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How fathers can speak with daughters about sexual abuse prevention

November 15, 2017

Todd Kashdan

Though it can be uncomfortable, fathers must speak with their daughters about sexuality and sexual misconduct, a George Mason University professor said.

Citing research and common sense, Todd Kashdan, a professor of clinical psychology in George Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said such dialogues can help young women avoid becoming victims of sexual abuse.

Research, Kashdan said, suggests girls with secure, supportive relationships with their fathers are less sexually active in their early teenage years and less likely to be coerced or talked into sex.

“As fathers, our job is to be allies, not just for our daughters but every one of their peers” said Kashdan, a father of three daughters. “It is hard, never-ending work. It requires us to be present.”

What can fathers do? Kashdan has some suggestions, starting with not being afraid to talk with daughters about sex.

“You will not steal their innocence,” Kashdan said. “Just remember to use age-appropriate language.”

Fathers should encourage their daughters to ask questions, remind them to listen to their intuition, give them permission to physically protect themselves, and share a recent story concerning sexual misconduct.

“Not the sordid details,” Kashdan said. “But we need to treat children fairly, letting them know what human nature is, not what we wish it to be.”

“Being a dad is easy,” Kashdan added. “This is when you get a chance to be a father that impacts them in a meaningful way. View this as an opportunity.”

Todd Kashdan, a world-recognized authority on well-being, strengths, social relationships, stress, and anxiety, can be reached at (703) 993-9486 or tkashdan@gmu.edu. Read his letter to fathers here.

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at (703) 993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.