LAWRENCEBURG – Child sexual abuse was one topic at the 18th annual Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corp. Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference April 26.
Education coordinator Marcia Rehage explained sexuality “begins when you’re born and you are a sexual being until you die. It is everything about you that is male and female. Your sexuality is part of your personality. Sexuality affects every aspect of your life.”
The culture, family background, friends, religion and media (TV, music, magazines, social media) all influence sexuality. “The challenge is you get a lot of mixed messages.” For instance, some songs “don’t send the same messages as parents.”
She pointed out, “Children build a sense of themselves through the toys and games they are given to play with.” Rehage wondered, “Do you have boys in your classrooms who play with doll babies? Excellent! They will grow up to become nurturing, wonderful fathers. Do girls play with (toy) tractors? Yes.”
One child care worker said a father disapproved of his son hanging out in a play kitchen. Rehage emphasized, “Boys and girls can play with the same things” even if parents don’t like it.
“Some gender role changes, I think, are exciting to celebrate: We have females in the military. Females who can take on any career. We have females in sports.
“We have some challenges. Fathers are still not considered acceptable to be the primary caregivers” even though in the couple they might be more nurturing and better suited to care for young children.
The educator advised, “It’s really key children … know proper terminology” for bodies’ private parts. Slang words send the wrong message because they’re derogatory. “We want everyone to feel proud of their bodies. Correct terminology protects children if they would ever be questioned” about sexual abuse. A great time to be teaching that is during potty training, according to Rehage.