If you’re a woman, you know the difference between a casual brush and a grope.
So it was, when I was greeting a young friend of the family with a quick hug, I felt a hand on my breast that wasn’t just the result of an awkward embrace.
Sure as Kardashians on the E! network, it was a grope.
I broke contact, completely unsure what to do. So I smiled and hugged the next person in the group. If you’d been watching, you’d have no clue something had happened.
A few minutes later, I mentioned it to a friend who was there with me.
“I think X just grabbed my boob,” I told her.
“He just did the same thing to me,” she said.
So we waited a few minutes and quietly took his parents aside.
We weren’t angry, but there was a problem
Two grown, level-headed women had the same story. We weren’t angry. But there was a problem, and we wanted the parents to know so they could correct it.
Their response? We had both misunderstood a completely innocent hug; their teenager had done nothing wrong.
No discussion. End of story.
Perhaps they were momentarily shocked by the accusation, thought better of it after a while and talked to the boy later.
I certainly hope so.
Because in this age of #MeToo, it’s important to realize that it’s also #ThemToo.
The child you love and think the world of might be on the path to be, if not the next Harvey Weinstein, at least part of the problem.
Let’s talk consent and respect
Every office creeper, bus groper and sidewalk leerer was once a sweet little kid.
Which is why every child, boy or girl, “good kid” or “troubled,” needs to have the same repeated conversations with their parents about consent and respect.
Parents, we need to drill into our kids that their bodies and the bodies of others are private. That wanting does not excuse touching. That all people deserve respect all the time. That if someone touches us sexually against our will, they have committed a crime. And that we will ALWAYS take it seriously.
Because that safer, healthier future we want for our kids, for ALL kids? It starts with what we teach them today and how we react if someone tells us there’s a problem later.