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Penn State’s legal settlements with Jerry Sandusky’s accusers cover alleged abuse dating to 1971, which was 40 years before his arrest, the university said Sunday, providing the first confirmation of the time frame of abuse claims that have led to big payouts.
The disclosure came as Penn State President Eric Barron decried newly revealed allegations that former football coach Joe Paterno was told in 1976 that Sandusky had sexually abused a child and that two assistant coaches witnessed either inappropriate or sexual contact in the late 1980s. Paterno, who died in 2012, had said the first time he had received a complaint against Sandusky was in 2001.
Barron said the accusations were unsubstantiated, and suggested that the university is being subjected unfairly to what he called rumor and innuendo.
Responding to questions about the president’s statement and claims against the school, university spokesman Lawrence Lokman told The Associated Press he could confirm that the earliest year of alleged abuse covered in Penn State’s settlements is 1971.
Sandusky graduated from Penn State in 1965 and returned as a full-time defensive coach in 1969.
The university has paid out more than $90 million to settle more than 30 civil claims involving Sandusky, now 72 and serving a lengthy prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 children. The trial involved only allegations dating as far back as the mid-1990s.
The settlements, including the one covering the 1971 allegation, were reached after Sandusky’s 2012 conviction. But few details have been provided on the payouts by either the school or lawyers for those who said Sandusky victimized them.
The allegations about Paterno and the assistant coaches were cited in a ruling last week by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer in litigation between an insurance company and Penn State over how much of the settlement costs the school must bear.
The insurers cited an allegation that a boy had told the longtime Penn State football coach in 1976 that he had been molested by Sandusky. The court document also cited statements, from those claiming they had been Sandusky’s victims, that two unidentified assistant coaches had said they witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in the late 1980s.
Barron wrote the university community Sunday that he was “appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment” following Glazer’s disclosure of some allegations made against Paterno and some of his assistants.
Barron said those allegations, and others raised in some news reports in recent days, are “unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim.”
“Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them,” Barron said.
Some of the press reports, he said, “should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe.”
Barron said few crimes are as heinous as child sex assault, and the university is committed to prevention, treatment and education.
But he said he had “had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media.”
Sue Paterno, who has defended her husband’s legacy and said the family had no knowledge of new claims, also called for an end to what she called “this endless process of character assassination by accusation.”
Lokman declined to answer questions about what steps the university took to verify abuse claims during the settlement process, or about what it had done to investigate the new allegations that Paterno and members of his coaching staff knew about Sandusky’s abuse decades before his 2011 arrest.
The university hired settlement experts Kenneth Feinberg and Michael Rozen to handle the claims. Feinberg declined comment. Rozen did not respond to an email from the AP.
In 2001, Paterno told high-ranking university officials one of his assistant coaches reported seeing Sandusky acting inappropriately with a child in a team shower. In 2011, Paterno told a grand jury he did not know of any other incidents involving Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999.
Paterno was fired following Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest and died of lung cancer in January 2012. He was not charged with any crime, and his family is pursuing a lawsuit against the NCAA for commercial disparagement.
Three university officials, including former President Graham Spanier, await trial on criminal charges for their handling of the Sandusky scandal.
Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo contributed to this story.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our 18th annual March for Violence-Free Communities and Speak Out!
The annual event is organized by the local Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services is to raise awareness of sexual assault, sexual abuse and other forms of violence.
The march was followed by a speak-out at the Old South Church, which offered a chance for those participating to talk about their thoughts on issues of violence.
University of Maine at Farmington students, local residents and law enforcement officers joined in on the march.”
(Source: The Daily Bulldog)
As university presidents, deans, lawyers and counselors are called to task for their missteps in handling the rash of campus sex abuse scandals, the one group that has the most interaction with students is largely left out to sea–their professors. Faculty are rarely informed of individual cases, and are told little about personal issues which lead to students suddenly failing or withdrawing. This occurs despite studies which show that more than with any other group, interaction with their professors provides vital support and strengthens not only students’ academic but also personal outcomes.
