…but the topic is always relevant.
We were at a kiddy birthday party some months ago and either the Brat or the Bean ( I forget which one) came running out screaming, ‘We’re playing doctor and look what X is doing to Y’. All of us parents froze in that one second and you could feel the tension in the room. Playing doctor? Thankfully we were all sensible enough not to rush into the room together and make a big deal. Another parent and I casually strolled into the nursery and the rest waited nervously for news.
There was nothing amiss, really. A bunch of them were playing with the doctor set (all below the age of 6), and one was just being particularly rough with another. That’s it. No funny business. We put an end to the rough play, told them not to hurt each other and came out to inform the other parents. A collective sigh of relief went around the room.
We all know what it means when kids are playing doctor. Almost every kid has at some point in life experienced some form of exploration, either of themselves or of another child. And almost every single one of them has realised they are doing something taboo. As you all are aware, last month, April, was Child Sexual Awareness Month. And although the month is over, I had to post on this very important topic. The Bride brings up a few questions in her CSA post, including, how should parents react if they find their kids engaged in voluntary sexual acts? And is it still rape if it is between two minors, where one is the aggressor. The jury is out on the second one because there are so many grey areas here. Many sexually aggressive children have been abused themselves, and think this is perfectly normal behaviour. For the first, I turned to a couple of friends and gurus and Sandhya (I always count on her for a sensible, thought through response instead of my knee jerk ones) had this to say. I urge you to read both posts as well as comments for a very interesting and open minded discussion.
Moving on to the second part of my post. For this last month that I’ve worked on the CSA blog and spoken to friends and forwarded posts and shared them on FB, I’ve had so many people nod vehemently and then take me aside and deeply concerned, ask me, ‘Are you sure this is the right thing to do? To talk to your child about this kind of stuff? Aren’t you taking away their innocence? Filling their heads with all sorts of ideas.’
I’ve been pretty gobsmacked at this response. 1 in every 4 women has been abused. 90% of perpetrators are known to their victim. What does that tell you? That your child is at high risk and it could well be someone you know. Now, do you choose ‘protecting their innocence’ or protecting your child?
Which brings me to the next point. What the hell is this innocence you’re protecting? What is it that parents imagine awareness entails? Do you imagine we’re hanging up graphic charts and using power point presentations to illustrate all the ways a child can be abused in?
All you’re doing is telling your child that it is not okay for anyone to touch them, just as you’d tell them not to run on to the road, play with knives or matches or whack their sibling on the head with a bat.
Ask the parent of an abused child what they’d do differently if they could turn back time. They’d teach their child their rights, they’d teach their child what it is wrong for another to do to them. And they’d teach them to come back and tell them about it.
The kids are rushing out to play in the garden and I make a long arm and grab both for their weekly pop quiz – What are your private parts? Who can touch them? Are you allowed to touch anyone there? Do you need to tell mama if someone scares you and says not to tell her? Will you get into a car with a stranger? Will you take food from someone you don’t know? Which side of the road are you supposed to walk on? Which is the smallest continent? Which is the biggest planet?
And there you go, it’s done. They rush off to gather bugs and leaves.
They’ve not been pulled into a dark corner and educated in a sepulchral tone. They don’t look particularly scarred or traumatised for being educated. It’s yet another of mama’s strictures and the taboo quality is something only we adults add to it. Can I be sure they’ll be safe after the rigorous awareness routine I take them through? Unlikely. But have I done the best I can, to protect them? I think so.
I want them to be brave and free and confident and for that I need to let them go. Equip them with the knowledge and then pray for the best. Tell them to trust their instincts and hope they will bring their worries to me as we cuddle after lights out for goodnight chat.
So, what are you talking to your child about, tonight?