6 year old suspended from school for sexual harrassment

Click on the links to see how CNNThe Vancouver SunUSA TodayFox News, and The Washington Times are reporting on the 6 year old boy who’s been suspended from school for what the school called sexual harassment. Huffington Post even went as far as calling him a Casanova. 

Let’s get some real-world perspective on this story – because I had to switch off my local news this morning as they reported on it because it just sickened me. I’m sick of hearing how he’s only 6 and I’m sick of hearing how the girl hasn’t complained about it (sound like a familiar line???)

Yes, Hunter Yelton is a cute little boy and yes, he’s only a 6 year old child – but let’s look at the points that the mainstream media are totally ignoring and how this story is a prime example of rape culture . In fact, it’s like a kindergarten parallel world version of a how a rape trial plays out in the media…

1. We’re only hearing one side of the view – the perpetrator’s. Even if he is only 6, he did kiss a girl when the school rules explicitly forbid this. Whether or not you agree with the established rules, you have to follow them. Rapists commit rape knowing it is against the law. Media everywhere are reporting a one sided story as if it is proven fact. That alone is massive problem with the media today.

Hunter Yelton’s mother, Jennifer Saunders, said her son and the girl are boyfriend and girlfriend — by first-grader terms, KRDO-TV reported“She was fine with it, they are ‘boyfriend and girlfriend,’ she told the station. “The other children saw it and went to the music teacher. That was the day I had the meeting with the principal, where she first said ‘sexual harassment.’” Why are we taking this a fact?? Just because Hunter’s mother said the girl was fine with it doesn’t mean that she was. The school wasn’t fine with it and that’s why the school has such rules in place.

2. Would we be having this same conversation if Hunter Yelton had kicked the girl and been suspended??? Why is it less acceptable to be violent towards other children than it is to learn appropriate physical displays of affection?? Appropriate touch means we don’t inappropriately touch others  – be it kicking or kissing when the rules (or law) forbid it.

3. Hunter Yelton has previous. Yes, that sounds harsh but Ms. Saunders (Hunter’s mother) said her son has had disciplinary issues in the past and was suspended before for kissing the same girl on the cheek. So when is this kid going to learn to how to keep his hands (or mouth) to himself???? Again, would we be having this conversation if he’d been kicking the girl? Would we be having this conversation if this 6 year old boy had been kissing another 6 year old boy?

4. What about the girl’s right to say no??? I mean we’re hearing a one-sided view that she was okay with it – that they (gag) are boyfriend and girlfriend – but we don’t know that she was okay with it. It’s like this mother is saying that it’s okay to kiss someone, when the rules forbid it, if you are in a relationship. Sound familiar?? I have two daughters, and I tell you now, if anyone was repeatedly kissing one of my kids this way (and against school policy) I would have something to say about it. I would be telling my kids to stay away from any child who hasn’t learned appropriate touch and how to respect rules and personal boundaries. Hunter’s not doing this to everyone (he seems to have a thing for this girl) and it’s not like he’s not been told to stop already. And even if he was, it’s still not okay, and I would still be steering my kids clear of him.

5. When does Hunter’s mother and the news outlets who think the school’s gone too far and say this is normal behaviour for a kid think that Hunter’s going to learn about boundaries and appropriate touch? It is crucial we teach kids about not touching others unless we have their express permission to do so, as well as only doing so within the boundaries of the law (or school etc). If we ensure kids know that they have full body autonomy from a young age, they are far more likely to say understand the wrongness of sexual abuse (from anyone) and report it. This is a serious safety matter. Sexual abuse is not always aggressive and violent and terrifying.

Therapist Robin Shapiro says, “Not all rape is violent or actively coercive. When attachment bonds are used to manipulate kids or adults into sexual activity it confuses the issue of desire, identity, and fault. People can be physically aroused and even orgasm during a rape — by the mechanics of the act. It still doesn’t mean they wanted it.”

