Friday, January 1, 2016

That Time My Sixth Grade Daughter Was Sexually Harassed

A daughter needs a loving, available, predictable father . . . who can be counted on . . .  She needs his best paternal intentions . . . She needs his maturity and limit setting and sexual oppositeness, so that she can function with confidence in the wider world of adult love and work.
– Victoria Secunda

Inappropriate behavior tolerated here . . .
Shortly after the start of school a few years ago, one of my beautiful daughters who was in middle school at the time asked to talk to me one afternoon. I sensed, clearly, that something had bothered her.

As students boarded the bus and filed down the aisle to take a seat that afternoon, my daughter explained, Johnny (not the boy's name) who stood behind my daughter, grabbed her hips, and “pretended to hump me,” were her exact words.

I’m not sure I realized the gravity of my response held, or maybe I did. Regardless, I could have said to her, “Well, Honey, boys will be boys,” but I didn't.

I knew the boy and his family to be responsible and socially conscious people. I’m certain that the boy who, like my daughter, had just started middle school, very likely didn’t know the magnitude of his behavior and wanted other boys on the bus to like him by making them laugh. I could have said, “Well, Johnny just made a bad decision. Cut him a break.” Either of those responses would have implied that I condoned the actions and established an expectation of acceptable behavior for my daughter in her relationships with men as she grew older.

“That’s sexual harassment and that’s not acceptable,” I said after she finished.

I’m not sure whether or not I explained a little more from the soapbox I carry with me about sexual harassment and the reasons the behavior not acceptable, but I probably did.

I know I did one more thing, though. Rather than don my armor and Excalibur, mount my white horse, and gallop to the middle school, I advised my beautiful daughter, “Report the incident to the principal tomorrow and let me know what happens.”

. . . will become inappropriate behavior tolerated here.
Of course, had the principal not handled the incident appropriately, I would have very happily defended the honor of my young lady, but he did. After an investigation, some disciplinary action was taken relative to the boy who apologized to my daughter for his behavior. The boy’s father also apologized to me. Class act.

At least as important, my daughter has more clear expectations for the behavior of the men in her life, now and in the future, and she also knows that she is empowered to take responsibility and action on her own behalf.

While I very much want all of my children to grow up to be independent, strong, respectful, well-adjusted, and happy adults, I hope my daughter knows one more thing for sure: her dad has her back.