While they deal with students primarily in the classroom, faculty are not insensitive to their students’ larger struggles. Is there anything professors can do to complement the work done by counseling centers? There is — and it involves adding only one paragraph to a syllabus.
The campus sexual-assault bill this past summer, plus the many media exposés about the campus rape crisis, have raised awareness of Title IX. Title IX mandates that colleges receiving federal funding provide gender equity, not just in sports, but in all areas of campus life, meaning that all students should be able to study in an atmosphere free of harassment, sexual violence, and gender discrimination.
By taking the simple measures of incorporating Title IX language into syllabi and giving students the names and numbers of the primary campus resources, educators can do their part to provide support for victims and help end the epidemic of campus sexual violence.
Consider the example of Laura Dunn.
Dunn was just a freshman at the University of Wisconsin when her life changed forever. The dedicated student-athlete was out drinking with new friends from her crew team when two of her male team members offered to take her to another party. Instead, she says, they drove her to their place and took turns sexually assaulting her as she drifted in and out of consciousness, begging them to stop.
Laura’s story is not unusual. Sexual violence has been labeled by the Centers for Disease Control as a major public-health problem, affecting approximately one-fifth of American women. The percentages are staggering for younger women; it is estimated that between 20 to 25 percent will be the victims of a completed or attempted rape during their college careers alone. College men are not immune either; 6 percent will be victims of some form of sexual assault during their college tenure. That said, sexual violence remains a gendered crime, with most victims women and most perpetrators men.
According to a 2007 report, first-year students like Laura are especially susceptible, particularly during the first three months of their freshman year. Not wanting to accept the fact that she had been raped and not knowing that she had the right to report, Dunn, like so many survivors, stayed silent. For over a year she told no one, while she fought to focus on her schoolwork. Her grades dropped, she lost weight, she struggled with nightmares, and she broke up with her boyfriend, whom she never told about her attack.
But then things changed. During a summer philosophy class she was finally given the tools to take back control over her life. While discussing how rape is used as a weapon of war, the professor stopped the class to mention that sexual assault is also prevalent on college campuses, and that the dean of students was required by Title IX to handle assault cases. As soon as class was over, Laura went to the dean of students and reported, launching a two-year process that would prove stressful but would lead to her decade of work in survivor advocacy.
Laura Dunn’s case reveals the value of faculty involvement. Professors are not substitutes for trained counselors, but because of their daily interactions with students, they constitute the most obvious source for early intervention. This process can begin by simply incorporating into the syllabus relevant language, such as:
Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources here …
These resources should include the Title IX coordinator, counseling services, a rape crisis center, and campus police. Confidentiality is of the essence. The Campus Sexual Assault Study indicated that when students know they can talk confidentially, they are more likely to report. Furthermore, since many universities and colleges have poor resources for students and are even under federal investigation, it is suggested that other resources besides campus authorities be included. A few good organizations areKnow Your IX, End Rape On Campus, SurvJustice, the Clery Center for Security On Campus, and Not Alone.
A statement in a syllabus might also send a message of accountability to potential perpetrators. In a now-classic study, the authors found that the perceived threat of formal sanctions (being dismissed from the university or arrested) had a significant deterrent effect on potential perpetrators of sexual assault. In a 2002 study that utilized self-reporting, the majority of undetected rapists were found to be repeat rapists, and the results of this study were replicated in a subsequent 2009 study of Navy personnel. These studies suggest that many perpetrators continue to offend because they have not been caught and do not think they will ever be caught, or if caught, sanctioned. Depriving them of the culture of silence may limit their actions by increasing their fear of the consequences.
Thus, a statement in a syllabus could send a multipronged message: Survivors have the information needed, and the campus community as a whole is watching and will hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Many departments now mandate that syllabi include the university’s religious-holiday policy, the code of academic integrity, and contact information for disability support services. Since a quarter of female students are or will be survivors of sexual violence, a statement on Title IX is just as important. One simple paragraph could provide students with the tools they need to come forward and report the violence they have suffered. The more we normalize the conversation, the easier it becomes.
