You may have heard about the little boy who was suspended for kissing a little girl in Colorado. Originally they had filed it as “sexual harassment,” which sent a lot of people into a tizzy. I agree that labeling a six year old’s kissing as sexual harassment–which would set him up for all sort of headaches in school, such as not using a bathroom with other children–is unfair. That charge was dropped. I made the mistake of reading the comments on the article, and I do have to address something that infuriates me. Here’s the article:
The comments imply that the kissing was innocent, despite the fact the girl’s mother says it was unwanted and a repeated problem with this child. They say that the girl’s mother is wrong for supporting suspension, her daughter should just “get over some innocent kisses” and the little boy was just being sweet, and what’s their problem anyway?
Okay, people, get this through your heads. NO ONE has to put up with unwanted touching. Child or adult. Saying this little girl should just “get over” being kissed without permission is ridiculous. For some reason, people feel that all little girls should want to be kissed and hugged, and if they don’t, something is wrong. How far should it extend?
Some of you may think I’m overreacting, but I speak from experience. I’ve worked with many children, mostly six year olds. Every class has a kissing boy/kissing girl, and usually, it is innocent. This is likely what this case was. They need to be taught boundaries, and usually it stops. But sometimes it doesn’t.
I also worked with several sexually abused children. Often, these children act out sexually. It tends to start with kissing, often persuing another child who doesn’t want it. It can quickly escalate to grinding on the child, yanking on their clothes, and unwanted sexual contact. Saying “please don’t do that” usually doesn’t work with these children–after all, it didn’t stop their attacker!
I’m not blaming these children; they were victims crying out for help. But the children they insisted on kissing and hugging don’t have to put up with it, either. In fact, one of my girls, also a repeated sexual assault victim, was targeted by one of the kissing boys, who genuinely just was an affectionate kid. He gave her a kiss on the cheek, and she started screaming, sobbing, and scratching at herself, a response to the unwanted and surprising touch. Why should she have to endure “innocent touching” when clearly, it’s not something she could tolerate? She’s not wrong for wanting to be left alone. To the boy’s credit, he was stunned and terribly sorry, and that put an end to it. Another of my students liked to give hugs, but she didn’t give warning. She hugged a boy who had been the victim of unspeakable abuse, and couldn’t tolerate any kind of touch. He punched her in the face and fled, and it took a long time to get him out from under his desk. Did she deserve to be punched? Absolutely not. But she also needed to learn that not everyone is willing to be hugged. Once it was over, she took it upon herself to apologize, and told him she’d been hurt by her dad, too. He accepted it, and once they knew each other’s boundaries, they were okay.
Most “kissing kids” are innocent, and are playing or genuinely trying to show affection. But they need to be taught that not everyone has to respond in kind, and not everyone wants a hug. That no means no, even with children. I taught my students to stand an arm’s length away and ask, “May I have a hug?” If the person said no, end of story. That included me. It did work for most of them. However, when talking to them doesn’t work, suspension is warranted. The little girl’s mother int he article was not overreacting. If the girl wants it to stop, it needs to stop. It doesn’t matter that they’re only six. At what magical age does it go from innocent to a problem?
As an adult, I’ve had men try to grab my breasts, rub my leg, and lick me. It’s vile. I’ve been very lucky it’s never gone further than that. I have a right to be left alone. My daughters have the right to be left alone. Even, yes, at six.