The Teachable Moment of Brett Kavanaugh and His Sexual Assault
Dr. Laura Berman, leading sex therapist, available to comment on issues of consent, trauma and talking to teens about these topics
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is accused of sexually assaulting a young girl when they were both in high school. His accuser came forward with her allegations in 2012, and then again in the wake of his nomination for the highest court in the land.
“Professor Christine Blasey Ford first made her sexual trauma at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh known when she was in a couples’ therapy with her husband,” says Dr. Laura Berman, leading sex educator, New York Times bestselling author, radio host and frequent television guest. “As a couples’ therapist, I have encountered similar discussions many times. Trauma from past sexual assaults haunt the victim long after their accuser has moved on, and it can severely impair their relationships and marriages even decades into the future.”
As devastating as such experiences can be, Dr. Berman says there is a silver lining when cases such as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh hit the news.
“What an amazing opportunity for a teachable moment for teens,” says Dr. Berman, who wrote the groundbreaking guidebook Talking to Your Kids about Sex. “As a sex educator and a mother of three myself, I always find that stories like this create the perfect space for me to talk to young people about issues like consent, bodily autonomy and also alcohol use. The teen years are the first time most young people try alcohol or drugs for the first time, and it is also the time they make their first forays into sexual activity, so it is absolutely imperative that we have conversations about these issues in a cohesive, comprehensive manner.”
Dr. Berman says the best way to talk to your kids about these topics is to keep it simple, and to listen more than you talk. “Be open to hearing their opinion and learning about what is happening in their worlds,” says the sex therapist. “When you do speak, do so in clear, concise way, such as by saying ‘A person cannot consent if they are under the influence, and even one drink can make a person impaired and unable to consent.’ Encourage them to be that voice of clarity and conscience among their friends, and to always come to you with any concerns. Say something like ‘No matter what the situation, even if you drank or did drugs or something else you are afraid to tell me, if you or someone you know was touched against your will or harmed in anyway at a party, that takes precedent over everything. I will not punish you for coming to me for help.’”