I’ll raise them rude | Sexual Abuse Prevention

There’s a huge emphasis on raising good kids. Polite kids. Respectful kids. We’d like our youngsters to be hyper-aware of social nuances and considerate not to hurt the feelings of others. I’d like this too. Up to a point…

Here’s where I often put noses out of joint:
I will actively prevent other people from touching my babies.
Well-meaning people, who just want to pinch their cheeks or squidge their little tummies, or stroke their hair, or scoop them up into a cuddle.

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Usually, if the boys are in my arms, a carrier or my buggy, I will move them away. Other times, I have had to physically interpose myself between strangers and the twins.

There have also been times when I am too slow or not expecting it, when I have actually said to people “Can you not touch them please?” Oh the looks of horror! Seriously, you’d think there was no worse faux pas I could possibly make!

But here’s the thing: I am passionate about protecting Sausage & Bean’s body autonomy. Each is the boss of his own body. That means no one gets to touch/stroke/pick my children up without their consent. No matter how kindly/curious/friendly/related that person may be.

But they’re just babies. What would consent even look like?

For one thing, babies can quite clearly indicate whether they want to be touched by somebody new. At 11 months, my twins will reach out, or crawl up and initiate the touch themselves – once they are comfortable in their own minds that this is what they want. And they aren’t shy! As far as I am concerned, as long as I don’t have any qualms about the individual, and am supervising, then my sons are very welcome to invite physical contact from new acquaintances of their choosing – that’s part of being the boss of their body!

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But what about tiny babies, surely they can’t communicate a preference?

Well maybe not verbally, but they can certainly let you know when they aren’t happy being held by someone else. And in the meantime, their parents have the responsibility to choose wisely, and closely watch for their babies’ cues.

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This leaves some room for interpretation, of course. For us, this meant we chose not to pass the twins around unless absolutely necessary – especially when they were newborn and just forming their attachments to their primary caregivers.

 

 

But surely it’s important to pass them around, to get them used to other people!

Why? If I have chosen not to pass them around, why would they need to get used to being passed around? I get met with this nonsensical retort more often than you’d think!

(There were, of course, some times early on when I had to break this rule – when you have newborn twins there are times you have to throw yourself on the mercy of a fellow mum with regards to holding a baby so you can change the other/go to the loo etc.)

But the point is that, as the guardian, you are judging whether the person is trustworthy, and whether the touch is appropriate.

What is NOT appropriate is initiating physical contact with a child without consent from both themselves and their parents.  

 

 

Oh come on, it’s the norm to cuddle/tickle/fuss babies. You are just finding things to be offended about!

Well let me put it to you this way:
Would it be okay for a stranger to reach out and to touch a five year old child?
What about a teenager?

If it’s not okay with a child who can express their preference and/or move away, why is it okay with a baby, who is powerless to prevent it?

 

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Credit: Safe Kids Thriving Families

 

Aren’t you being a bit stand-offish? Won’t your kids get a reputation for being rude/unfriendly?

a) It turns out that, in spite of because of our attachment parenting, our babies are super-confident and gregarious with new people.

b) There are plenty of ways to interact in a friendly manner that don’t include touching. I have good friends whose children I have never touched. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t formed a friendship.

It boils down to the fact that babies are neither pets to be stroked, nor possessions to be passed around. They aren’t half-formed, humans-in-waiting. They are people in their own right, from birth, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

The fact that this is such an alien concept to most people just shows how endemic Childism is in our society!

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Credit: Safe Kids Thriving Families

Why is this such a hot-button topic with you?

(Trigger warning: reference to childhood assault coming up…)

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When I was 12 years old, I was molested by an adult friend of the family. Luckily, not a close friend, not one we saw more than once a year, nor did I ever cross paths with him again.

Why do I mention this now, publicly, after so many years, when to this day I have only told my husband and a couple of close friends?
Because I vividly remember at the time not wanting to hurt his feelings. I felt obliged to be polite. 

Whilst I refused his proposition that we start a relationship, I made excuses – blamed it on having a crush on someone else, instead of telling him I didn’t want to. And when he asked about future prospects, I said “Oh, you never know what will happen in the future”.
Because I didn’t want to offend him. 

I didn’t know that what he was doing was morally and legally wrong, only that it made me feel sick. I remember the phrase “There’s such as thing as personal space” on loop in my head, but I had always been taught not to be rude, so I didn’t speak out.

I didn’t really recognise that he was a paedophile (after all, you *feel* very grown-up at 12 years old), only that the memory made me shake and feel uneasy long afterwards. And I didn’t tell anyone for fear of getting into trouble. 

