Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It starts at home

by Brenda Jin

It starts with unwanted physical contact deemed appropriate by society, a contact usually inspired by familial “love”… a pinch on the cheek, an arm around a shoulder, mild physical punishment like a spanking, a slap in response to an offensive statement, grabbing your hand and yanking you back to your seat when you decide you’ve had enough.

All of these small violations are deemed appropriate. Adults love their kids, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren… after all, they knows what’s best. The problem is that when parents and family members touch children who do not want to be touched, they send the following message: “I am going to touch you, because I care about you, and I know what’s best for you, and you should let me touch you.” This twisted act of “love”, and the accumulations of these supposedly well-intended actions of forced affection, have a long-lasting effect: they erode a sense of personal space in the presence of someone who supposedly loves you—under the assumption that this person therefore knows better than you how much you want to be touched. When it comes to people who love you, your body and your space can be sacrificed so that someone can forcibly show affection.

The permanent erosion of personal space from an early age undoubtedly contributes to the fact that date rape is underreported in the absence of intense violence and in a context in which “affection” may seem apparent. Too often is physical affection interpreted with an obligation to accept by the receiver, an obligation that begins at home and leads to the incredibly difficult struggle to assert that you do not want to have your space invaded by someone who cares, that for once you want to say “no” to being touched. Because the fact is that rape is not always cold. Rape does not always happen between two people who do not like each other at all. Rape does not always happen in the absence of affection or warmth. Rape can happen in the supposedly safe presence of someone who cares for you, during an exclusive relationship, after dinner-and-movie, an accepted invitation to a beer or cocktail, passionate kissing, or declaration of affection. So the next time you try to hug your nice, nephew, son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, or sibling who isn’t thrilled with the idea of being touched, maybe think twice, step back, and let him or her say “no”.


At September 16, 2009 at 9:57 AM , Anonymous prop8 said...

Besides actual rape the rest of it is none of the public's business.

At September 16, 2009 at 7:42 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


I'm not sure how much this sort of thing contributes to date rape, but I do agree with you that we should not force affection on children. I always seek consent before hugging someone, even my own child. It's a matter of respecting their integrity as a person, while also teaching them to respect themselves and others.


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