Things All Parents Should Be Worried About

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way - You should not spend much time worried about your child being falsely accused of sexual assaulting someone. The FBI found a less than five percent chance that any reported sexual assault is found to be false. Remember, that data only relies on the cases that are actually reported to law enforcement. Research from the Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that fewer than 35 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement. I’m not a mathematical genius, but that means the chance that an assault is reported and then makes it all the way to an investigation is pretty rare. The chance of being struck by lightning is far greater than being falsely accused of sexual assault. 

You should worry that your child will be a victim of sexual abuse. We know that 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 33 boys will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault. This is the most common violent crime in America. Chances are greater than 80 percent that you will know the perpetrator.

This is terrifying, but it does not have to be. 

The same ongoing conversations will protect your children from experiencing sexual assault and from being falsely accused of sexual assault. Talk to your children about healthy relationships and point out positive models of healthy friend and dating relationships. Talk to your children about body autonomy and encourage them to set healthy boundaries.

Consider hosting a Kitchen Conversation if you want support from STSM and friends in addressing these topics with your children. Kitchen Conversations is a curriculum set up to facilitate dialogue between parents about a variety of issues including safe sleepovers, dating, social media use, and other common topics.

Make sure your child’s school, faith community, and youth-serving organizations are offering a high quality primary violence prevention curriculum like STSM’s We Care, Care For Kids, and Youth Violence Prevention.

Whatever you decide to worry about, do not wait to start addressing healthy relationships and consent. Children will remember the way you talk about sexual abuse and it will shape the rest of their life. Your comments will set their expectation for relationships. Your comments and attitude will determine whether or not they decide to disclose abuse or vulnerable situations to you when they need help.

Mary Dell Hayes

Mary Dell Hayes rejoined the staff at STSM as Development Coordinator in 2013, Director of Development in January 2015, and Executive Director in February 2016. Her job is to help the community achieve the vision of healthy survivors thriving in a community free of sexual violence and engage people to end sexual violence through philanthropy and advocacy.