6. The 6 year old girl, as far as I can tell, doesn’t seem to be kissing Hunter and getting in trouble at school for doing so. Is this because she hasn’t been caught or because she knows how to follow the school’s rules?? I expect it’s the latter.

People, we really need to grasp the bigger picture here – it is not okay to touch (violently or lovingly) another person without their permission and express consent and/or when it breaks rules or laws.  We need to stop telling little girls that if a boy pulls your pigtails (or does something to you that you don’t like) that it means he likes you. That’s what traps women in abusive relationships later on in life. It’s fundamental that we teach our children that love is respectful.

Let’s teach our children from a very young age that:
*they control their own bodies and they decide who touches them and when and where.
*that when people like you, their actions are respectful not hurtful.

Let’s not forget to applaud the kids who saw the rules being broken and reported it. Let’s applaud the school for taking this whole situation seriously. Because maybe, just maybe, this will cause some awareness of appropriate touch at a young age. And hopefully, as these kids grow up and get to middle and high school, this knowledge will mean no more tragedies like Rehtaeh Parsons‘ abuse and subsequent suicide, and maybe it will finally put an end to this kind of advice that tells women to have sex even if you’re not in the mood just to please your partner. All of these scenarios begin and end with a lack of knowledge about appropriate touch, consent, personal boundaries, and body autonomy.

Teach children about appropriate touch when they are young and we can prevent a  lot of rapes, sexual abuse, crimes, and suicides later on.

2013-12-12 12:45pm Update – FOR THE RECORD:

Girl’s mom: School was right –> Jade Masters-Ownbey, the mother of the girl Hunter is accused of kissing, told the local newspaper that the school district was right in protecting her daughter. The mother, who is also a teacher in the school district, said Hunter had tried to kiss her daughter “over and over” without her permission, according to Canon City Daily Record“I’ve had to coach her about what to do when you don’t want someone touching you, but they won’t stop,” Masters-Ownbey told the newspaper.

Oh, and now we know – the boy’s mum was lying when she said the girl was fine with it. And now we know that all those mainstream media outlets who jumped to the conclusion that the since the boy’s mum said it it must be true, were in fact, not giving a clear picture of the events or even all of the facts. If only one of these mainstream outlets had asked the mother of the little girl involved before making this into an international news mess.

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Afterword:
1. A lot of people are completely missing that this article doesn’t ever call the boy a rapist or even a future rapist. It highlights parallels between this and rape trials playing out in the media. (But, we do need to keep in mind, all adult rapists were kids once. And we do need to think about how rapists’ childhoods contributed to them committing rape as adults.)

2. This article is a critique of how mainstream media handled the reporting of the case, and how society via social media has reacted. People find the rape analogy hard to swallow, but many of these are the same people who still think you “can ask for it” and that some girls are sluts.

3. The mass panic over this boy’s academic record, the one-sided reporting, the rush to assume his innocence without ever hearing the girl’s side of the story etc – all the parallels were easy to see. It was the school who labelled this behaviour as sexual harassment, not the writer of the article.

4. The discussion over whether or not this is sexual harassment has totally obscured the big picture. This little girl did not want the boy kissing her and he repeatedly did so. HE HAD BEEN SUSPENDED BEFORE for this behaviour.

5. The world will be a different place if people learn appropriate touch at a young age. And for the record, not all sexual abuse is painful or aggressive or violent (think of the whole fucked-up legitimate rape debate). That’s why it doesn’t matter if this wasn’t an act of violence against the girl.

6. My blood curls when I think of all the times that someone might have told this little girl “he is just kissing you because he likes you”.

7. The school has now recanted the allegation of sexual harassment, labelled the harassment as something else, and allowed the boy back in school…

8. If you are unaware of how childhood shapes future criminal behaviour, read the works of Alice Miller.

9. How many times must this little girl say to no to the little boy before he learns that “no means no”?

10. Why on earth should this little girl be subjected to repeated unwanted acts of physical contact from this little boy just so he can learn to keep his mouth to himself? Can’t he learn this without harassing another child?

