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Expert on Sexual Violence Says We Need to Change the Way We Talk to Our Daughters (and Sons)

April is the "awareness month" for a lot of things. Autism, jazz appreciation, even Confederate history (only in the Southern states, of course.)

But April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S., and since it's estimated 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, awareness is key.

We highlighted the topic on First Coast Connect by speaking with UNF criminology professor and author Dr. Jennifer Wesely.

Wesely's research focuses on two of the most marginalized groups of women in our society, homeless women and sex workers.  Parents of young girls may not think these topics affect them, but they do.

In her book Being Female: The Continuum of Sexualization, Wesely discusses the sexualization of all girls and women in American society, from everyday gender socialization to sexual abuse and violence. She also addresses the consequences of sexualization and the factors that place some girls at even greater risk along the continuum.

"We need to have a greater awareness of this this continuum, because the sexualization of girls has much greater impact than people realize," she says. "For example, parents should make sure to praise their daughters for things OTHER than their appearance. And the parents of sons need to allow those boys to cry, to experience the full range of emotions, to let them outside the typical "masculine" box."

Dr. Jennifer Wesley is the featured speaker at this week’s “Women, Words and Wisdom” speaker series.  She’ll appear Tuesday April 2nd , at Theatre Jacksonville in San Marco.

All proceeds benefit Expanded Horizons, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville literacy program for women. Learn more and get tickets at

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.