Lack of Autonomy and Respect – The Forces Behind Unwanted Attention
A few months ago the “#metoo movement came to a rise. Women were sharing their stories of horrible abuse. Men using their power over them, making advances, touching them without permission, and worse. I’m sure that more women than not have experienced repeated offenses over their years.
One of my first experiences with unwanted attention was in elementary school. This boy, Terry Watson… (yeah I called you out) used to beat me up consistently after school on our way home. FOR YEARS! My parents tried to get me to stand up to him and fight back, but I just let him hit me and I ran away if I could. Now that I am looking back on this, I don’t know what the cause of this was… as I don’t think we knew each other (he was a grade ahead of me). But eventually, the solution was that the school held this boy after school for 10 minutes every day so I could get home before they released him from school. This went on for two years before he moved up to middle school.
Then in high school, a boy (Doug) bothered me over and over, tapping me, pulling my hair, poking me. I asked the teacher, Mr. Pears, to move my seat. This guy was on the football team, he towered over me. And just so you know… I was not by any means popular or pretty in high school I was a straight-up nerd with no sense of style or self who seemed to just slide under the radar. The teacher told me to smack him, HARD. I responded that I didn’t want to get in trouble and he said I wouldn’t if he (the teacher) didn’t see it happen. Outside of my character I was forced to use physical violence to solve this boy’s problem, it took all my courage, but I smacked him. The whole class saw it, the teacher saw it and I didn’t get in trouble and he left me alone.
Then in my 20’s, at my first “real” job. I will never forget the young woman who was teased relentlessly until she quit because she reported a co-worker who had made unwanted advances.
At this same job, the dishwasher (don’t remember his name), was constantly flirting with me, placing his hands on my shoulder, grabbing my arm. Every time he did this I was firm.. “I am not interested, do not touch me.” He acted like his advances were going to change my mind. After what happened to my friend I knew that management would be of no help. I finally had enough and grabbed him by the shoulders, pushed him against the wall, looked him in the eyes and said: “If you ever F#$%ING touch me again I will kick your ass.”
It is really unsettling to me that in each case my solution was to resort to violence, which is way beyond my character. I hate that this was the culture for me and I find that not much has changed. We raise our children with moral standards and teach them social rules, but not everyone follows those rules and even though we are slowly moving toward a culture that treats women with respect we still have a long way to go.
I really believe that giving our children ownership over their bodies is key to helping end this cultural issue. When we empower our children, we teach them, and those around them that they have the right to say “no” and that affection should ALWAYS be mutually agreed upon.
AND? Family doesn’t get a free pass to force affection on anyone. And to be honest, I would think family would be the first to understand and want what is best for them. And when children are sexually abused, it is most often FAMILY. So, again… NO.
Here are some ideas of what you can do if you want to develop a sense of your child’s body autonomy:
– Vulva for exterior female genitals (the vagina is internal space between the vulva and the cervix)
5. Acknowledge that respect for our bodies applies to everyone. Males, females, children, and adults. If a child wants to cuddle and you are not in the mood, it’s okay to say no in a kind and honest way. If a child wants to kiss another child, and the other child doesn’t want to, give the other child permission to say “no”.
6. Be the example and demonstrate respect for yourself and for others. Children learn most of their social cues not by what we say, but by watching what we do. Interactions with your significant other, family and friends are modeling socially appropriate behavior for your children.