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33 thoughts on “6 year old suspended from school for sexual harrassment

  1. Completely agree. Rules is rules and this young male needs to learn, from birth to respect them, and females.
    If anything , I’d like to see more such sanctioning.
    How about we hold males to account for a change?
    When will he/they ever learn, when they’re in jail for sexualised violence, or just divorced for toxic disrespect?
    And how will girls ever learn to object, if we don’t enforce the female sex veto, with rules, and sanctions on their behalf?

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  2. Exactly. I think we need to teach our kids from young age about body autonomy, personal boundaries, and appropriate touch.

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  3. “Sexual Harassment” !!! A little extremist and fear mongering if you ask me.

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  4. I didn’t call it sexual harassment – the school did. Whatever you call it, the kid broke the rules and he broke them on more than on occasion.

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  5. I bet you never broke a rule, like EVER! I bet you never speed, forget to signal your turn, or change lanes in an intersection. OMG THE HORROR!!! There are traffic terrorists EVERYWHERE….

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  6. You know what I don’t do – violate people’s body autonomy and personal boundaries.

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  7. @nanu_nanu needs to grow up a little and realize that not all rules are created equal. Which is why you get a ticket for speeding and in most states go to jail for murder. The school set the rule no kissing #1 he broke the rule at least twice and #2 there is no proof this little girl wanted the kiss. That’s sexual harassment. And who allows children at 6 to be girlfriend/boyfriend anyway? I really wish we could get the other side. I’m sick of males even at the age of six being pitied when they are actually held accountable for their actions.

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  8. I’m sorry, a six year old kissing a school mate is WAY more dangerous than a 1000 lb vehicle running a red light.

    Grow up? I think you should take your own advice. THE KID IS 6!!!!! AND YOU GUYS ARE BULLIES!!!!

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  9. I just gave your blog entry a second look: Are you actually implying that this kid is going to grow up to be a rapist?

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  10. Not at all – I said that we need to look at the parallels between this and rape culture. Kids need to learn that they can’t ouch another person, lovingly or violently, when the rules and/or that the other person says no.

    Also, if kids learn appropriate touch etc when they are you young they should be a heck of a lot less likely to grow up and abuse another person. Rape and sexual abuse is an extreme form of inappropriate touch.

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  11. Jessi James says:

    The Double Parent– thanks for sharing this article! Made me very glad to see someone finally taking this kind of thing seriously. I was molested frequently as a child by other children at school and outside events, and no one ever stood up for me in these situations. It makes me sad that the boy’s parents refuse to see the problem here, but I am *so* happy for that little girl having parents who will stand up for her and demand that she be treated right.

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  12. […] Rape Culture each time they talked about how cute the boy was, calling him a Don Juan or charmer or Casanova, saying the girl’s mom overreacted, and excusing his behavior as “boys will be […]

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  13. My conclusions on the matter are quite similar to yours, but I do disagree on certain matters. First of all, it’s not appropriate to compare this situation to a rape trial, even analogically. I agree that the media, referring to the boy’s cuteness and excusing his behaviour because boys act like that is appalling. However, children do act like that. And it is up to adults, namely the school and parents to teach them not to. Maybe a child knows what they are doing is wrong but it is universally accepted that they can’t understand fully the nature of their actions. That’s why infants under the age of 8 are in most jurisdictions not criminally liable for anything. They lack the ‘animus nocendi’ of a criminal perpetrator. And that’s valid: a child who eats a chocolate bar that their parents had forbidden them to hardly understand the difference between that and stealing a crayola, or for a better example, stealing a classmate’s crayola and the teacher’s sparkling, expensive ring. Now, a child knows what they’re doing is wrong but you can’t argue they completely understand the level or ramifications. A child fighting with another cannot comprehend that they might hurt the other child seriously or an accident might happen. Especially when we’re talking about children, who are usually used to being kissed and shown affection by their parents, why would they think kissing is ever wrong.

