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Yes means yes: Talking to kids about Jian Ghomeshi

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Culture & Entertainment

Yes means yes: Talking to kids about Jian Ghomeshi

What a week: Jian Ghomeshi fired from the CBC.  At current count stories have broken about 8 different women alleging that he assaulted or harassed them in some way.  The whole mess reminds me how important it is that we talk to our kids all throughout their lives about both consent and speaking up. Jian Ghomeshi Why would anyone get away with assaulting women over and over? Listening to stories like Lucy DeCoutere's on The Current or the anonymous woman who spoke with As It Happens there's a pattern -- shock, shame, and an awareness of power. First, both of those women expressed that they just did not know how to react to the assault. Second, they felt that they would be judged, or judged themselves, for their choices in going back to Ghomeshi's house, or having flirted with him. And third, they knew that in a case of "he said, she said," they had a lot to lose personally and professionally. So for our kids, we really need to teach them a few things: 1. How to respond to an attack, physically I'm a big proponent of self-defense training, if not at least a year of martial arts for all kids. It is really hard for all of us socialized to be kind and caring to react to a threat by screaming and yelling and striking back. It's something you have to learn and practice physically. Of course this doesn't make any of us, kids or not, responsible for being assaulted or whether we respond "right" to an assault in the moment. But it is a way that we can help our kids develop skills to protect themselves. 2. When something "weird" or uncomfortable happens, talk about it One of the aspects of this story I find most disturbing -- and frankly, as a member of the media in Toronto I myself had heard some rumours -- is that so many people seem to have heard about the possibility that Ghomeshi was not treating women with respect and dignity, and yet nearly all the women who have come forward didn't really talk about what happened to them. As Canadians I think we pride ourselves on fairness and thoughtfulness, and we often talk to our kids about not judging others and the concept of innocent until proven guilty -- both really important concepts. I know when my kids have come home from school with stories about other kids pinching them or acting out, I've asked them "well, what happened first?" and encouraged them to use their empathy to put themselves in the other kids' shoes. But I don't always remember to say "that wasn't okay, and I am glad you told me." From unwanted hugs from family members to playground shoving, I think we need to teach our kids to both say "stop that," and to come and tell a trusted adult. And as trusted adults, we need to convey that we believe them and that we are listening, even if our response also needs to be fair and measured. 3. Yes means yes -- and only yes means yes This fall, California passed a law that on college and university campus, the definition of consent under the bill requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activities. This principle is, I think, the most powerful thing that we can teach our children as they come into their own as adults...that the only person you want to get intimate with is a person that is not just seemingly willing, but actively happy to be there with you. And the best way to figure that out is to ask "hey, would you like to do this together?" before you do it. And of course, that saying yes is a great idea when you mean it, but it's okay to change that yes to a no at any point. How are you handling this in your family? What else should I be looking for opportunities to talk to my kids about? For more: Talking to your teens about friendship and relationship issues. (Photo: Courtesy of FlickrCC/ Damien D.)
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Yes means yes: Talking to kids about Jian Ghomeshi

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