Karen Dawisha is a professor of Political Science at Miami University – Ohio
Note: A version of this article appeared in The Chronicle Of Higher Education.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Are you looking for a rewarding job in Franklin County, Maine? Well, look no further!
The Franklin County Rural Educator/Advocate will provide advocacy services and the school-based education programs of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services in the more outlying areas of Franklin County. Responsibilities include identifying and developing partnerships with community resources in rural Franklin County in order to locate services in those areas, providing school-based prevention education programming in the schools of rural Franklin County, and providing direct services and support to people affected by sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, stalking or sex trafficking. This is a new position and will also involve some program development and outreach activities.
Full time – annual salary
Go to the JobsInME.com link for more details!
My daughter occasionally goes on a hugging and kissing strike.
She’s 7, and she’s been holding these wildcat strikes since she was 3 or 4. Her parents can get a hug or a kiss, but many people who know her cannot, at least not all the time. And I won’t make her.
“I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it,” I first told her three years ago.
“I don’t have to?” she asked, cuddling up to me at bedtime, confirming the facts to be sure.
No, she doesn’t have to. And just to be clear, there is no passive-aggressive, conditional, manipulative nonsense behind my statement. I mean what I say. She doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child’s currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch.
I figure her body is actually hers, not mine.
It doesn’t belong to her parents, uncles and aunts, school teachers or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn’t have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.
I shudder at recent stories of Josh Duggar’s “inappropriate touching” of his sisters, accusations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted women after drugging them and Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach convicted of sexually abusing young boys. And they strengthen my resolve to teach my kid that it’s OK to say no to an adult who lays a hand on her — even a seemingly friendly hand.
“When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them,” said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a nonprofit specializing in teaching personal safety and violence prevention.
“This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’ “
Protection against predators
Forcing children to touch people when they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner, a mental health clinician with the FamilyWorks program at Heartland Alliance in Chicago. None of the child victims of sexual abuse or assault she’s counseled was attacked by strangers, she said.
Sometimes a child picks up on something odd about your brother-in-law that no one knows. Maybe he isn’t a sexual predator. Maybe he has no sense of boundaries. Maybe he tickles too much, which can be torture for a person who doesn’t like it. Or he may be a predator.
“It sends a message that there are certain situations (when) it’s not up to them what they do with their bodies,” Wagner said. “If they are obligated to be affectionate even if they don’t want to, it makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse later on.”
Why wait until there’s trouble? Parenting coach Sharon Silver worked hard to cultivate her children’s detector. Silver says her sons easily pick up on subtle clues that suggest something isn’t quite right about particular people or situations.
In your child’s case, it may be that something’s off about Aunt Linda or the music teacher down the street.
“It’s something inside of you that tells you when something is wrong,” Silver said. Training your child to pay attention to those instincts may protect him or her in the future.
Having sex to please someone else
Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma may say, “It’s different.”
No, it’s not, according to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug an adult they don’t want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.
“The message a child gets is that not only is another person’s emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another’s ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection,” Lehr said.
“Certainly no parent would wish for their teenager or adult child to feel pressure to reciprocate unwanted sexual advances, yet many teach their children at a young age that it’s their job to use their bodies to make others happy.”
We can’t be rude
You might think my daughter’s shiftless parents are not teaching her manners, but that’s not true. She has to say “please” and “thank you,” set the table, clear her dishes and thank everyone and everything that makes her meals possible.
She has be polite when greeting people, whether she knows them or not. When family and friends say hello, I give her the option of “a hug or a high-five.” Since she’s been watching adults greet each other with a handshake, she sometimes offers that option. We talk about high-fives so often she’s started using them to meet anyone, which can make the start of any social occasion look like a touchdown celebration.
