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Why I had to explain rape to my son

I never thought I'd have to explain rape to my 9-year-old. Nobody mentioned that in the baby books. But this parenting gig is full of constant surprises.

It was bedtime. My son Philip and I were tidying up his room and making his bed. His toy 'Kitty' fell on the floor. I commented that it was looking quite tattered these days.

"It looks so raped Mum."

Now I could have freaked out, but I didn't. For some reason, when faced with ultra-important parenting moments a calmness descends upon me. I knew in a nano second that this was a formative moment in his life.

Many thoughts raced through my head as I bent to retrieved 'raped Kitty' and finish tidying up Philip's bed.

"Where did he hear that word?"

"Does he know what it means?"

"Should I explain it to him or ignore it?"

"If I do explain it, what should I say?"

"Should I wait til morning so he doesn't have to think about it all night?"

I'd had the 'sex talk' with him over a year ago after friends at school started talking about it and I decided to lift the veil and remove the mystery. I told him exactly what sex was. The jokes he and his friends used to make in ignorance are no longer funny to him, thank goodness. The sex talk with kids needs to happen much earlier these days, I think. If you don't do it, their friends will and your explanation will be better.

But this was more serious.

How do you explain rape to a 9-year-old?

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"Where did you hear that word," I asked him lightly, casually.

"What word?"

"Rape."

"Oh, um, YouTube."

And something goes clunk in my head.

Philip has access to YouTube on the family computer. The family computer is located in our lounge room so their online activities can be monitored however every now and then I miss something crucial that is communicated to my child. Philip watches game demonstrations on YouTube so the language can be colourful. I often tell him to pick a different demonstration that doesn't have the language.

I'd clearly missed the one that used the word rape.

"Do you know what rape is?"

"No."

"Well, I'd better tell you, seeing as you've heard it."

"Is it bad."

"Yes baby. Rape is when a man forces a woman to have sex. It's violent, it's not about love, it's about violence, and if a man does that to a woman he goes to jail for a long long time."

"Oh." Philip fell silent. I gestured for him to jump into bed.

I've always encouraged him to ask me questions. He asked, "How does a man force a woman to have sex?"

"He holds her down, sometimes he hits her."

"That's so bad Mum."

"I know. Rape isn't about sex or love. It's about violence. It's the same as beating someone up or hitting them over the head with something."

"Oh."

With that I tucked him in. I kept the conversation chatty, like we were discussing the weather or what we were going to do tomorrow.

In hindsight it probably wasn't the best explanation in the world but at his age, simple is best. We can continue the conversation as he gets older. How I see it is conversations with your children never end. They continue for years. They grow and develop.

I'm really happy he felt comfortable discussing it with me but boy am I happy that little milestone is over.

My parents never explained anything to me. If I asked a difficult question they would always wave me away and tell me I didn't need to worry about it.

But I did.

Now Philip doesn't have to.

What are some of the difficult questions your kids have hit you with?

 

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