Lightning

Something happened to me today.

I was walking home with Ariel from town. Ariel was being a bit of a pain and in a contrary mood: insisting on walking rather than sitting in the pushchair but then being really unco-operative – running off, refusing to hold my hand, trying to pull the pushchair over, sitting or kneeling on the floor and refusing to budge, all that sort of thing – constant low-level misbehaviour. So anyway, after telling her that she had had enough warnings and that the next time I had to ask her to walk nicely she would be going in the pushchair, we were crossing the road and she decided to sit down about 2 feet short of the kerb and absolutely refused to move, pulling away from me and struggling when I tried to get her to stand up. I ended up having to drag her off the road and, as promised, put her straight in the pushchair while telling her in no uncertain terms (although not in fact shouting, just with a raised voice) that she should NEVER sit down in the road because it is extremely DANGEROUS.

None of this was exactly pleasant, but what else do you do?

Anyway, the next thing I know, some passerby has decided to involve himself and I’m being detained by the police on suspicion of assaulting my child. I was absolutely spitting, as you can imagine, and very reluctant to co-operate which no doubt made me look suspicious, however I did not know what they were entitled to do or not do (and the investigating constable insisted he could do whatever he wanted, and kept saying things like “I am a police officer” and “I can use reasonable force to detain you”) so I didn’t feel as though I had much choice but to do as I was asked, which included allowing him to take Ariel and I into the police station and removing her clothes so that he could examine her for evidence of assault.

It was the most upsetting thing that has happened to me in a long time. The most surprising feeling was of FEAR. I had done nothing wrong, why was I AFRAID? OK, maybe not so surprising. I very much felt that I was guilty until proven innocent, and at the back of my mind is the perennial mother’s fear – what if? What if they take her away from me? Maybe not today, but what if some other incident like this ever happens and now there is a *history* of abuse allegations and what if they take her away from me? What if I really was abusing and assaulting her? Did I go over the top when I was telling her off? If they did take her away from me, would I deserve this? What if they take her away?

Sisters, I’m here to tell you. They rule us with fear.

The fear is irrational, we all know that. But the fear is there.

There were a lot of things about the whole incident that made me really upset and really angry, but there is one more that stands out – which is the constable’s total failure to understand my concerns about his “examining” Ariel.

I was asking, for example, who would do the examination – would it be a doctor – isn’t she entitled to be examined by a medical professional? When he said he was merely going to inspect her for evidence of a crime I asked whether he was going to touch her. I said if he had to examine her, and he thought he was entitled to do so, then I would allow it but that I did not want him to touch her. His reaction to this was (as he admitted to me) that he thought this was a “weird” request.

Weird?

I mean, this is trained police officer who is investigating an allegation of an assault against a child. And he doesn’t get why it might not be appropriate for him to touch that child – the putative victim who he is apparently trying to protect – without first obtaining her consent?

And he thinks the child’s mother is weird for asking him not to touch the child, EVEN AFTER the mother has explained that the child does not like to be touched by people she doesn’t know? (My belief is that he only thought it was weird that I should request this, because he had already decided in his mind that I had assaulted her, in which case why on earth would I be concerned about someone else assaulting her?)

So how am I supposed to teach my daughter that it is not acceptable for other people to touch her against her will, if a POLICE OFFICER thinks it is acceptable for him to touch her against her will? – And, at that, a police officer investigating allegations of child assault.

The mind boggles.

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