Raising A Child’s Awareness OF Gender-Based Violence

Monday November 25, 2019                By: Lara Ahmed

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via UNICEF Egypt 

The old saying “Charity begins at home” has a unique relevance in a lot of situations. It means that before trying to help others out of a crisis, take a moment to see if your household is guilty of the very same crimes you’re preaching against. To celebrate the 16-days of Activism campaign, help cross out gender-based violence off the list of atrocities committed against women, by teaching your children about generation equality.

This is what you can do:
1- Educate both boys and girls

Two distinct schools of thought have emerged regarding taking responsibility of gender hate crimes. Some accuse female victims of not trying hard enough to fight off the assault, while others say it’s time to put our foot down against sexual predators. The ugly truth is that the blame goes both ways. Of course, this doesn’t mean that potential violence should be let off the hook.  It just means that though both young boys and girls are taught to beware of strangers, only the latter group will hold tightly to that advice as they grow up.

Victim-shaming is never justified, but no amount of social education will rid the world of predators. This is where self-defense comes in. Enroll your daughter in a martial arts or kick-boxing class. Her skills, newfound strength, and stealth will become her life-long weapons. Young boys easily could grow up into moral humans instead of expressing violent ideals. Parents are often the key to prevent their children’s hyper-aggressive behaviors. For starters, they could point out the unique humiliation of sexist comments.

As a parent, if you hear your child clearly making a rape joke, have a stern talk with him about how sexual assault is possibly the worst form of gender-based violence, and how it shatters hearts and minds.  Still, the modern world might not always be on your side- which brings us to our next point.

2- Compare and contrast

Negative gender representations are everywhere.  As the media continues to bombard viewers with harmful images of men and women, children’s minds are at risk of being controlled before they’ve even had the chance to develop.  Half-dressed women suffering brutal deaths in horror movies, or simply cartoons featuring clueless damsels in distress pollute television screens. The internet has “memes” that accuse rape victims of being gold-diggers, and online communities devoted entirely to discussing why women deserve violence.

Shielding your children from the real world is neither possible nor healthy.  Giving them a well-monitored peek into this world and then shutting the door, however, is. One reason for doing so is that both TV and the internet are guilty of promoting toxic masculinity. Your son might be looking up to male characters portrayed as being strong, envied, but more than a little sexist.

If telling your child to stay away from such images isn’t working, switch it up. Watch TV with him but explain that certain actions by his heroes are harmful and should have no room in the real world. If some of these characters were created years ago or take place in an older time, let your son know this by elaborating that society has become fairer since then.  You could even introduce him to some of your own favorite heroes and heroines, further emphasizing that education and equality can be part of great entertainment.

3- Environment shapes everyone

From living in a horror house of domestic abuse, to casually victim-shaming women while reading the morning news – family play an unparalleled role to how children perceive gender dynamics. Older siblings also play an important role, since they are also role models.

First, start by addressing any major household issues. If you or anyone at home is suffering from domestic abuse, take necessary action. Whenever safely leaving the toxic environment becomes an option, do so immediately, otherwise seek required support. Of course, traces of gender violence are often much smaller. If you find yourself asking what a certain rape victim was wearing, direct your own attention to the criminal and whether enough action is being taken against him.

The company your child chooses to keep makes a world of difference. He may be playing with other kids who aren’t setting the best examples, or whose own parents are actively going against equal gender rights. Be vigilant to who your child spends his time with.

Just like charity, savagery can begin at home too.  Whether you choose to devote 16 days of Activism, or even just six, make every moment count. Soon the entire household will get the hang of it, proudly watching their days of equality turn into years.

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