The vast majority of young people do not tell their harsh and violent stories of a sexual nature to their families for fear of not being able to socialize and of letting them down. This is something that Marina Marroquí (Elche, 35 years old), social educator, specialist in gender violence and victim of gender violence, is clear and present daily at her events and knows the shocking stories that boys and girls tell her. Recognized as one of the 25 most important women in the history of the Valencian Community by the Valencian Courts and the 2020 Meninas Award against gender violence, she believes that adults should put themselves more in the shoes of their children, listen to them and understand them. In addition, she understands that there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation about what machismo and sexual and gender violence mean.
The also author of That’s not love: 30 challenges to work on equality (Editorial Destino Infantil y Juvenil) and That’s not sex: Another sex education is urgent! (Crossbooks) offers training to families, children and young people in workshops and conferences on prevention and early detection of gender violence and sexual violence to awaken a critical mindset, in addition to detecting signs of abuse.
ASK. With your personal history and the training you give, what do you intend to achieve among young people? What keys do you give them to live together in equality and respect?
ANSWER. My workshop for the prevention of gender violence in adolescence has passed to date over 120,000 boys and girls from all over Spain. I think it is important that they understand how we are raised, that from birth we are treated differently because we are male or female and that society also demands different things for that reason. In the workshops we expose the false myths of romantic love and the irruption of pornography. I count the price I paid for believing those stories, something that can happen to anyone. Machismo generates the perfect trap so that girls do not identify gender violence. It is crucial to remember that one in three adolescents suffer gender violence and if we add sexual violence, we are talking about one in two.
Q. Do you think that today’s youth really understand what equality means?
R. Although they have many resources and tools, I think that adolescents do not understand what equality is because they have not been educated on it. This new generation is required to be egalitarian, to banish racism or LGTBphobia, but we do not have an Equality or Sex Education subject in schools and institutes. The family and the school are making a great effort to make this society better. The fault is that we do not know the reality in which adolescence lives and we make the mistake of blaming them. There is a very dangerous invisible generation gap. Many families that I train don’t even know what a sugar daddy (man with high purchasing power who has affective relationships with women to whom he offers social status) or OnlyFans (social network with exclusive content for adults).
Q. Children and adolescents copy and need good examples: how to act equally at home and at school?
R. From the moment your child is born, equality must be an educational line because it makes them free, happy and better people. As for girls, after their birth, they are put on earrings to differentiate them and that already lays the foundations of inequality. Families need training and information. Courses are needed to introduce children to society.
Q. About gender stereotypes or hypersexualization, are parents wrong when they refer to their boys or girls with certain qualifiers or concepts?
R. Self-esteem is built mainly up to the age of six and basically by the qualities that are reinforced from the closest environment. With a child, the strong, brave, intelligent and adventurous are usually reinforced, which are internal qualities. On the other hand, a girl is told how pretty, good, pretty and sweet she is. 70% of these adjectives only refer to her physical appearance. Women develop external self-esteem, the value we give ourselves depends on what they tell us. If the girl feels good about calling her pretty and on Instagram she has hundreds of comments and I like when it puts snoutsbut in the photo in which she also comes out with a book and only her father or mother tells her “that’s my girl”, the positive reinforcement is in the first thing, in her appearance.
Q. Are social networks and video games the breeding ground for sexist violence? Would it be necessary to censor certain harmful content or comments?
R. The first images of sexual content reach children at the age of eight and they consume it regularly at 12, and we are not talking about soft or funny content. Pornography wants to find and capture them at that age and it does so through links, tags or PlayStation chat. Around the age of 12, what connects with desire and sexuality will be what they like for the rest of their lives. If 88% of porn involves physical violence against women, young people will need violence in their sexual relationships. From 8 to 12 years of age, empathy is also developing in the brain, but if you are exposed to extreme violence during that development, that prevents it. And someone who has not been able to develop their empathy is a psychopath. The family should not believe that because their son is in his room he is safe, because he is not. And you have to have enough information to give a 13-year-old boy a cell phone. A change of laws is urgent.
Q. Are adolescents and young people clear that there is also violence manifested in humiliation or manipulation?
R. It is normalizing and although the girls do not want certain forms or actions in a love relationship, they do not express it. Now it is common for this to be called a toxic relationship, but it can be a subtle way to talk about abuse. Let’s call things by their name.
Q. How does being a direct witness of gender-based violence affect a child or adolescent?
R. We talk about losing their childhood because they quickly learn that they cannot behave freely, since that will bring consequences (shouting, insults or hitting). There is no worse price than that. Women don’t have to put up with their children, but get out of there for them. An abuser will never be a good father. Let’s not forget that children learn by observing.
You can follow Mamas & Papas on Facebook, Twitter or sign up here to receive our biweekly newsletter.