Getting Real with Megan Gregory

There’s been a lot of conversation lately regarding sexual assault, violence, and rape culture.  And while this conversation is absolutely critical, I think we need to include even the youngest of participants – our children.  So here is my story of how I first tackled this subject with my son.

When my son was 2, there was a little girl at his school (daycare) that he had a toxic relationship with. It seemed like whenever the two of them were both there, I would get a report that one of them injured the other.  The little girl tended to bite my son, and my son would typically hit her – the worst incidences were her bite marks drawing blood and one time he hit her hard enough to bruise her face. Each time I had serious discussions with my son about his actions, but when I asked the teachers what led to the altercations, I was almost always told, “I don’t know.”  Sometimes they fought over toys or a certain chair they both wanted, but at least half of the time the teachers didn’t have any explanation at all.

One day when I picked up my son, I was told he had hit the little girl that day. I asked what happened, and the teacher told me she didn’t know because she wasn’t there at the time. I was obviously frustrated at the frequency the two of them were hurting each other, and I said something like, “I just don’t get it, I don’t get why he hits her and only her.” The teacher’s response – I remember that vividly.  She grinned and said to me, “I think he just likes her.”

No way, not in my house.

I looked at the teacher and very seriously said, “That’s not acceptable. We are not raising him to believe that he shows affection through violence. ” The teacher looked a bit stunned, and I truthfully don’t even remember if she responded verbally.

This is the beginning of rape culture, of domestic violence, and of men believing masculinity is physicality and women believing violence is part of love.

Not in my house! Obviously, my son was very young at the time – he was new to experiencing emotions and had no idea how to communicate his feelings. But that’s where we, as parents, must step in to teach our children to understand what they feel, how to process it, and how to express it.  In this situation, I took it as an opportunity to talk to my son about how he feels and how he releases those feelings.  Whether he was mad at the girl for taking a toy or thought she was pretty one day, hitting would not be an acceptable action in our household.

And really, this concept goes in the reverse now that I also have a daughter. If this type of situation ever happens to her, I will absolutely make sure that she understands someone hitting her is not a sign of love or affection. A boy snapping her bra straps is not the proper way for a boy to show her he cares about her. Someone cat calling her on the street is not a compliment. Someone touching her without her consent is never acceptable.