    However, I do think they need to understand it is wrong, and I definitely agree on that. They need to be taught that, reprimanded, disciplined, in order to understand the wrongfulness, but not be shunned for it. And if they can’t refrain from it and pose a danger to themselves or other children (like the case at hand) more extreme measures can be taken, like the suspension, but, again, not in order to punish them but to protect and teach them. So, we can’t use criminal terms like sexual harassment to talk about children not liable for them and especially not judge them, especially that publicly, as if they were adults. There is a reason why children that age are not prosecuted for theft, urinating in public, bodily harm and all crimes really, so it is not appropriate to apply those terms to their acts. But addressing an inappropriate behaviour is reasonable and necessary. On the other hand, we need to understand that rules imposed on children are not of the same nature as those on adults. It’s to protect them, including the rule-breakers, from an act the latter can’t fully understand because of their lack of social experiences and intellectual capacities. Not reprimand them for it.

    For all those reasons, I think the comparison between cases like this and rape trials are hardly comparable, even if the media’s or people’s approach can be sexist and re-enforce rape culture. To include gender stereotypes and inequality in such situations is wrong, but for me it’s also wrong for them to be treated in adult terms. I do strongly believe there’s no need for violence or coercion for sexual acts to be considered non-consensual. And there was indeed no consent in this case (consent not in legal terms, since minors are anyway unable to give consent, but in the terms appropriate for that age). But I hardly believe that the 6 year-old boy took advantage of any attachment, or position of power or authority to harass that girl, if we are to speak with adult terms. The fact that it was unwanted is enough though to stop him, but not condemn him.

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  14. Kids dont know what sexual harassment really is. Should the kid be punished if the girl doesnt like it; sure. Kids are kids, and should be allowed to be kids. I am starting to think that the older generations are losing their grip on reality if they think that a kid is going to understand fully what is going on like an adult would.

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  15. This is an interesting article. I’m glad to see someone taking note of the fact that the mother has spoken out… Most of the initial reporting has not. It kind of confirms what I had initially suspected; that this little boy does have behavior issues and that what he was doing was not particularly welcome.

    I think the point seems to be lost on some people that you are drawing a parallel here rather than making an A to B prediction that the boy is going to be a rapist.

    That said, it’s a heavy-handed and bureaucratic move to label him a sex offender. That’s an unproductive way to deal with a six year old. My first guess for why the extreme designation is that they want to build as damning a paper trail as possible so they can fob him off on a special needs program or another school district.

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  16. Oh for goodness sake … please tell me everyone knows the difference between a child and a man. This is barbaric behaviour. Childhood is also a time when children mimic what they see and a time to gently correct behaviour. All children show imperfect behaviour and to demonise and traumatise the child at this age is asking for the very problem you want to prevent. Gentle correction please! (Only if the child has more serious problems should anything more be considered, and that would be caring and protective therapy.) It reminds me of the case I heard of some years ago where a four or six year old was accused of being ‘provocative’ towards adults who molested/raped her who were given a reprieve. Adult-child, adult-child. This is a child who is vulnerable and needs adult protective responses for his sake and that of the little girl.

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  17. 1. A lot of people are completely missing that the article doesn’t ever call the boy a rapist or even a future rapist. It highlights parallels between this and rape trials that have played out in the media. (But, we need to keep in mind, all adult rapists were kids once. And we do need to think about how rapists’ childhoods contributed to them committing rape as adults.) Read Alice Miller’s works.

    2. This article is a critique of how mainstream media handled the reporting of the case, and how society via social media has reacted. People find the rape analogy hard to swallow, but many of these are the same people who still think you “can ask for it” and that some girls are sluts.

