“Sewage.” That was the word that came to mind after I spent the morning reading about and watching clips of the MTV Music Video awards, which was rated PG-14 but should have been R. It was American culture at it’s worst, from Lady Gaga exposing her nude rear end, to Miley Cyrus’ lewd “twerking” (a word I had to look up) that even caused Will Smith and his children’s mouths to gape open. Oh, there was one word MTV bleeped out, “Molly,” referring to a form of ecstasy. But Miley’s simulated sexual act (I wouldn’t call that “dancing”) with the foam finger prop and up against Robin Thicke was beyond lewd and SHOULD have been censored. The New York Times described Cyrus as “molesting” Thicke. Comedian Kevin Hart joked, “Miley better get a … pregnancy test after all of that grinding.”
With two tunes currently in ITunes’ Top 5, “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop,” Miley is a powerful pop idol, selling a powerful message to YOUR teens. These lines from Miley’s hit song, “We Can’t Stop” display the values being sold to our kids at every turn, and are worth discussing:
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want
Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
Another one to discuss (sung that night by Robin Thicke while Miley licked his chest and rubbed his crotch, etc.) is “Blurred Lines” which many say seems to give the message that when a woman says “No,” a guy can think (in it’s catchy repeated line) “I know you want it.”
By the way, I blocked MTV in my home. Yes, there is a place for censorship…when it involves my money, my kids, my values and my home.
This isn’t new information, apparently, but it was new to me, and I thought it might be new to you. One of the dangers of a smartphone resides in its ability to track where you are at any time, AND to provide that information within pictures you you or your teen take and post. An informative news station video explains this, and cautions parents about taking pictures of their children as well…pictures that end up online and come with information about where your child lives (down to even the location of his or her bedroom) and hangs out. A website alerting people to the intrusion of privacy, “Icanstalkyou.com,” tells how to keep from geotagging photographs you take on your phone.
This very serious topic came to the fore on two recent occasions. First, a pastor friend of mine included in his blog these statistics:
- The average child molester will molest fifty girls before being caught and convicted.
- A child molester that seeks out boys will molest 150 boys before being caught and convicted and he will commit at least 280 sexual crimes in his lifetime.
- The standard pedophile will commit 117 sexual crimes in their lifetime.
- Most sexual abuse happens between the ages of 7 and 13.
- There are over 491,720 registered sex offenders in the United States.
- 80,000 to 100,000 of the above offenders are missing.
- Molesters known by the family or victim are the most common abusers. The Acquaintance Molester accounts for 70-90% of reported cases.
Sadly, that last statistic points to a real problem: family or acquaintance abuse. One day, a young lady came up to one of our educators after class, and asked what to do if her father was making her have sex with him. This is not the first time that our visit to a classroom has led a teen to reveal that a trusted family friend or relative was sexually abusing a child. As sometimes happens, this teen had told another family member, but the response was insufficient, and she did not feel protected from the perpetrator.
Sometimes, the news is so shocking that a young lady (or young man) might even be met with suspicion and disbelief. This should never be. Let you sons and daughters know that they may hear about, or know someone who is facing molestation, and the information should NOT stay hidden, but that a trusted adult should be told. More than that, if a teen is not believed, he or she should find another adult who WILL believe them. We owe it to our children to be that trusted person who will fiercely protect their right to a safe environment. And our teens need to hear from us that we are willing to be that person in their life, and even in the lives of their friends.
Do you know if your daughter or son would recognize when a relationship is in danger of becoming abusive? A personal story I tell to teens is about the time I was physically abused by a boyfriend. I had the good sense to break the relationship off at the first incident, but in retrospect, there were warning signs that the physical abuse was coming. I saw my boyfriend lose control of his temper with his family, and he had already begun verbally abusing me before the incident of physical abuse.
