DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — Sometimes, talking about consent can be one of the most awkward conversations you can have prior to a sexual encounter. However, it can be more awkward when it comes to teaching your children about getting consent to make sure they do not run into situations that can get them into trouble.
Recently, the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armament Command’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program leadership invited members from two organizations in the Detroit area to speak to the workforce Apr. 22 at the Detroit Arsenal, Michigan for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Nicole Lewis, TACOM’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, was looking for ways to help merge Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month with Month of the Military Child in a way that opened candid conversations between parents and their kids.
“I thought we could discuss prevention in a form that our workforce hadn’t really thought about it before,” said Lewis. “I picked consent for children as a topic that fit both observances.”
The seminar-style meeting allowed participants to discuss aspects of obtaining consent as it pertains to sexual activity, while focusing on gaining understanding of ethical and affirmative consent.
Shelby Nardone, Haven’s Prevention Education Specialist, and Bailey Beem, Turning Point’s Sexual Assault Outreach Specialist, guided conversations about how to talk to children at all stages of development about this sensitive topic.
“Consent is normally enthusiastic with active participation between the parties and can be verbal and non-verbal,” said Beem. “Only yes means yes.”
Haven is a program in Oakland County, Michigan that helps victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. They provide shelter, as well as counseling, advocacy, and educational programs to approximately 30,000 people each year.
Haven’s leadership works within communities to help prevent sexual assault and intimate partner violence and help the survivors of these behaviors to heal.
Likewise, Turning Point offers emergency shelters, housing, supportive counseling, forensic nurse and advocacy program, legal advocacy, and a 24-hour hotline.
Both organizations teamed up to present the information about consent to better give parents tools to have discussions with their children and help them understand what consent is.
“Consent comes up in all aspects of life,” said Beem. “It can be withdrawn at any time without further discussion, and children need to understand that.
According to Haven one out of every four girls and one out of every 13 boys will experience child sexual abuse, and nearly 30% of children have reported online sexual harassment which can come from the least expected places.
“We’re not sending the right messages if we only warn our children about strangers,” said Beem. “Most sexual assaults are committed by individuals that children know.”
The topics of consent between parents and children do not have to be about sexual situations initially, according to Beem, it can start with asking permission for a variety of different activities before they can proceed.
“The earlier we have open conversations with our children [about consent] the more they will trust and come forward to have discussions on topics involving other things, to include sex,” said Nardone.
The topic of affirmative and ethical consent should eventually become second nature, according to Beem.
Haven and Turning Point have a variety of educational forums to inform the community at large and both organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with their programs and can be found with an easy google search.
The consent discussion was the third event that the TACOM SHARP team held this month in support of the Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month’s theme “Protecting our People, Protects our Mission.”
“Soldiers and Civilians are expected to uphold the army values, on and off duty,” said Annette Riggs, TACOM Deputy Chief of Staff. “We need you to role-model the correct behaviors both personally and professionally at all times.”