Speak Up

Hello, friends. I stumbled across this Talk of the Nation discussion on NPR this morning. It features blogger Shannon Bradley-Colleary and YA author Laurie Halse Anderson sharing their thoughts on how to talk to children about consent in light of recent events.

http://www.npr.org/2013/04/11/176930960/how-parents-talk-to-children-about-consent?sc=tw&cc=share

Given that Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak is banned for the same reason many outraged parents label her a “pornographer” for her attempts to discuss issues of consent and sexual assault in high schools, I thought it was very relevant to this blog. I’m pretty sure no parent has ever walked in on their fifteen-year-old son under his sheets listening to a lecture about consent and sexual assault awareness on their iPod, but the world would be a better place if they did.

In any case, much of this conversation relates to the issue of educating/informing children and empowering them to make their own decisions versus shielding them in the name of childhood innocence. This is something I’ve discussed a great deal on this blog, most notably in my reviews of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I fully agree with Anderson in this, that discussing these issues are imperative for all parties, potential victims, potential bystanders, and potential perpetrators of sexual assault, given that many people don’t seem to understand what rape is and will often admit to having committed rape if the word ‘rape’ is not mentioned. This is obviously a serious problem, one driven home by the absolutely disgusting and dehumanizing reaction of bystanders, the greater community, news media, and the rapists themselves in the Steubenville case.

But this is not Steubenville’s problem. This is not Nova Scotia’s problem. This is not India’s problem. It’s our problem. It’s us. And nothing will change until we do. We need to grow up and start addressing the elephant in the room rather than “protecting” our children with ignorance, fear, and misinformation that only leaves them more vulnerable. As Anderson says during the NPR interview:

“I think my generation of parents has to grow up instantly, right now, admit that we have a hard time talking about this to our kids, and admit that if we love our children, we owe them our strength. We have to find a way to conquer our own fears, sit down and say, wow, this is going to be super awkward, you guys, but I have to start talking to you about sexual assault, what it means, what are the laws, how to protect yourself and what I expect from you if you come across this in your life, not only as a victim, but as a bystander. I think that we can change the culture tomorrow if we would all commit to it.”

This is why I think it is so important not only not to ban books such as Speak and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Julie of the Wolves and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but to read them. Read them to your class. Read them to your book group. Read them to your children. Then discuss. Talk to your kids. Ask them what they think. Ask them how they feel about people’s reactions to the rape in Steubenville. Ask them how they might have felt or what they might have done or what they think should have been done. Arm your children with knowledge. It will protect them far more than the paper shields of censorship and silence ever can.

“Censoring books that deal with difficult adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.

Our children cannot afford to have the truth withheld from them”
-Laurie Halse Anderson

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About boundandgaggedbooks

Shannon is a freelance writer and folklore buff. She has a degree from Hampshire College in Creative Writing/Mythology & Religion, with an emphasis on epic/oral traditions, their anthropological implications, and their modern counterparts. Her work can be found in Fabulously Feminist, Wolf Wariors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology, The Concord Monitor, Redhead Magazine, and The Climax.

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