{Trigger warning: sexual assault}

No parent looks forward to talking about sex. It’s awkward. Uncomfortable. Intrusive. Many just choose to gloss over it. “Don’t be one of those girls” or “Have fun but be safe” is too often the extent of it. So we sweep it under the rug. We focus on grades. College applications. Driving tests. Sports. Anything but sex.

Parents: talk about sex and relationships with your kids. Talk about it openly and honestly. Talk about it often. Get over yourselves and your hangups and have the conversations.

I had no sex and relationship talks in my childhood and adolescence. Fourteen years ago, I was sexually assaulted. I went on to date the person who assaulted me in an effort to make it right in my head. If we were dating after, it wasn’t assault, right? Right! All was well.

Except, it wasn’t. It lurks.

It comes out in unexpected spurts. It comes out in random bouts of disordered eating. It comes out in shutting out my patient, understanding husband from time to time. It comes out in misplaced anger.

Talk to your children about sex. Remove the shame. Tell them the worst thing in the world isn’t being labeled a “slut”, it’s ignoring that voice in your head that says “get out”. Tell them they can always come to you, judgement-free. Tell them what a healthy relationship is because society? Society is not going to tell them the truth on this. Let them know that respect for themselves and others are paramount. Don’t stay silent. Because even one incident of sexual assault is a heavy burden to carry.