This has nothing to do with atheism, but I have become fond and familiar with the community here and I would like your collective opinion on a sensitive matter with which I am faced. I know a little girl at a chinese restaurant I frequent; she is the owners' daughter and she eats with me when I come in. Recently she mentioned that one of her parent's employees creeps her out, so I asked her why. She said "he tickles me," which immediately sent up red flags to me. I asked her if she had told him to stop, and she said yes, so I told her she should tell her mom about it and she said she did but that her mom didn't do anything. I can't really talk to her mom because she barely speaks english and I don't know any mandarin. I think the guy "tickling" her speaks some english so I could talk to him, but I'm reticent because I don't have anything other than her statement and I could be misconstruing it. What can I ask her to find out what he's doing without making her too shy to answer? She's like 9 years old. And if he's doing something inappropriate, what should I do? I won't be able to prove it, so I don't know if it would be helpful to tell the police. If he's doing anything wrong, he would surely deny it. Suggestions please.

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Comment by John Camilli on January 31, 2012 at 4:56am

Thank you all for the comments. I have gleaned some valuable ideas from all of you and I am thinking on it. I haven't been back in there since I wrote this. I want to try getting her to share more information before I act on it because all I have right now is a vague suspicion and a protective instinct. Carolyn, I very much agree with the need for children's rights to be respected. I often see a stark lack of this in the world. Children are treated like second-class citizens and it galls me that many adults think themselves superior for their years on this earth. Age does not make a man wise, nor trial give him rights. I will be cautious not to tread on her privacy even as I excersize my concern. I like your description of bullying as play with one-sided enjoyment. That seems apt to me.


Glen, you know I want to as well, but I will hold it for another thread. Plenty of chances, my friend :-)

Comment by Jas Brimstone on January 25, 2012 at 2:01pm

I was going to comment, but after reading the comments, Carolyn already said what I was thinking, and probably much more succinctly than I would have.  So just consider my comment a +1 to Carolyn R's comments below.

Comment by Carolyn R on January 25, 2012 at 1:01pm

I will mention also that actual molesters and all manner of bullies tend to sort of hunt around for victims this way, figuring out who they can bully, intimidate, and get away with annoying, then the simple annoyance escalates into worse and worse behaviors. For the perpetrator is is a sort of game, eroding the self-hood of the victim. It does not matter one bit if he has not yet broken the law in touching her, the situation where HE gets to decide what is ok and what is not, and HER opinion is ignored is wrong and dangerous for them both already. Help your friend.  

Comment by Carolyn R on January 25, 2012 at 12:57pm

Here's another thing, as a parent I will say kids, like adults have a right not to be touched by people who creep them out. Even if the tickling is not actual sexual molestation, if she dislikes it, she has the right to not be touched. I wish people would take my child's feelings into consideration more often, not tell her what she is supposed to like - this is part of how kids get a sense of self, of boundaries, of autonomy & self-esteem, that when they tell grown-ups they trust that they don't like something, that the grown-ups take the child's feelings, preferences, and right to self-determination seriously. 

You asking her for more information itself can be a kind of invasion of her privacy - you mention that you realize this could embarrass her. She should not need to convince you that the touching is illegally inappropriate for you to do something. She sees you as a friend, stand up for your friend just as you would for a shy adult that was not necessarily being molested but just harassed by a boss - even a well-intentioned non-criminal boss. 

I agree - err on the side of protecting the child. All you have to do is say to the employee - "You need to stop tickling the child, it makes her feel shy, she doesn't like it, she told you to stop, you need to stop. If it was me I would pretend I overheard rather than "out" her for "telling on" him, don't let it turn into a "he said / she said" which is also awkward for the child.

Maybe you could say something like: "Some kids do not like to be tickled, I know I didn't! and she doesn't either!"

If she doesn't like it, it DOES NOT MATTER what his intentions are, she has the right for it to stop. Play that one side enjoys and the other side does not is bullying.

I like to take an approach like 'I am saying this in good humor, but will increase the intensity of my mood if met with any resistance.' give him room to back down, to accept that to continue would be a mistake, but no room to do anything else. Calm but firm, alpha dog style. 

Comment by Ted E Bear on January 23, 2012 at 10:55am
I think this a bit of an over reaction. If you get a chance, ask this girl where she gets tickled in a her a subtle and calm way. Outside of that, this is not enough evidence to suspect anything else.
Comment by Karen Loethen on January 22, 2012 at 2:08am

Err on the side of protecting this child!!!

Comment by Tenken on January 21, 2012 at 12:38pm

In this hysterical modern U.S., there is a very good chance you are reading more into this than is actually happening.  However, given this particular situation, her mom may truly not be worried about her daughter being molested.  I know Asian values can be significantly different than what we are used to, especially regarding sex.  However, if nothing is happening, it is also possible that mere accusations can ruin reputations and lives.  And whether something is happening or not, recent research also suggests that in many cases, the true harm comes from the labeling of children as victims, treating them as "abused," and exposing them to the legal and mental health systems.  We may have good intentions, but we often do more harm than good by making things into a bigger deal than they are.

I would recommend further investigation yourself.  Make sure she knows she can trust you, that you care about her, and that if this employee (or anyone) has touched her inappropriately or ever does, you want her to tell you right away and you'll do what you can to stop it and make him go away.  I would also recommend not sounding too gravely serious like people tend to when talking about this subject with kids, although still make it clear that you aren't joking.  If you make it seem like too big of a deal, she might actually feel too ashamed to tell you.

The answers aren't always so clear when dealing with kids you are personally involved with, where the goal is actually minimizing harm more than adhering to accepted norms.

Comment by Larry Martin on January 21, 2012 at 11:30am

Report it, John.

If nothing is wrong, you will be embarrassed and maybe unwelcome in that restaurant.  If something bad eventually happens, you will never forgive yourself for your silence.  Most likely you will never know either way, and will always wonder.  There is no way you can hurt the girl by reporting it.

Don't get involved any further yourself unless you want to be accused falsely at the moment of truth.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 21, 2012 at 10:27am

John, I will refrain from reopening the moral relativism argument. Pat is probably correct. Although even if you make the "hypothetical" call you will probably be told to report it.

Comment by Pat on January 21, 2012 at 7:38am

Report it. Period! No disrespect, but unless you are specifically trained in child sex abuse investigation, making your own inquiries and taking matters into your own hands - no matter how well meaning - will do more harm than good. I have some experience in this, working in the criminal justice area of this field. You're best bet is reporting it to the police and the child welfare agency in your state. Since this is in a restaurant, it's not beyond imagination that the "tickler" is a family member, and someone who may have authority or control over the child's mother - boss, owner, manager, etc., which is why mom may be ignoring it.

The child obviously trusts you. That's the best thing you and she have going. If she wants to talk about it, let her. But don't try to pry information out of her. Let her tell you, in her own way, then report it.



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