February is Teen Dating and Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and I found myself wondering how we can prepare our sons and daughters to recognize unhealthy patterns in a relationship before it gets to the point of emotional or physical damage. I found a wonderful document, written to and for teens, about the warning signs of potentially abusive relationships. It’s put out by the American Psychological Association. I would urge every parent to print this out, and ask their teen to read it and then discuss it together. Every teen (guy or girl) will either be abused, or know someone who is. Let’s equip them to be strong and courageous in insisting on being treated with respect, and be advocates and wise guides for their friends who may be suffering an abusive relationship.
Part of the story I tell teens in the classroom is that I experienced dating violence in my relationship with my “first love.” Luckily, I recognized that physical aggression was a deal-breaker, and I broke the relationship off.
According to one study, about 12 percent of teens reported being hurt by a teen they were dating, and 9 percent say they were forced to have sex. The thing that stood out most to me in the article, is that more than half of parents have not talked to their teens about this issue. I am actually encouraged that almost half have, of course, but think it’s a good idea to urge ALL parents to include this topic in their conversational “to do” list. Besides talking to our kids, another bit of advice is to “encourage teens to double date to help prevent violence from occurring,” and “know a date’s plans for the evening and the expected return time.”
Besides writing Amplify’s parent newsletter and blog, I also speak in the classroom to students. Someone asked me the other day about my most “shocking” moment. Right away I recalled something an 8th grade boy said when we were discussing “pressures” to have sex. One of the things that had come up was rape. This young man asked in all sincerity: “Is it still rape if she likes it?” I quickly pushed down the horror that I felt, and calmly answered that if it’s rape, it’s NEVER wanted or enjoyed. I went on to explain that ideas like that probably come into society through the avenue of pornography and other media. We went on to discuss more about the images that young people are seeing, and how they influence ideas on sex and relationships.
Just like that boy had been desensitized about rape, Hollywood has even gone so low as to portray a date rape scene as funny in the 2009 black “humor” movie, “Observe and Report.”
This is as good a time as any to have a talk about rape with your teen, particularly date/acquaintance rape.
How about a definition to start with: “The term acquaintance rape will be defined as being subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact through the use of force or threat of force. Unsuccessful attempts are also subsumed within the term “rape.” Sexual coercion is defined as unwanted sexual intercourse, or any other sexual contact subsequent to the use of menacing verbal pressure or misuse of authority (Koss, 1988).”
What kind of cautionary words should we give our teens? The same wise guidelines for being abstinent will also protect against sexual assault: After the obvious caution about alcohol use, avoid being anywhere all alone, and/or in the dark with anyone of the opposite sex. Even a childhood friend. One of my acquaintance’s daughters was almost raped by the “boy next door” in her own backyard one night, and only just managed to escape. Public places and daylight are a young person’s friends!
It’s summer, and party time for many teens and college kids. While our society seems to have done a pretty good job getting the message out not to drink and drive, we’re not so good at making the connection clear about alcohol and sexual behaviors. A page you might want to share with you teen (or better, talk over) is Tips For Teens: The Truth About Alcohol from the Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, these facts are enlightening:
- Using alcohol (as well as cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs) greatly increases the risk of early adolescent sexual activity. (Journal of Marriage and Family, 1990)
- Among the 33.9% of currently sexually active high school students nationwide, 23.3% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before their last sexual intercourse. (CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2005)
- While “date rape drugs” are something to be aware of, it is more common for victims to be caught off guard because of alcohol or drug consumption. Analysis of a sample of urine drug tests of sexual assault victims demonstrated that alcohol was present in 63% of the victims, marijuana was present in 30% of the victims and “date rape” drugs…in about 3% of positive samples. (Journal of Reproductive Medicine. Vol. 45. 2000)
- So that there not be any confusion about consent, it needs to be clearly taught (particularly to males as the usual perpetrator) that the law considers someone who is inebriated as unable to consent. Thus, it is sexual assault or rape when there is sexual contact and one of the parties is drunk or under the influence of drugs.