In fact, I still have never revealed who it was, for fear of upsetting his family, or (worse) it being denied, or dismissed as an overreaction. I have no proof, and for the most part it is done with. And it could have been much worse, gone further or been repeated. I never saw him again.

But it certainly affected me. Affected the way I felt about my body and my self-worth.
It set the tone that I was only desirable for my body, and other people had rights over it.

Growing up, I became very emotionally needy, but got the impression that I had to almost bribe guys into staying with me, by allowing them access to my body. Although I knew I wanted to wait until marriage due to my faith, I felt pressured by various boyfriends, and feared they would leave me if I didn’t put-out (completely accurate, as it turns out).

I used to make excuses, but the longer we were together, the more I felt obliged to engage in activities that I wasn’t enjoying – and yet somehow felt like I owed them. And even when they hurt me due to their inexperience, I still didn’t speak out, for fear that they’d be offended and leave me. 

**In case any ex-boyfriends read this: not all of you were awful. But another sad ramification was that I was so accustomed to being treated badly, that I didn’t really know how to respond to a nice guy – I usually ended things quickly! Essentially, if I was the one who ended it, you probably didn’t deserve it and were one of the nice guys!
Totally nonsensical, but abuse screws you up. 

I had learned that I was not worth waiting for. That I was a prude or a weirdo, or stuck-up or fridgid, for wanting some say over my body. Thank goodness that when I eventually met my loving, devoted husband, I had managed to avoid going all the way, and I got my wish to save myself for him. But make no mistake, there were a lot of hang-ups and baggage that needed repairing – and it still causes inhibitions to this day.

Now I’m not talking about whether people decide to wait for marriage or not – if it’s not your faith, then why would you?

I am talking about being taken advantage of or coerced into sexual contact before you are physically or emotionally ready for it – whatever the reason.

 

 

 

What has this got to do with touching babies? Clearly well-wishing elderly folks you meet in the street aren’t initiating sexual contact with their coochie-cooing…

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Granted, the average person you meet isn’t a paedophile. But what lesson are we teaching our kids in allowing unsolicited touch?
That adults get to touch children if they want?
That those who are bigger and stronger get to call the shots over your body?
That you are only kind/friendly/polite if you allow people to touch you?
That it’s more important to avoid offending people than to speak your mind?

I certainly don’t blame my parents for raising me to be polite. But I do wish that schools, churches, society as a whole had taught me that I am the boss of my body.
That refusing physical contact is never rude.
That rudeness, in the context of unwanted advances, is 100% justifiable.

I plan to raise my children with absolute body confidence. I plan to raise my kids to know their boundaries and stick to their guns.

It doesn’t matter if unwanted touch is well-meant.

It doesn’t matter if refusal hurts your feelings.

It doesn’t matter if it’s socially acceptable.

If it will prevent them being sexually abused,

I’ll raise them rude.

 

 

This post is not meant to shame other parenting decisions, but to raise awareness of sexual abuse prevention and change the conversation surrounding forced affection. If this post has triggered some uncomfortable reactions, you can find more information/support here:

Safe Kids, Thriving Families
NSPCC
Forced affection
Childism
What is Molestation?
Non-recent Abuse

Linked-up with:

My Petit Canard

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31 thoughts on “I’ll raise them rude | Sexual Abuse Prevention

  1. Totally agree with this! I am trying to teach my 4 year old that people should ask to touch her, trying to practise it myself with brushing her teeth etc but as her mum I forget! Also trying to teach family NOT to expect her to kiss/cuddle them if she doesn’t want too! Fab post #triumphanttales

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    1. Yes it’s a constant battle to remember! I keep finding myself on autopilot dressing them or changing nappies – I have to consciously remember to ask permission first. How crazy is that? That we automatically manhandle them and forget to warn them first! It’s totally a process but shows you how alien a concept it is in our society xx

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  2. What an interesting read, thank you for sharing your story and your inight into the subject. I must admit, while I don’t force my son to kiss or cuddle friends/relatives I don’t stop them cuddling him without permission either..I kind of feel a bit bad about it now I’ve read this (not a criticism by the way!). I do worry though as he would happily hug a stranger and this makes me feel so uncomfortable and anxious, it’s one thing having family touch him but for him to go up to people in the shop and go for a cuddle is a massive concern to me. We have just had a big chat with him about ‘strangers’ and it seems to have done the trick..I hope! So sorry to read what happened when you were younger, very brave of you to share your story xx #dreamteam

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    1. Hi Wendy, well actually now my kids are of an age where they can and do indicate they want to initiate touch with strangers I actually let them, as long as I have no concerns about the individual and am supervising. I figure I can’t call them the boss of their body and forbid it completely! But I have yet to cross the stranger danger bridge! Hoping to find some good kids books to help sew the seeds x

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  3. An interesting challenge to social norms. Just wondering how this would translate to their later lives and when they initiate touch (like in relationships) and are rejected. How do you prevent having control over their own bodies becoming control over how they touch other people’s bodies as well?

