Around a week and a half ago, this landed in my Facebook feed.
Given how Mister Tea and I reacted to it, I feel I should warn that if you have experienced trauma that caused trust issues or PTSD, this may stir things up a bit.
Despite that, and in part Because of it, I felt this needed to be shared.
Additionally, we do usually try to use gentler language as Desert Sage Natural. I did not blur or otherwise edit this post for a couple of reasons. The first is that I felt that the rawness and intensity of these words was important. This was a trauma for the mother as well as for the child. The second is that, if this had happened to my child, I’m fairly certain my word choices would have been similar.
When I finished reading this, I was livid.
The first wave of emotion was strictly in response to what had happened to Podling. Mixed with disgust that someone could so easily dismiss basic truths and basic rights.
Mister Tea and I both have a deep experiential understanding of what it feels like to be the child whose trust in people is broken, and how that can turn into a lifelong struggle with social interactions.
Thankfully, I know this particular little girl has wonderful parents and a strong support structure. She will not experience this sort of violation over and over and have that distrust become a fact of life.
For that, I am glad.
However, there is a larger issue within this experience. And this larger issue was what provoked the second wave of emotion, which I am still sorting through.
What was being taught by this interchange? Thankfully there were no other children present when this occurred (and I will set my issues with the adults around aside for the moment) – but what if there had been? What would they have learned from it?
A grey-haired ‘nice lady’, an authority figure, someone you have been taught should be listened to shows you that:
No doesn’t mean no.
If someone is an (insert excuse here) they don’t have to stop.
You only have rights over your own body if someone chooses to allow you to have them.
You can force your own desires on other people if you THINK you have a good reason.
Might equals Right.
And people wonder where rape culture comes from? This sort of interaction would certainly plant some seeds.
“It’s just tickling” you might say.
On an immediate basic level you’d be wrong. There was no consent. There was active lack of consent. That’s the battery part of ‘assault & battery.’
Beyond the basics, consider what tickling is, what it does, for just a few moments. It is one of the actions another person can commit that can cause you to lose control over your own body.
It can cause your own body to turn traitor. Provoke reactions your mind is not in the least bit interested in. Give the perpetrator an excuse because “you liked it.” (Even if it was obvious you did not.)
That body treachery, those physical responses that cannot always be controlled, are in the top reasons why rape victims do not report. Especially men. There’s a guilt and a self-disgust that pervades the experience, and it can lead quite easily to feeling that there is something wrong with you. That it was somehow your fault. That you don’t actually have a right to have anything done about it.
I hated being tickled even before I learned to hate being touched at all.
These lessons regarding trust and humanity don’t go away easily. Sometimes they don’t ever fully go away. The length of the aftermath, the depth of the psychological scarring, varies based on intensity of the initial circumstance, support structure, and how you respond, but…
… the effects last.
This is a week and a half later, for a resilient little girl who has people who care, and are trying to help her four year old mind figure this out.
From one incident.
From “just tickling.”
Children are people. They are not toys. They are not placed randomly about for your amusement. They are people. They have rights. And how you respond to them, how you treat them, how you treat other children in front of them – is going to shape how they view the world. Both from the perspective of what can be done to them, as well as from the perspective of what they can do to others.
Choose your impact carefully.
*Facebook screencaps reproduced with permission.