|No child was injured during this photo shoot.|
Imagine you're three foot nothing. The world is big, very big! Adults are tall, really tall!
"Guess what, Pumpkin, today we're going to a family reunion," your mother says as she pulls open your bedroom blinds. "Time to get dressed."
You use your little fists to wipe the sleep from your eyes. You're not quite sure what a reunion is, but your mom tells you you're going to have fun, lots of fun.
A Child’s Perspective: Take One
After a long ride in the minivan, you're happy to be out of your booster seat. Your mom takes your hand and you enter a room, a really big room. There are people, really big people--everywhere. Suddenly a woman you don't know comes racing up to you. The next thing you know all you can see are big red lips, all you can smell is coffee breath, all you can hear is "Oh, isn't she a cutie patootie?", and all you can feel are your cheeks being pulled so tight you want to yell OUCH, but you can't move your lips into the OU position.
Next thing you know, you see giant hairy arms grabbing you. They pull you twenty feet off the ground. You try to look up to see who it is, but you can't. Your right cheek, still sore from Red Lips, is crushed up against someone's big green shirt. All you can see is green, all you can smell is bad aftershave, all you can hear is "Grrherherherher", and all you can feel is every ounce of air being squeezed from your tiny body. Finally, that someone lowers you to the ground. You spot your mom across the room. You run as fast as you can away from Red Lips and Green Shirt and nearly topple your mom over as you grab her legs, refusing to let go.
Being a kid is scary sometimes. Adults forget that.
A Child's Perspective: Take Two
After a long ride in the minivan, you're happy to be out of your booster seat. Your mom takes your hand, bends down, and looks you in the eye, "Now remember, you don't have to hug or kiss anyone if you don't want to. It's okay to say no thank you. I'll be right here if you need me."
You enter a room, a really big room. There are people, really big people--everywhere. Suddenly a woman you don't know comes walking up to you, she stoops down, looks you in the eye, and says, "Well hello, Sarah, it's so nice to meet you. My goodness, you're a cutie patootie."
You see her smiling face and reach out for a hug. She hugs back. You smile.
The next thing you know a giant man in a green shirt bends over, looks you in the eye, and says, "Hello Sarah."
You know him. He's your uncle.
"Do you have any hugs for your ole uncle Frank today?"
"No thank you, I don't feel like hugging right now."
"No problem. It sure is good to see you. My how you've grown. How about a high-five?"
You feel safe. You slap him a high-five. You giggle. You look up at your mom and smile. She smiles back.
Teaching kids that they can set boundaries and say no is wise all the time. Adults need to remember that.
Empowering children to say no to adults, when they don't feel like hugging or kissing, is our fourth step in protecting our children. Perpetrators avoid confident children who know they can set boundaries. Perpetrators avoid knowledgeable, confident kids (step three) who have a relationship with their parents (step two), especially those parents who refuse to ignore the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse (step one).