys and girls need to to be educated, by women AND men.
The “talk” use to be comprised of an anatomy film, a rubber replica of a vagina and uterus, a box of pads or tampons, a packet of condoms and a prescription for birth control if you were lucky enough to have a cool mom or an older sister to go with you to Planned Parenthood.
Now the “talk” must be fortified with a discussion about intimate partner violence– physical and mental abuse in teen romantic relationships. Now we have to educate boys and girls about aggressive behavior, how to recognize the signs of intimate partner mental and physical abuse, and equip them problem-solving skills for a romantic relationship.
We have to teach them how to have a healthy relationship. Prevention and education should have no boundaries of gender or sexual orientation. Fathers and mothers must share the responsibility.
Sexual, physical and mental abuse is not a man’s or woman’s issue. It’s not just an adult issue. Now it’s become a children and teen issue.
Mothers, talk to your son. Fathers, talk to your daughter. Parents talk to your children, together.
I’ll be thinking of you.