How consent and boundaries make a more safe and loving world

I was checking out at the grocery store with my almost two year old daughter, bagging groceries watching all the cashiers and patrons alike say hi, wave and talk to her. A second later there was an elderly man who came over and without hesitation starts stroking my daughters head, she froze and looked at me with a face of terror. Without hesitation I calmly but sternly said “Please don’t touch her.” The man stepped away, slightly shocked that I had said that at all to him.

As I finished my bagging and left the store I became aware of the rage bubbling beneath the surface. I do not fear this rage for it is the loud and clear message that my boundaries have been crossed. This one goes deep though, as someone who has been date raped, sexually assaulted multiple times, and harassed, I am exhausted having this boundary being crossed.

The lack of thought that went into this mans seemingly ‘innocent’ action was obviously a trigger to me, but as I find healing in Motherhood, I am using my voice to externalize these feelings to not only process them but bring awareness to these micro-actions that plant seeds to much larger problems.

My questions for this man are endless. Do you walk up to adult men and start stroking their hair, or would you get punched in the face? When you greet acquaintances (people you BARELY know) do you start with physical touch? Maybe a hand shake… fist bump…but you hold out your hand and wait for reciprocation, don’t you?

So WHY do we look at children and think, “Aw what a cute thing, let me touch it.” More people have asked me to pet my dog than they have to interact with my child. I can’t help but think, “Well, that’s because dogs bite.” A defenseless child does not. I’ve been dealing with this since she was a newborn. Touching newborns is a HUGE no-no that the older generations never got the memo for, but never did I think this would still be happening to a two year old, in the life and times of COVID no less!

Let’s get something straight here: My daughter is a person. She might be a child, but she is a person who deserves respect. Her body is hers, and she owes you nothing. She doesn’t know how to tell you no, so I will speak up for her. I’ll speak up for her like all the times I wish someone spoke up for me, for all the times I wish I had spoken up for myself.

I wish someone had discussed consent with me, but I am grateful that I can discuss it now with my daughter and any readers a like. Let’s normalize asking permission. Consent is not just for sexual encounters, it is for all social and physical interactions. Ask for consent before physical advances, ask for consent before giving advice, ask for consent before unloading your grievances onto someone who may be caught up in their own emotions. This is how we plant seeds of respect and foster healthy relationships with clear boundaries.

When consent is not asked for, we cross boundaries, when we cross boundaries, people feel unsafe. As a mother, all I want is for my daughter to feel safe in this world. As I became a mother, I began seeing every person I encounter as a divine being. We are all born perfect, and deserve to be safe and loved.

Consent, boundaries, and opening up discussions of this sort are the way to a safer, more loving world.