I keep trying to write about other stuff, but this is all I can think about right now. I took my daughter to play with a little friend from her school last week. This little boy is about a year older than she is, but they are good friends at school. While they were out of sight, the boy lead my daughter behind his bed where he kissed her repeatedly. She told him to stop. He said “I can’t.” He also said, “Don’t tell your mom.”
My daughter did so well with this really difficult situation. Apparently it happened twice, and then she got the heck out of there. She came to me and was clearly upset but I did not find out what had happened for a few hours. Then, she told me: I told him to stop. He got his spit all over my lips. I did not like it. I was scared.
The entire episode occurred over the space of about 10/15 minutes. That’s how long she was out of my sight with him.
I am so, so proud of her for how she handled herself. We’ve talked about her ownership of her body before, and how only her Dad or I or her doctor are allowed to touch certain places, and even then only with her permission. I have done a little reading on this subject and plan to do more, because the problem is not going to go away. Not talking about it with her won’t make it not happen to her; it will just make her unprepared when it does happen.
One book I found really helpful was “Protecting the Gift,” by Gavin DeBecker. I don’t always agree with him but I think he has some great points about encouraging children to listen to how they feel about someone, and talking frankly with them about things that may happen and how to handle them. But how do you tell a little child that someone might touch them … that way? How do you tell them that someone might lie to them, bribe them, threaten them?
Of the several books I ordered after this happened, the one I found the most helpful for introducing the topic to my daughter is “The Right Touch,” by Sandy Kleven. In this book, a mom is telling her little boy a store about a girl whose neighbor tempts her into his home with promises of kittens, and then tries to put his hands down her panties. So it is a slightly more gentle way to introduce the idea that a) a grown-up might lie to you and b) a grown-up might touch you without your permission, in a place they should not touch. The book labels these situations “touching problems,” which for some reason feels like less of a loaded scary term for me to tell a child about.
I chose a quiet moment and sat and read this with my daughter, and talked about how when the little boy wouldn’t stop kissing her when she told him to, that was a touching problem. Of course I have also told her many times since then how she did the right thing in telling me all about it! I am so proud of her.
I know this is a really difficult subject. I told a friend what happened and she couldn’t stop going “Yuck, ewwww” for long enough to even discuss it with me. But “yuck, ewwww” isn’t going to protect our kids. We have to be able to take a step back and *talk* about it. 1 in 3 children are sexually abused at some point, and really no matter what we do, it still might happen. But at least if it does, if we have talked about it, hopefully our kids will understand better that no matter what, it is not their fault.