Story 5: Reinforcing Postive Values and Healthy Relationships
Dear Engaged Bystander: When we talk about engaging bystanders in preventing sexual violence prevention, we nearly always talk about moments when boundaries have been violated, someone has been harrassed, or when the harm is done. The element often forgotten is clearly stating and reinforcing healthy sexual development, healthy relationships and healthy boundaries.
In the booklet I wrote for NSVRC, "Engaging Bystanders in Sexual Violence Prevention" I described a continuum of behaviors for bystander engagement. The first box is:
Healthy, age-appropriate, mutually respectful & safe.
A friend just shared this story with me, a wonderful example of a “bystander role” in establishing values around healthy, age-appropriate, mutually respectful and safe relationships.
Bob is a probation officer, big, gruff and just a lovely man. His son Sam, at 15, was going out on his first date. Bob took Sam aside for a serious talk and asked, “Are you going to marry this girl?” Sam was appalled, and asked what he was getting at? After a back and forth, Sam said, that this was really just a first date and did not want to talk about getting married. Bob then asked Sam, “Do you think that your date wants to get married?” They went back and forth again, and at this point Sam told his dad that he was done with the conversation.
Bob then explained to Sam that he hoped he would get married at some point in his life. And if he did, Sam’s future wife is out there having her first date too around this same time. So Bob told Sam to think about this. To think about his future wife and to treat his date with respect and in a way that he would want his future wife to be treated by her first date.
I just love this story and hope that every dad could have just this kind of conversation about respect. I hope too that we can find ways to have more conversations about what we mean by healthy, age appropriate, mutually respectful and safe relationships.
I know this is corny and simplistic, but really try to have this kind of conversation at least once this week. It could be fun!