“When kids are really little and shy, parents can start to offer them choices for treating people with respect and care,” van der Zande said. “By age 6 or 7, even shy kids can shake somebody’s hand or wave or do something to communicate respect and care. Manners — treating people with respect and care — is different than demanding physical displays of affection.”
It creates more work
Refusing to order her to hand out hugs or kisses on demand means there’s more work to keep the relationships going and keep feelings from being hurt. Most of our extended family live far away, so it’s my job to teach my kiddo about people she doesn’t see on a daily basis.
We make sure to keep in contact with calls and Skype and presents. In advance of loved ones’ visits, which often means an all-day plane ride, I talk a lot about our guests, what they mean to me and what we’re going to do when they arrive. I give them plenty of opportunity to interact with her so she can learn to trust them.
I explain to relatives who want to know why we’re letting her decide who she touches. There will be no obligation or a direct order from Mom.
And while I hope I’m teaching my child how to take care of herself in the future, there are benefits to allowing her to express affection in her own way and on her own timeline. When my child cuddles up to my mother on the sofa, happily talking to her about her favorite books and Girl Scouts and other things, my mother’s face lights up. She knows my daughter’s love is real.
We are pleased to announce that we have received the following grants to support our work.
Maine Women’s Fund has provided funding to support “Bridging the Gap.” During the school year, students in high schools (and some middle schools) can obtain services from a SAPARS advocate through our school based drop in programs. This program allows students to meet with an advocate during the school day at the school, thus minimizing barriers for students to access services. The “Bridging the Gap” project is designed to continue that access to SAPARS services by establishing drop in programs in the communities during the summer months. Those drop in sites will be at various locations and various times, and will allow for students to seek or continue to access support services throughout the summer. For more information, see the “Summer Services” section of this newsletter.
The Betterment Fund has awarded a three year grant to SAPARS to help support our Rural Educator/Advocate who will be working in the areas of Franklin County outside of the greater Farmington area. The Rural Educator/Advocate will be providing prevention education programming in the schools, and will also be establishing service sites in communities of western and northern Franklin County so that residents of those communities will have better access to sexual assault services without having to travel to our office in Farmington.
The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault has awarded 3 Rape Prevention Education “mini grants” to SAPARS. One of the grants will fund training for Resident Assistants at Central Maine Community College (in Auburn) to support ongoing prevention programming with their students. Our College Advocate, Sabrina Yocono, will train the RA’s and provide them with materials and support do continue doing prevention education using materials from the Backbone Zone curriculum. Trainings will also be offered to faculty/staff and non-residential students.
The second grant will fund a project working with Upward Bound Students at UMF over the summer. This project will provide prevention education training to the Bridge student leaders of Upward Bound, using the scenario based prevention training of the University of Maine system. Those Bridge students will then provide the training to the other Upward Bound students throughout the summer months. At the end of the training, the Upward Bound participants (including the Bridge students) will develop a project of their choosing to reflect the information they have received and which can be shared with the larger campus community.
The third project is a media literacy project occurring in Androscoggin and Oxford Counties which will engage youth age 13+ in developing and using critical thinking skills when presented with images and stories through media outlets. Four movies will be viewed, followed by facilitated discussions about the themes in the movies. Those themes include healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault; sexual harassment; internet safety and online bullying; and gender roles as they relate to sexual violence. Participants will then help create youth focused/issue focused boards on our social media sites (Pinterest, Tumblr) and mini PSA’s that can be broadcast via local radio stations. This program will be available at Lewiston High School, Lisbon High School, Oak Hill High School, the Auburn Library and through the Norway Library.
With schools out for the summer, SAPARS is providing a wide range of services for youth during the summer months. Our goal is to continue our education efforts with youth and to provide greater access to our support services during the summer months. Below is a list of activities/service sites for youth.