    3. The mass panic over this boy’s academic record, the one-sided reporting, the rush to assume his innocence without ever hearing the girl’s side of the story etc – all the parallels were easy to see. It was the school who labelled this behaviour as sexual harassment, not the writer of the article.

    4. The discussion over whether or not this is sexual harassment has totally obscured the big picture. This little girl did not want the boy kissing her and he repeatedly did so. HE HAD BEEN SUSPENDED BEFORE for this behaviour.

    5. The world will be a different place if people learn appropriate touch at a young age. And for the record, not all sexual abuse is painful or aggressive or violent (think of the whole fucked-up legitimate rape debate). That’s why it doesn’t matter if this wasn’t an act of violence against the girl.

    6. My blood curls when I think of all the times that someone might have told this little girl “he is just kissing you because he likes you”.

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  18. If the “perp” was a little girl kissing a boy – there would be no news article, no outrage, no suspension and you wouldn’t be defining the action through your perception of rape culture.

    But, when we look at everything through those glasses….
    If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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  19. I’m not defining the action. I am critiquing the response my the media and by society. The article itself ask if we would be having this conversation if the little boy had been kissing another little boy or if he had been kicking the little girl. i don’t see how if a girl had been kissing a boy repeatedly against the boy’s will – that it makes much difference – I still think that the “perps” mother wouldn’t have gone to the media in any other case. But the situation as is does reflect rape culture. No-one should have to endure unwanted physical attention from another person – kids included – regardless of age and gender.

    It is not the age of the kids or their gender that is the problem – it’s everyone’s reaction that this is cute and that they’re just kids that is the problem – it completely misses the point that a LITTLE GIRL has the right to not receive ANY unwanted physical attention – even it if it is from another child!!!!!!

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  20. Thank you for such a thoughtful considerate response. The parallels and analogy are hard for a lot of people to grasp. But I think it’s important that people really understand what rape culture is and how it operates.

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  21. It’s quite bizarre how many people are unwilling to speak up for the girl who received all the unwanted physical attention (and was unwillingly thrust into a media circus by the boy’s mother) and are more concerned with the little boy and his needs and wants and future. THAT, right there, is rape culture in action.

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  22. It’s quite bizarre how many people are unwilling to speak up for the girl who received all the unwanted physical attention (and was unwillingly thrust into a media circus by the boy’s mother) and are MORE concerned with the little boy and his needs and his wants and his future. THAT, right there, is rape culture in action.

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  23. I understand that measures needed to be taken in order for the boy to recognise that after continuous tellings he still continued to break the rules and that because of that actions have been taken.His behaviour was obviously causing the girl upset and was not ok. This boy is 6. My son is 7 and he has had a “girlfriend” since nursery. Children learn through play and they will play to make sense of the world around them. They have no concept of sexual harrasment…they are learning the rights and wrongs of the world. The term sexual harrasment linked to this story disgusts me qnd will remain with that little boy the rest of his life. He has been labelled, whether that be through the school, media or opinion. This is a 6 year old boy. Yes children need to develop an understanding of consent, appropriate touch, boundaries and consequences. They are also developing a sense of self. They need to be guided by the adults around them through their learning journey. A child of 6 labelled as a sexual harasser is a disgrace and no wonder the school has had to withdraw this term.

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  24. Aimee Pepper says:

    As a girl who had a similar situation, I wish this had happened in my case. When I was in 1st grade a boy that I hated (also in 1st grade) declared me his girlfriend and kept trying to hold my hand and give me hugs and kisses all the time and everyone thought it was just darling. I hated it and I was terrified of him. I would hide from him during recess and I would always try to stay around friends when going to and from classes so he wouldn’t latch onto me then. It was horrible and it made me terrified and untrusting of many people for awhile. He also declared us dance partners in our dance class when we all had to pair up and the teacher thought it was cute. When I got mad at him he locked me in the ball closet during recess and nobody found me till a teacher got worried when I never showed up for class and came looking for me.

    This is serious shit. Don’t downplay it because he’s young. This is horrible behavior and very harmful to the victim.

