Raising Young Men and Women in a Culture of Sexual Assault

Ask the Experts by Peter Henry and Mary Petersen

Q: With so much sexual assault rampant these days, I worry about raising teenagers in our society. How can you help me?

A: Human beings have lived in a culture of sexual assault for centuries. What’s different today is that we talk about it more, and thus we have a better chance to help our children consciously break the cycle.

Young men and women are in a particularly vulnerable position. They’re learning about themselves and how appropriately to interact with others on an intimate (and sexual) level, hopefully gradually and age-appropriately. Their culture, values, morals and beliefs are important.

Equally important is figuring out how to get their needs met in positive, healthy, respectful ways that don’t compromise the freedom of others.

Young people are often exposed too young to sexual violation before they have experienced the natural, normal, awkward growth into healthy sexuality. Often children learn unhealthy attitudes and behaviors from parents who have not resolved their own issues.

Likewise, silence and sheltering children from reality teaches them nothing about how to cope with the world while still being true to themselves. Keeping an open dialogue with children is instrumental, and you should remind them that it is safe to talk to you about anything.

We must challenge the myths of sexual abuse with truth:

  • Sexual abuse is not about sex - it's about power and control.
  • Helping children be secure in themselves and respect the boundaries of others will facilitate healthy intimate relationships.
  • Both men and women can be abusers or victims.
  • We must teach children to express their needs respectfully and communicate what they will and will not tolerate from others.

Mary Petersen, LMSW, ACSW is a clinical therapist in private practice. One of her specialties is treating women and men who are survivors of sexual abuse and she welcomes even anonymous phone calls inquiring about this sensitive topic.  Mary is a member of the Family Center Association of Professionals and a member of their Board. For more information, please visit her website www.marypetersen.com

Rev. Peter J.M. Henry is the pastor of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. He is also a member of The Family Center’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at 313.882.5330 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Grosse Pointe Memorial Church is a member of The Family Center Association of Professionals.

Save the Date

Raising Young Men & Women in a Culture of Sexual Assault

Presented by The Family Center April 27, 2017 7:00PM

Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms

FREE, Register online at familycenterweb.org or call 313-432-3832

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