Media Literacy Project:
The media literacy project (described above) will be held at Lisbon High School (beginning 6/22), Lewiston High School (beginning 6/30), Oak Hill High School (beginning 6/24), the Auburn Library Teen Center (beginning 7/2), and through the Norway Library and New Beginnings. For specific dates and times for programming through the Norway location, please call (207) 743-9777. For dates and times in Androscoggin County, call (207) 784-5272.
Drop In Service Sites:
For the summer months, we will have an Advocate at various locations, accessible to young people so that they can access crisis and support services close to home.
In Androscoggin County, drop in programs will be available at Lewiston High school, Lisbon High School, Oak Hill High School, Auburn Library Teen Center, New Beginnings, and Poland High School. For dates and times, call (207) 784-5272. Support groups will continue at both locations of Beckett House.
Drop in sites in Oxford County will be at the Norway Memorial Library, Common Ground Counseling in Fryeburg, the Peru Community Building and the Rumford college campus. For more information, call (207) 743-9777.
Drop in sites in Franklin County will be at the libraries in Rangeley and Phillips, and at the Jay Town Office. Other possible sites are under development. For more information, call (207) 778-9522.
Mark your calendars for July 10th and 11th, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM for our last annual yard sale in Oxford County!
The yard sale has been a successful fundraiser for the past several years. However, this summer will be our FINAL one, because we will be changing the space around to add a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in the South Paris office!
We are accepting items for this yard sale. If you wish to donate items, please bring them to 1 East Main St., South Paris. We accept household items, books, games, knick knacks, clothing in good condition, etc., but please no electronics or appliances.
For more information, call (207) 743-9777.
(Content Warnings: incest, rape, and sexual violence)
Two of my good friends had their first baby late this past year.
From the get-go, Baby was a cuddly little girl. (Or, as her two moms say, “We assume she’s a girl, but we won’t know for sure until she tells us herself.”) She was all about being held and being rocked – and crying her head off the moment anybody dared to put her down. She wanted contact with all the people ever.
But in the past couple of months, it seems she’s had a serious change of heart.
When some of us were over for a visit, Baby suddenly wanted none of it. Passed from one person to the next, she wailed like a banshee until finally given back to one of her moms, where she instantly quieted.
“Don’t take it personally,” Mama said to everyone, bouncing Baby. “She’s just entering that stage where she’s developing some healthy stranger danger.”
And so the new process emerged: One of us would attempt to hold Baby every once in a while. And if she cried for more than 20 seconds, we’d hand her back to one of her moms.
If Baby didn’t want to be held by certain people, Baby didn’t have to be held by certain people.
It was as simple as that – and something her moms are determined to keep in place as Baby gets older.
Seeing them regard their child like that was admittedly an eye-opening experience for me. I’d grown up in a world where you hugged relatives or family friends no matter what. To deny them was considered a huge sign of disrespect, and nothing was worse than disrespecting someone older than you.
It was icky, as my six-year-old self would say.
To be fair, I recognize the reasons why some parents or guardians would want to—shall we say—enthusiastically encourage their children to hug relatives and family friends. Hugs are positive, right? They instill trust, good will, and healthy connections to the people closest to you, right?
Of course they do – when they’re given consensually. And even four-year-olds have bodily autonomy, and therefore, the right to consent (or not).
Dear parents et al, I understand where you’re coming from, and your intentions are innocent and well-meaning.
But here are a few reasons why forcing your child to hug another person can be a bad idea.
This is particularly relevant for female-presenting people.
In our patriarchal world of the male gaze and body policing and sexual assault, it’s hugely important to teach girls (as well as everyone else) that it’s never okay to be made to touch another person when you don’t want to.
The message doesn’t even have to be in a sexual context.
A person’s body is their own body.
They can do what they want with it.
They can pierce it and tattoo it and color its hairs and fill it with organic vegan cheese and drown it in bourbon and jump it out of an airplane with a parachute and turn its penis into a vulva and run it 14 miles every morning and have it sleep until noon and draw little smiley faces on its fingers for impromptu puppets.
