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When I was 11 years old walking home from the corner store with a group of friends one afternoon, older boys, probably 16-ish, walked by and started chatting with us.  We didn’t know them, some we had seen around school or at church.  A few of us lost interest and started to walk away.  When we did, one of the boys called my name and when I turned around he threw a dime at me and told me to call him when I turned 17.

Honestly, I remember being a bit flattered at the time to be singled out by an older boy who actually knew my name.  I do remember giving him one of my “what the hell are you talking about” looks, turning on my heels, stepping over the coin on the sidewalk, and walking away.  At 11 years old I knew nothing about the sexual implications of what he said.  I thought he was talking about going on a date and remember wondering if one had to be 17 to go on a date.

When I finally heard the definition of statutory rape that dime toss came into focus.  If you don’t know, statutory rate in NYS is defined as:  sexual intercourse with a person who is below the statutory age of consent.  In NYS the statutory age of consent is 17.  There I was, 11 years old, being sexually harassed by a teenage boy and I had no idea.

In today’s world 11 year olds are bombarded with information on sex and sexual innuendo.  Most TV programs have sexual connotations, if not fade to black sex scenes, and then there’s the Victoria Secret program where attractive women parade around in revealing underwear. Ads of all kinds (from make-up to cars) suggest if one purchases their product they will be more attractive and appealing to the opposite sex.  Curiosity at any age can lead children to find out all they every wanted to know (and more) about sex on the internet.

Every family decides when and how to teach their children about sex.  I lean toward responding honestly when specific questions are asked.  The answer can be scaled down depending on the age of the child. It’s difficult, because the questions come out of the blue and catch us by surprise.  I often suspect when I was answering those questions posed by my son that he already knew the answer but was checking to see if I knew the correct answer.

Unlike 11 year old me, I believe forewarned is forearmed when it comes to girls.  Being able to recognize sexual harassment for what it is, allows them to stand up for themselves and call out the boy responsible.  Learning early that there’s a difference between genuine interest and sexual predatory interest allows them to be prepared if and when more aggressive sexual harassment happens later in their lives.

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