"Heads, shoulders, knees and vulva"
If you've ever spent more than a few minutes with a child under six, you know that a solid 90 percent of their humor is based on the triad of words: "butt", "poop", and "pee-pee." In fact, the very mention of one of these words can set them off into an endless medley of variations and sounds which will not stop until you distract them with a snack or a Rainbow Loom. Curious to a fault, with a vague understanding of their anatomy, but no real concept of privacy, kids this age are also prime targets for sex abuse. By educating them about their bodies and how to appropriately interact with each other, Kate Rohdenburg of WISE, a non-profit to prevent domestic and sexual violence based in Vermont, is seeking to change that.
A sexual violence prevention coordinator, Ms. Rohdenburg, has been giving lessons to six year-old across Vermont and New Hampshire teaching them the anatomical terms for their genitalia i.e. "penis" and "vagina" and showing them how to respectfully interact with their peers. Explaining the foundational concepts of child sexual abuse prevention – consent, empathy, body rights, privacy. "When it comes to sex-abuse prevention: Educators like Rohdenburg want children to understand that their 'private parts' are just that–private and off limits to others. But they also want students to be comfortable talking about these body parts, and with the words that describe them," writes Catherine Bruni for The Atlantic.
As our national educational system is far from uniform, only two weeks after Rohdenburg gave her lesson in March, a biology teacher at public high school in Idaho was put under investigation for saying the word "vagina" in one of his classes. And even in politics, Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown was silenced on the state house floor last June after she also used the word "vagina" in reference to a proposed abortion bill.
If a teacher and a state representative can be persecuted for using anatomical terms for genitalia in the context of a lesson or a debate on reproduction, it is clear that our society has a much larger problem than we thought.
"We need all adults to be partners in teaching healthy childhood sexual development and square one is body parts," Laura Palumbo of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) told Bruni. As Bruni notes, "Teaching and using plain and accurate language to describe the human body can help children live healthier lives."
It should be our goal to educate our children about their bodies and how to treat their peers. A lesson that apparently some of the adults in this country could use a refresher course in as well.
Image via Veer