Seriously. Whatever you want. People shouldn’t care, and you shouldn’t care about them caring. Yay everyone!
But when something such as being forced to hug (or be hugged by) people at a young age, we’re instilling the message that our bodies are never our own.
Instead, we’re saying that a person is everyone else’s physical and political property.
And that’s not cool.
Chilling, no? But it’s pretty simple logic:
Or something like that. You get the idea.
Adults are the authority figures in a child’s life. This is a necessary, natural state of being because honestly, who else is going to show them the ropes?
But make sure you’re showing them the right ropes.
Having legal possession over a child doesn’t mean they’re your property. It means they’re your responsibility.
By forcing a child to hug, you’re telling them “Yes, I’m in charge here, which means you have to do everything I say.”
Sorry, but no.
You’re in charge here, which means it’s your job to make sure that the kid grows up to be the most functioning adult they’re capable of being.
See the difference?
I know this to be true because it 100% happened to me. My grandfather was a most unfortunate creature, and his sexual violence toward me started when I was ridiculously young. It continued on for several years, undetected the entire time, in part because of this whole hugging issue.
You see, it was cyclical for me.
Not only was I forced to hug my rapist in front of people on a regular basis – which I’m damn sure he got an additional sick sense of pleasure from – but one of the reasons I never told anybody about the sexual violence was because I assumed behaviors such as the forced hugging meant that the violence was also acceptable for him to do.
He was a relative, and relatives couldn’t be abusers.
Why else would forced contact be so widespread amongst families? He even manipulated the entire issue in his favor with such simple phrases as “It’s just like hugging.”
Made sense to me.
For the record, I’m not saying that it means a child has been abused by a given person when they refuse to hug that person. There are all sorts of reasons they may not want to hug someone, plenty of them benign.
A child not wanting to hug someone because that person hurt them is – I hope – still a less-than-likely occurrence. But the fact remains that situations like mine do happen.
And while I’ve never believed the hugging issue in itself somehow caused the assaults – abuse is always, always the fault of the abuser themselves – it would’ve at least been nice to not have been forced to fake innocent, childlike affection for him in public, confusing the hell out of my sense of right and wrong the whole while.
I implied this in above points, but I’ll say it outright now: Your child is not your Mini Me. They’re their own person, however developing and in-training they may be emotionally, mentally, or physically.
Which for this article means that their comfort zone may vary from yours.
Hugs may not mean the same to them as they do to you. Please respect that.
I’m actually not a fan of the term “stranger danger” since it can accidentally imply that all strangers are bad and all non-strangers are good, but I’m going with it since it’s a term I’m confident most people are familiar with.
But as a refresher, “stranger danger” is pretty much when your brain goes, “Uhh… I don’t want that person near me.” And then you often respond to your brain’s message by doing what you can to politely avoid said person.
It’s meant to be a survival tactic.
Growing up, your senses are meant to develop in a way that subconsciously tells you when you might be in danger.
Of course, this can go sour in all sorts of ways, a great example being white people feeling stranger danger when they cross a black man on the sidewalk at night. Many white people automatically want to cut to the other side of the street not because they’ve ever been hurt by a black man before, but because they were raised in a racist society or otherwise have instilled many of the negative, sensationalized messages portrayed by the media.
These survival misfires can also happen with children and hugging.
In the instance of a child being forced to hug an adult even when they don’t want to, they learn to not always trust their gut instincts when it comes to their safety, their surroundings, and the people they don’t know very well or are meeting for the first time.
Essentially, it’s a child’s brain saying, “Ack! Something that’s making us uncomfortable! Hold for safety confirmation before engaging in said hug!” And the adults are saying, “Screw confirmation. Just hug Second Cousin Gertrude, for chrissake.”
You may know that Gertrude is fine and dandy, but your child needs to learn that for themselves. They need to make that decision on their own.
As I said before, a child not wanting to hug an adult could be a purely innocent thing, the child doing nothing more than learning about the world through trial and error.
