Dear Victim Blamers and Anti-Feminists,
You hear women telling their stories with a hashtag metoo almost every day, and you laugh. You blame them, you question why they never spoke when it happened. What if I tell you these are not only grown-up women speaking out against harassment, but even the toddlers and children speak too, and you refuse to listen.
A woman approached me thinking I would be able to put her experience in better words or my words might reach a wider audience. It was not for herself, but her four-year-old beautiful girl. For her children and for your children.
I must address this letter again.
I’m a mother of a four-year-old daughter and live with my in-laws. Please note I am married in an educated family where women and men have equal rights. My husband’s brother lives in another province and we visit them once in a month because it’s only 5-hour-drive away. They are blessed with three children the eldest boy is 16 (S), the second boy is 8 (M) and a girl 4 (A).
Last month when I visited them everyone insisted on going to shopping and leaving the children under the supervision of S and his dad (he is a broker and often works from home). My instincts warned me, and I decided to stay back. While I was watching TV and children were sitting in the lounge, I noticed M was irritating my daughter constantly. He was forcing her to lie on her tummy and would sit on her back. I immediately stopped him and tried to divert their attention toward toys. A few minutes later, I went to kitchen to fix snacks for the children and noticed that there was suddenly a silence in the lounge. I came out and there was no one in the lounge. I followed the sound that was coming from guest room, and when I peeped inside, I found M had taken his pants off and was showing his penis to A and my daughter. I quickly entered inside and he ran off (S and his dad were upstairs at that time).
When everyone came from the shopping, I decided to tell the incident to M’s mother. To my surprise she laughed and said, ‘This is all because of this city. The kids are so spoiled here.’ I spoke to my mother-in-law and she answered, ‘The kids these days!’. I spoke to my husband and the reaction was ‘What can I do?’. That’s all.
We came back, but I couldn’t handle my daughter’s questions. ‘What was that?’ “Why boys are different’ ‘Why it hurt when he sat on me.’ I spoke to a friend who a counsellor and she advised me to answer those questions tactfully. I did. I also asked my daughter to scream if next time some boy or a man does this again.
Last week we visited them again. This time I was reluctant to go, but one still can’t say no to one’s family. Again, when everyone went out for shopping, I stayed home with the children. After giving lunch to kids, I took them upstairs as I had to fold the laundry. My daughter and A were playing together, and M was looking at their play. The eldest, S, was playing some game on his phone. As soon as I turned to put the clothes in the cupboard, M bit my daughter on her leg. She screamed, I turned around and he laughed. I controlled my anger and decided to speak strictly to his parents.
When the mother returned, I made sure she and her husband were there, so I could explain them that they needed to take it seriously. Unfortunately, father was too excited to get a huge profit on a deal and completely ignored the topic. Mother’s first reaction was, ‘There are other girls who come around and play, but no one has ever complained.’ Then on confirmation if her eldest son was there at the time when it all happened, she called S and asked if all that I said was true, and he confirmed. She called M and scolded him. I tried to intervene, but she said, ‘He will not do this again.’. I tried explaining her she needs to dig the issue deeper and find the root cause, rather scolding him. The chances are he is suffering, and there is probably someone who is harassing him. At the same time my mother in law mentioned she saw M licking A’s legs, to this M’s mother said, ‘That’s okay. They are siblings.’
I couldn’t say a word more. I decided, I will give my daughter all the confidence she needs, so she can stand for herself, but I am concerned what would happen to M if he is ignored for long. He might learn to lie or hide if rather than getting engaged in a discussion he is told off by parents.
If next time you hear a victim speaking up and people saying, ‘Why she didn’t speak for herself sooner’ then tell them she must have. She must have expressed her disguise in hidden or apparent words, but no one bothered to listen then. If you see #metoo then stand by them rather victim blaming or saying ‘It never happened before’. If it never happened before, that does not mean it can never happen.
A Mother of four-year-old girl.