The Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) is set to launch the “Father-Son Communication About Sexual Health and Well-Being Toolkit this Friday, May 5, 2023.
The toolkit aims to connect sons with their fathers and fathers with their sons. It is a training module for carers and a practical guide for fathers.
Zenaida Rosales, executive director of CPTCSA, said since its founding, the organization has been aware that boys are equally sexually abused as girls and more importantly, many boys are abused by older boys and men.
“Our challenges in handling the male victim and abuser, both intertwined in a socio-cultural environment who kept the abuse silent and played a role in the development of sexual offending, helped us understand this phenomenon and how to keep boys and young men safe from being abused and from becoming adult sexual offenders,” Rosales said.
She said research and experience over the past 20 years has helped CPTCSA focus its social work on community-based and, more importantly, parent-based relationships with boys.
Rosales said one of CPTCSA’s work with boys as victims and young men incarcerated for sexual crimes was their desire for a relationship with their father; that even as the family’s wage-earner who has no time for them, most boys wished their father would give them more attention, especially of their desire for their father to talk with them about sex.
Rosales said, “Many boys learn about sex from the internet. Yes, we can work to stop pornography so we’ll work with fathers to fill that need for sex education and so that boys do not have to seek the internet for answers.”
But fathers, too, have concerns on how to talk with their sons about something so personal, especially something that involves intimacy with their son’s mother.
With the help of Dr. Ronald del Castillo, a professor of psychology, public health and public policy who works with CPTCSA as an independent consultant, the CPTCSA developed the toolkit to connect fathers with their sons and vice versa.
The project included pilots with boys and fathers and a module with all things sex and sexuality, such as anatomy, gender identity and roles, communication in relationships, expressing love and affection, body image, sexual orientation, sexual orientation, sexual offending, sexual activity and circumcision.
A great deal of the module is about understanding fathers and sons, the importance of involving fathers in their sons’ lives, their readiness and willingness to hold conversations, how fathers can seek support and practice active listening, and how to do, as Dr. del Castillo calls, “the talk.”
Del Castillo said, “We aim to build supportive conversations about sexual health and wellbeing specific to fathers and sons. Even when we advocate for more open dialogue about sex, let’s face it, we repeat the very cultural barrier we claim to want to dismantle: we talk about sex using the language of warnings, threats, and harm, and we reinforce the image of the father as distant and stereotypically masculine by excluding them in the dialogue.”
“Parents are protective of their children. It makes sense that sex talk leans on the negative: don’t do this, don’t do that, or else you’ll be punished; you’ll get that disease, you’ll get pregnant. There is a place for these topics,” said Del Castillo.
He said the manual wishes to enrich and redirect the conversation by teaching fathers how to talk about something “bad” in a good way, such as how to bring out feelings or thoughts connected to these difficult topics, or how to talk about the good things, too, such as liking or loving someone.
“The manual is about cultivating the sexual health and wellbeing of sons. We believe it is never too late to teach fathers, too. Fathers are supportive communicators, and their sons are willing to hear more from their fathers, if we give both a chance,” he said.
On a personal note, Del Castillo said he is fortunate for his education and to be a working professional. “Not once have I had ‘the talk’ with my father, my older brother, an uncle, or any other male figure. I do not blame them. They come from the same line of silence about men and sexual health.”
He continued: “Everything I write, teach, or communicate in this manual came from my own education or training, personal experience, or close friends. I value these, but I do wonder what it would have been like had there been a listening ear and supportive words from a trusted male figure when I was growing up. Let’s break the line of silence.”
This CPTCSA project is supported by Family for Every Child, a network of like-minded grassroots organizations from around the world.