However, not wanting to hug could possibly mean that something more is going on. The relative or family friend could have hurt the child in the past intentionally (assault) or accidentally (stepped on their hand while crossing the room).
Or done something to frighten them, like telling them a scary story or not realizing dressing like a vampire for Halloween made the child think they really were a vampire. (And let’s be fair: They could be. Have you witnessed any sparkling?)
Or the child has somehow made a connection between the person and something they don’t like, such as the person smelling like Brussel sprouts.
There are all sorts of scenarios.
And while the child responding to something like assault is certainly up there with the most alarming possibilities, there are also such no-hug cues as the early signs of autism or Asperger’s syndrome, which can involve an aversion to touch.
When a child rejects a hug either from one adult or several, feel free to sit them down and gently ask if there’s any reason they didn’t want to hug them.
It could very well be nothing, but in the event that it isn’t, it’s better for your child’s health if you find out sooner rather than later.
We as a culture simply need to stop drilling into our own heads that there are only a select few ways to show love for another human being.
Families don’t need hugs in order to count as families, friendships don’t need high fives to pledge loyalty, and romantic relationships don’t need sex to be considered serious.
Are these things nice to give and receive? Sure. But only if both parties actually want them.
Such things only hold so much affection weight because we’ve given them that weight ourselves.
To someone who doesn’t want it, an affectionate action is rendered meaningless at best and damaging at worst.
Forcing hugging on a child tells them that 1) they’re expected to show affection toward this person, and 2) that this is exactly how they must show that affection.
Instead of being a hug tyrant, allow your child to be creative in how they show affection. Let them draw a picture or share a piece of their favorite food or read to you from their library book.
Those gestures count just as much as a hug. And your child needs to be validated in that fact.
To sum, could Grandma’s feelings be hurt because Little Susie wouldn’t hug her? Possibly.
But her hurt feelings don’t outweigh the risky lessons Little Susie may internalize if she’s made to touch someone she doesn’t want to touch.
I don’t care how wise and worldly and awesome Grandma is. Her wants are not more important than Little Susie’s.
Children are people with developing brains and emotions and behaviors. They’re not stuffed animals.
Adults, on the other hand, are full-grown, experienced people who should be able to rationally understand and accept the nature of a child that isn’t interested in a hug.
So when your child comes in contact with such a situation, let them know that it’s okay if they don’t want to hug someone.
Repeat it to the person your child didn’t want to hug, especially if their feelings seem hurt over the matter.
And to anybody who in turn has had their feelings hurt by a kid rejecting them, I can only echo the wisdom of my two friends.
“Don’t take it personally.”
James St. James is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He isn’t particularly fond of his name, but he has to admit it makes him easier to remember. When he’s not busy scaring cis gender people with his trans gender agenda, he likes to play SEGA and eat candy. Follow him on Twitter @JamesStJamesVI.
It’s hard to miss headlines about Maine’s aging population and what it means for the future of our state. What we don’t hear about as often is the domestic and sexual violence that many of Maine’s older residents experience.
The research is difficult to come by because, whereas elder abuse is already significantly underreported, domestic and sexual violence experienced by older adults is even more so. We do, however, know that about 90 percent of elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member of the victim — with adult children and spouses being the most frequent offenders.
We also know that different types of abuse often overlap with one another. For instance, when someone is experiencing financial exploitation, they may also be suffering from the perpetration of other abuse. Older adults who suffer from abuse are three times more likely to die within the next decade than adults of the same age who are not being mistreated.
This outcome isn’t inevitable. When we raise awareness of issues like elder abuse, it can be difficult to figure out what to do next. But Mainers are known for helping one another when help is needed, and there are steps we can all take to prevent elder abuse in our communities.
Maine’s aging population is an important part of our state’s future, and their needs demand significant attention. Like all Mainers, elders deserve to live safe lives, free from abuse, violence and coercion. Together we can make sure that some of our most vulnerable citizens get the care and protection they deserve, but it will take a community to get there.