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  25. My children went to a primary school where personal boundaries were taught from the beginning, but no-one was ever labelled with ‘sexual harassment’. I fully understand and support that children need to learn from an early age, particularly given the influence of the media and other sources to which children are vulnerable. However, in protecting girls and boys, our children and the future, one needs to be careful. This ‘sexual harassment’ label is akin to calling a toddler a thief who still hasn’t learnt to share his toys. Children cry then too and get upset but it is a learning process, not a time to traumatise either party. I have a dreadful feeling this child is going to be the focus of a lot of awful attention for years to see if he does indeed become this dreadful ‘rapist, sexual harasser, wife-basher’ or goodness knows. I think the school should get advice from their school psychologist, if they indeed have access to one, on how this should have been handled. My grandchildren also learn personal boundaries at their primary school in Australia.

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  26. Rb D says:

    This reminds me of the time I broke the large knuckle of the bird finger on my right hand. I was about seven, in second grade.

    A boy kept putting his hands up my dress on the playground. We were playing softball, and every time I bent over I was felt up.

    I was suspended for three days, subjected to anger and scolding from my teachers. And the boy (boys really he had a cheering section) …. nothing.

    I knew I did not want his hand on my bottom but no one else seeme to think I had ownership right to it and I was labelled a bad girl. A difficult girl. A troubled child, mother called in. Some parents forbid their children to play with me. The boys? Nothing.

    I wish I could say it was the last time something like that happened. It wasn’t until many years later, until Feminism, that I learned it wasn’t my fault. It was HIS.

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  27. Thanks for commenting, and even more thanks for sharing your story. It stories like yours that prompted me to write this piece. We must give girls full ownership of their bodies – beginning at a young age. I’m so sorry that as a child you weren’t validated for not wanting your bottom touched and that there was nothing done in terms of dealing with the boy. I’m really happy to hear that you have since learned and understand that your child self’s feelings were correct and that it wasn’t your fault.

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  28. Rb D says:

    While listening to CBC today, I was horrified to hear the host of Radio 2’s Shift tell this story.

    He embellished it with great gusto and humour. He does things like that. It’s part of the show, but today, it was a ringer. I thought of this six-year old, as did the women I was working with.

    Do you see what I see? (Apparently, Tom doesn’t).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Baffled_Knight

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  29. Rb D says:

    “Childhood is also a time when children mimic what they see …”

    What’s going on in this child’s home? I think the school needs to keep a close eye on this boy. for the possibility that he may be an abused child himself.

    I agree with everything DP has said, and thank DP for it. This is a fantastic post.

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  30. Rb D says:

    Follow up to my previous comment about the CBC radio show: Tom does see. I received a very thoughtful email from him thanking me for my email and saying he now has a different perspective of the story.

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  31. Rb D says:

    Hayley, “sexual” harassment means harassment between the male sex (rarely the other way around) and the female sex, attentions, comments, touching, that is unwanted, and for which the victim has requested it stopm by word or indication. It does NOT mean it was sexual acts, although it can but by then, its sexual abuse, and rape, so another category.

    This is a very good explanation of sexual harassment. The kid had been told NO.

    http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/sexual-harassment-education-brochure

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  32. Rb D – thank you so much for all of your thoughtful comments. I think you will find this link interesting and relative. Let me know what you think.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/figures-reveal-scale-of-sexual-misconduct-in-schools-by-children-as-young-as-five-8997329.html

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  33. Rb D says:

    “…boys involved in sexual misconduct outnumbers girls by a rate of around 10-1.”

    Oh yes, I believe it. Even in this day and age, I’ve heard “boys will be boys” from well educated parents, nodding indulgently at the kid. We KNOW if little girls aged 4 and 6 were pulling down their pants and mooning the boys in the playground the punishment and shame would be swift.

    I was going to say if parents would just teach these boys…but THEY ARE! They are.

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