Unexpected Stranger Danger

Danger lurks in the most unexpected places.

Each time I talked to my kids about inappropriate touching and the sanctity of their private parts, I had a villain in mind. I thought of the gymnastics teacher whose touch turned into uncomfortably lingering rubs when I was 12.  I imagined a substitute teacher or other stranger getting access to say something or do something to make my kids uncomfortable, but I never imagined the danger could come from a child, a teenager.

Jack told me what happened in his usual nonchalant style, sitting behind me as I drove our minivan into Chicago last week.

“Hey mom, guess what.”

“What’s that sweetie?”

“You know the room at the pool where the boys go to change?”

“You mean the locker room?”

“No, not the men’s locker room! The place at the pool that’s just for boys.”

“The boys’ pool changing room?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s the room.”

“What about the boys’ changing room sweetie?”

“Oh yeah. Well, when I was in it today, a boy asked me if I wanted to see his penis.”

“A boy? What boy? A boy your age?”

“I don’t know his name. Not my age. Older.”

“Older like Bella or older?”

“Older than Bella. A big boy.”

“Older like a lifeguard?”

“No, lifeguards are grown ups mom. This was a boy, a big boy.”

“Okay. And he tried to show you his penis?”

“Yes. I walked into the room and he asked me if I wanted to see his penis.”

‘So what did you say?”

“I said no. I didn’t want to see his penis! Then I walked out, but because I wasn’t dressed, I had to go back in. He was still there and he asked me if I was sure that I didn’t want to see his penis.”

“So what did you say that time?”

“I told him no again, mom. Why would I want to see his penis? That’s gross. I don’t even know why he wanted to show it to me.”

Once I had gathered all the facts and was sure that Jack walked out of the locker room without being exposed, I spent some time praising him for his choices and reinforcing his certainty that the boy’s request was completely inappropriate. I wanted to make sure Jack didn’t feel like he was in trouble in any way and give him the tools to react as confidently in another difficult situation. We talked about who should be allowed to see his private parts and why he did the right thing by walking away from a strange request. Then I changed the subject and moved on, to not make Jack uncomfortable by dwelling too long on the topic.

But inside I was a mess. I have no idea what the boy’s intentions were, if this type of thing is typical locker room behavior, or the actions of a more disturbed individual. I’m just so incredibly thankful that Jack didn’t feel peer pressured to say yes, and I hope that he will keep that strength.

I may never find out the identity of this boy. I’m not even sure what I’d do if Jack pointed him out. Confront him? Speak to his mother? I’m not sure any of that would do any good and could potentially hurt or embarrass my son. Instead, I’ll use the incident to protect my children from molestation through open discourse about their bodies.

This was obviously a very personal incident and I struggled with whether or not to write about it. I ended up choosing to share it with you in the hope that my wake up call can be yours as well. Please talk to your children about their bodies and inappropriate touching. Books like Kimberly King’s My Body is Private or the Berenstein Bears Learn About Strangers can be a useful way to bring up the topic. It’s a terrifying topic to broach but you never know where danger lurks.





3 Responses to Unexpected Stranger Danger

  1. Im not a parent but that’s awful. Can you at least report the incident to the supervisors at the pool? The boy/ teenager that asked your son that is probably a victim of abuse himself and continuing the abuse.Who knows what other kids he has approached.Glad you son has good instincts. Well done on your part!

  2. Good job communicating with Jack! I would report it to the pool manager. Chances are this “boy” goes there often and may approach other boys.And if Jack were able to point him out, I’d let them know who it was, too! I might even let the local police know.

  3. I was told a similar story by a friend, also about a male teen babysitter/neighbor approaching her young son (about 6 yrs old) with inappropriate sexual requests. She went over to the boy’s house and confronted him in his front yard! He of course denied it and nothing much came of it after that.

    Like you, it was a wake up call to me and helped me realize that teens and older kids can be predators as well. It’s amazing that you were able to keep your cool and not your let your son on to how much it freaked you out. It’s also amazing that he trusts you enough to tell you openly about incidents like this and because of how you handled it he will continue to do so. So kuddos to you! I hope I can be so strong when faced with such a situation!

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience as a girl. Luckily it’s heightened your awareness of the type of people who are out there. They say 1 in 3 girls are molested in some way before age 15 and 1 in 5 boys. So as parents we have to do our best to communicate with our kids and stay constantly aware. Thanks for sharing…

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