Given the periodic and recently dense news of trusted adults molesting or otherwise abusing children, I want to bring to your attention a powerful tool with which to equip young boys and girls.
The tool was devised by Ira Chaleff, whose book—Intelligent Disobedience—I reviewed in TOS (Winter 2017). Indeed, the tool is an application of intelligent disobedience that Chaleff devised specifically for children to use in the event that an adult makes inappropriate requests or gestures.
As Chaleff explains:
Even at a very young age, children learn simple self-protection sequences like “Stop, Drop and Roll” if their clothes catch fire. They are taught “Run, Hide, Fight” as a sequence of choices in the event of an active shooter incident. We all know “If you see something, say something” to pre-empt acts of terror.
To these we need to add: Blink, Think, Choice, Voice. What does this mean?
When told by an authority figure to do something wrong, sexual or otherwise, there is a physiological response. It is apparent in the eyes, which may open wide in disbelief or begin to involuntarily blink. (You want me to do WHAT?!) Cognitive powers are reduced.
When the coach or team physician—or piano teacher, or camp counselor or Uncle Joe—touches a private part, or asks the child to touch theirs, there is a particularly heightened moment of overwhelming confusion. The individual is vulnerable to obeying the authority figure, which is the default response that society has drilled into them.
With a little preparation they can quickly recover from this shock and re-engage their cognitive ability to make choices. A simple approach is to start BLINKING volitionally to interrupt the startled response. Then THINK about the conflicting rules. I am supposed to listen to the coach but the coach is not supposed to touch my private parts. Now make a CHOICE about which rule to follow in this situation and VOICE it clearly. If the choice is “No, I don’t want you to do that,” say it in a voice that can’t be ignored. BLINK. THINK. Make a CHOICE. Use your VOICE.
Just like “Stop, Drop and Roll” each of these steps can be practiced with an accompanying physical gesture. This helps build neural pathways and muscle memory for the new behavior. We recently successfully tested this approach with children from four years old to preteens. Other researchers may further test and improve on it. Meanwhile, the technique can be used now to prepare children if they find themselves in the terrible predicament of being told to do something bad by an adult in whose care you trusted them.
Please spread the word about this. It could save a child you know from unimaginable horror.