I place family violence in a wider culture where vulgar and violent attitudes to women are common.........
Susie is 21. She's just finished uni exams and decides to head out for a night with friends.
Within the first two hours she's been groped twice.
The first from a leering drunk.
The second happens from behind, anonymously, as Susie's making her way through a crowd.
Susie feels a lot of things—saddened, humiliated and a little frightened.
But she's not surprised.
And this is what I thought of. My daughter has just turned nine. She's very tall and grown up looking for her age but the youngest of her cohort at school. This doesn't seem to bother her too much but she is hanging onto her childhood, she likes being a kid. Last year at school, I was present at a particularly chaotic assembly. There was no crowd control and there she was in the middle, in a line for something, being good. A boy from her class, who would have been nine or ten was standing behind her and licking her hair, or just far enough away from her hair that she wouldn't know what was happening. They were very big, very lewd licks. When he stopped, he looked directly at me and then kissed the boy standing next him on the mouth.
I was a bit gobsmacked and not at all sure how to re-act. The action the boy was doing to my daughter was clearly lewd and sexual in nature. Him looking at me so directly was puzzling, he knew I was her mother, he would have had have known that I would be upset by what I saw. Surely. Maybe not. He would have been ten so he was just a kid, but then again he wasn't four or five any more either. I wondered whether to tell Grace or not. I suspected she wouldn't like it but she probably wouldn't like that sort of activity behind her back either. So I told her. With all the gory details, the hair licking, the mum looking and the boy kissing. Her response - eeeeewwwwww, gross. She was quite upset and quite upset that it had happened behind her back. Amongst the girls there have occasionally been issues about having to show your bottom (ie vulva) before you can play a game. I have always been very clear, if you want to show your bottom to another child, that's fine, it's yours and up to you but you never have to if you don't want to. Ever. The mums cleared that one up.
This issue with the hair licking was different. There was no opportunity to say yes or no. So total absence of consent. If they had both decided they wanted to play some hair licking game, I probably would have said assembly was an inappropriate place to be doing that and I might have had something to say about her choice of playmate, but ultimately, consensual hair licking between and eight and ten year old, I might not have liked it but I wouldn't have thought it was particularly my business.