Me at 8
<< This post comes with a content warning about attempted child abduction. Please tune in to your body and sense if this is not something you can/want to read. >>
I want to share a personal story with you. A story that’s behind this picture of me when I was eight years old. This picture is of me getting ready to go to the Tae Kwon Do class I took at the local YMCA.
A green belt with a blue stripe. Pretty impressive for eight.
But there’s a darker story behind this picture.
The reason why I was taking Tae Kwon Do was that one year earlier, two adult men in a Ford Pinto tried to lure me into their car. I was in second grade.
In the middle of the day, these two men pulled their car in front of me at the curb, blocking my ability to cross the street while walking home from school. Everything worked out fine. I’m healthy and safe. I didn’t get into the car.
(For those of you who grew up in the Midwest, my second-grade incident happened years before Johnny Gosch or Jacob Wetterling, two well-known child abduction stories. It was back in the days when kids would walk to school unaccompanied.)
Now I get why my parents had me take Tae Kwon Do. They wanted me to have the skills to protect myself if I needed to should something like that happen again.
I made a good choice. I knew not to go in that car. But, I don’t remember asking to take Tae Kwon Do nor did I get to choose to take dance classes like my little sister did. In a way, even though I made a good decision, I felt penalized.
As a parent myself, I have compassion for my parents' decisions around this. They did the best they could after what I can only imagine was a very scary situation for them. A parent’s worst fear! I even encouraged my own kids to take Krav Maga to protect themselves (story here).
The problematic question: What would two adult men want with a kid in second-grade?
This issue is bigger than sex education. The problem here isn’t with our children. It should be safe for them to walk around in the world as themselves. My problem stands with the adults. And it is something to face since this now is us. We are the adults.
There are consequences of not teaching about sex but it’s also a problem to put the responsibility on kids to keep themselves safe.
And what is the thing that benefits from keeping kids naive? Patriarchy.
Stay with me here…
Patriarchy benefits by keeping things status quo. Who doesn’t want you to talk to your kids about sex? Men who want to keep their access to young people. See Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nassar, U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics coach John Geddert, A&F photographer Bruce Weber, et al.
Patriarchy (and the related sexism/misogyny. Take your pick.) protects men and keeps things like sexual assault or the mistaken idea that our bodies are for their use the norm.
Keeping kids under-educated and naive keeps them vulnerable to men who want to harm them. But unless we make some serious changes to how we socialize men, it also raises men who think they’re entitled to take advantage of others. Like the men in the Pinto.
This is why I’ve dedicated my work to educating people about sex. Making sure parents talk to their children. Making sure adults understand healthy sexuality. Part of that is facilitating tough but necessary conversations like this one.
I’d love to continue the discussion in the comments - What do you think has to happen to help move the needle and keep kids safe? A personal story like this happens all too often and folks keep quiet.
Have you had an experience like this? Share your opinion or if you’re comfortable, share a personal story.
P.S. On a totally different note, I’m taking a poll for the title of my second book. If you have a second, will you pick which title you like best? Click here to take the quick poll.