The first time that I was sexually molested – that I can recall, that is – I was maybe 8 years old. Our girls are now 5. Sadly, 5 is not too young to be worrying about this.
Amit thinks I’m paranoid about men. Maybe, to some extent, I am. But it’s only because the varied unpleasant experiences of my early years have made me this way. The impact of that very first incident, when I didn’t even know what exactly was going on, only that it made me feel dirty – that incident had an impact that lasted years.
It’s still working away at me, making me doubt every unknown man who comes within a foot of my children. For instance, at their daycare there used to be a security guard. I saw him everyday and I had no reason to think ill of him. All the same, during the summer holidays when we reached daycare early, I wouldn’t leave them at daycare until one of the women staff arrived. It’s not that I don’t trust the security chap; it’s just that he’s male.
One of the reasons I never really considered getting a driver to drive the kids around is because you don’t get any women drivers. And the only reason I’m not too worried about sending them in the school van is because they are never the last kids in the van. I did worry a bit about how much other five-year-olds could be relied upon to help, but then decided they would at least have a deterrent effect on anybody with those ideas. Hopefully.
School and daycare are full of women, so apart from the van, there weren’t any other opportunities for strange men to get their hands on my daughters. I don’t worry about the tennis court at all, not only because there are always plenty of people around of all ages, but also because the tennis coach is a friend and above suspicion.
Then they started gymnastics.
The gymnastics class is at a gym that I have no prior association with. We’ve met the head honcho, and there are at least three competent young women around who seem to know what’s what. I’ve sat through four classes. There is, of course, a lot of physical contact between the instructor and the kids. The instructor is male. There is a female assistant whom I’ve seen at every class. But, the male instructor still does handle all the girls in the class. His hands are on their legs and butts. If there were anything inappropriate? “That assistant wouldn’t say anything,” said Amit. “She wants to keep her job.”
Ok, so I will sit in on every class, I thought. I’ll know if there’s anything shady going on. It’s fine – it’s only an hour twice a week. Besides, it’s hugely entertaining to watch all their antics.
But at the last class, I was told, firmly and absolutely, by one of the women who runs things over there, that parents are not allowed to sit in on classes beyond the first one or two. Why? Because the children then always think of their parents first and aren’t completely “in” the class. They need to focus on the instructor.
It’s a fair comment. It’s true – even when I sit around at the tennis court during their tennis sessions, I’ve seen it. Their eyes always go to us. It makes the instructor’s job more difficult – pulling the kid’s attention away from the parents. It’s true that the kids need to be in their environment without thinking of their parents watching them from the sidelines. And yet…
I discussed it with Amit and we decided to leave them to it. I think I quite like their gymnastics instructor – he brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to class. I’ve not seen anything in the way he interacts with the kids there that makes me at all uncomfortable. And if the only option is to pull them out of gymnastics class… I can’t lock my girls up in an ivory tower. I can’t deny them all sorts of fun just because of my fears, which may or may not be warranted.
And so – I’ve decided to rely upon my initial, instinctive liking of this particular man. They can stay in the class. I will not sit in. Everything will be ok.
And yet – what if I am wrong?