    Promise I’m not arguing, just curious. Might also be a silly question that just reflects my view of touch!

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    1. Of course! By teaching that everybody is the boss of their own body! It would be completely redundant to teach only a one-sided version of consent. Even now, if they are bugging each other (or me!) I will remind them about body autonomy, and that we have to respect personal space. As they develop and grow, so the lesson becomes more complex. Right now it is basic because they are 11 months old – it will become more nuanced as they become more able to discuss things. It’s like anything really: if you protect kids’ rights to be treated with respect, you won’t forget to teach them that respect goes both ways! Even now, if they are wanting to crawl up to someone who doesn’t want it, we prevent that and quote the simple lesson x

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    2. One simple example is if they pull my hair or want to stick their fingers up my nose! I say ‘please don’t do that, it’s Mummy’s body and it hurts’. Or if they are wanting to be stuck on the boob but I am super touched-out, I will remind them ‘breastfeeding is a relationship. I know it’s your food, but it’s also my body and I want a break now’. From a consent point of view, I try to ask permission before manhandling them to dress/change bums/wash them etc. And I ask if they want me to help/cuddle them. Kids model adults, so by modelling respect they will eventually replicate it x

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  4. What an interesting and very open post. I am the mother of a child who was ‘touched inappropriately’ by a family member. She still has problems with relationships now she’s an adult. Thankfully she told me about it but she was terrified I wouldn’t believe her. I think it’s very important to teach your children that they can say no and refuse adults. It’s a very important message.

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    1. Oh what an awful experience for you both! I didn’t tell any family until I was an adult and even now didn’t say who it was. Your poor daughter. I am so glad you believed her and are there for her xx

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  5. This is a really thought provoking post. My baby son gets passed around a lot and I didn’t twice about it. However I don’t force my daughter to hug people or go to them if she doesn’t want to. Learning to say ‘no’ and knowing their own bodies is so important #ThatFridayLinky

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    1. I don’t think passing them round is an issue if they already have a strong attachment, can see that you trust the adult and you are reading their cues that they aren’t uncomfortable. It’s more when relatives insist on taking the baby even if the baby isn’t happy, or when random people think it’s okay to touch/pick them up without reference to you! Once the baby is initiating contact I am all for it (as long as I don’t have good reasons to be concerned of course…)

      Thanks for stopping by! X

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    1. I think the awkward part is when people assume because you have made it a parenting principle, you are accusing them specifically of being up to no good. But then we are all responsible for our own reactions – if they want to take offence, we can’t control that I guess! X

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  6. I had never thought about the types of implicit messages that we are sending our children until I read your post. It makes for a really interesting arguement, one that has definitely made me think differently about this topic and how I make sure I am giving our children the right messages and voices around this. Great post, thanks for sharing it with us on #MarvMondays. Emily

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    1. Thanks! All of these concepts are like seeds – you come across it somewhere and over time it changes how you think of all sorts of situations. I picked up on a lot of this stuff through Happinessishere and Racheous x

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  7. I am in complete agreement with you! One of my lasting memories as an 8 year old girl is that my uncle used to insist on pinching my cheeks and I hated it. Why should that be allowed just because they’re kids, you wouldn’t stand for it as an adult! Thanks for linking up to #dreamteam x

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  8. Fab post 100% agree especially don’t touch my twins I feel the same Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is really interesting. I’ll admit that I don’t stop adults going near my babies, but I always step in if my child/baby seems unhappy with the situation. I also hate it when adults demand a kiss or a cuddle before they leave or when we meet up – I may suggest that they go for a high five instead, but even this is not forced if my child doesn’t want to. Some adults really push it though and say it will make them sad if they don’t have a kiss. I don’t care – it is not their right and I will not teach my child that they have to kiss you just because you’ve asked for it, and because you say it’ll make you sad otherwise. Thanks for raising this important issue, and I’m sorry that you had such a horrible experience #blogcrush

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