“Your words of comfort conveyed a message that someone who likes you might hurt you,” Merritt Smith wrote on a now-viral Facebook post this week. The post was written in response to a member of staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Colombus, Ohio, who had told her four-year-old daughter that the boy who hit her probably had a crush on her. The boy had hit her so hard she required stitches.
Maybe this is a stretch. A far reach. A touchy reaction to a minor event that occurred during a particularly sensitive month – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, after all – and perhaps there is nothing newsworthy here.
Or maybe it’s entirely reasonable to hang my head in despair at a young girl being told by a male member of the hospital staff that the boy who hit her so hard she needed stitches probably just “likes” her.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that, starting at the age of four, violence not be shrugged off as an unavoidable reaction of those pesky, uncontrollable boys-being-boys. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to feel exasperated that, at four years old, a girl has seen up close what she will experience over and over and over – that feeling that her body is not hers.
She’ll experience it in school. She will learn that being treated bad or bullied or teased is an unavoidable form of flattery. And then she will learn to cover her shoulders and thighs with appropriate clothing because boys cannot help themselves in the presence of her bare flesh. She will learn it walking down the street. She will learn it walking into a bar. She will learn it when she opens a magazine or turns on the TV. But she should not have to learn it at the age of four.
“I will not allow that message to be ok. I will not allow it to be louder than ‘That's not how we show we like each other,’” Smith posted on her Facebook page, and we could not agree with her more.
Image via Facebook