I Don’t Have a Title For This; I’m Too Busy Being Angry

Trigger warning: sexual harassment, groping, erasure of victims/ survivors.

I have two beautiful children in my life, whom I enthusiastically co-parent. I am not partnered with either parent of these children. Instead, I am called their Auntie, because calling me Miss [name redacted] is way too formal. It’s a nuanced relationship — I am an authority figure, sponsor of fun time, shoulder to cry on, homework helper, and food exploration specialist. I’m what Patricia Hill Collins would call an “other-mother.” The eldest of the two, Brianna (not her real name, I won’t be using real names here), is thirteen. Her baby brother, Patrick, is three. Because Brianna is so much older than her brother, she often lives a drastically different life than he does. She goes to and from school by herself, has a course of study at her magnet school in NYC, and is beginning to explore the world around her in ways that Patrick cannot/ doesn’t. Because of her age, I’m always pondering how Brianna processes media and various experiences that she has. She’s a black girl in a huge city where it’s easy to become invisible, for a million different reasons. I worry. I ponder.

A few weeks ago when I went to visit Brianna and Patrick at home, Brianna told me that she’d just come back from one of those send-the-poor-brown-kids-to-the-mountains-for-a-week camp program things. I asked her if it was fun, if she missed her brother, mother, or stepfather. She said that she missed her brother, but was glad to get away, and then she exclaimed. “Auntie, I got really tan! And I swam and played in the sun. I had a good time for the most part . . . But they called the cops on me yesterday on the way home.” I shit you not, my head almost exploded. I asked Brianna to repeat herself and explain the circumstances to me.

Brianna said that there was this kid about nine or ten years old at camp, Michael, who had been bugging her all week. She said that it began with hits and pinches, pokes and staring. The usual bullshit that I think most kids are exposed to. But, she said that his behavior escalated. That Michael began saying things about her growing breasts and her ass — and that when she spoke to her group leader (an adult), she simply told Brianna to “Tell him to stop it.” No action was taken by this adult. Brianna said that she felt bad that nobody stepped in — but the excuse of her group leader was that Brianna is “older and bigger” than this other child. So, he chilled for a bit once he knew that there was an adult watching him. On the last day of camp, as the kids piled onto a bus to come back into the city, the harassment resumed. This time, Michael decided that he was going to touch the parts he’d been commenting on. Brianna warned him, shoved him away and told this same adult — who was supervising this bus trip — what happened. The woman told Michael to leave her alone, and did nothing else. Brianna told this woman, “I’m gonna beat him up if he touches my chest again.”

He did it again; she socked him square in the face. The group leader rushed to this boy’s aid and called the police, citing Brianna’s age and size as reasons why she should not have hit Michael. The adult had the bus driver pull over, and she called the fucking cops. On a thirteen-year-old who acted in her own defense. Thankfully, the police never came. But: this woman did not follow camp procedure (no incident report, she did not contact Brianna’s mother or the other child’s primary caregiver). She called the fucking police. Who, thankfully, never came.

I was livid. I began to think of all the ways Brianna’s needs for safety and protection had been invalidated by someone to whom her care was entrusted. I thought about all of the possible points of contention. Here we had a white adult and a large group of children of color in a setting that is more or less based on the assumption that these are Kids Who’ve Never Been Anywhere or Seen Anything Worthwhile. The fact that this woman did not address the core issue — the continual, escalating aggression of this little boy — is not lost on me, nor is the fact that she left Brianna to handle it herself. Reading the urban child of color as “tough” is typical, even when a person of color is the one doing the reading. It’s the same kind of thinking that causes folks to treat the reports of missing and/ or assaulted women of color differently than they do white women’s reports.* And the rush to involve police with two children of color — do I even need to go into that? Black folks and police have not ever been the best of friends. Why do that to either of them, but especially to Brianna who was defending herself from unwanted advances? What did this teach her? She said that she understood the actions of the adult in this situation as less than ideal. She said she didn’t expect support, but that she was shocked that this woman called the police.

To realize that Brianna had already internalized the idea that she was not worthy of protection (even by her own means) was absolutely heartbreaking for me. Already? She already knows nobody will give enough of a fuck? I felt betrayed. I felt all of the rage from my own experiences with street harassment and groping. I identify all forms of unwanted touching, especially in what I call the bathing suit areas, as sexual assault. And sometimes I forget that not everyone does. But, whether you think of these actions in a particular way or not, I have to ask: WHAT THE FUCK? Why make the child responsible when they’ve come to the clear realization that adult intervention is needed? Isn’t that your job as a fucking camp counselor or group leader or whatever title you’ve got?

I’m still processing this. Brianna and I did have a talk where I affirmed her choices to stand up, and I did not question or cast doubt on her narrative. I believe her. She deserves (a) to be believed, (b) to be affirmed in her feelings, thoughts and actions, and (c) to have the assistance she requested when she requested it. I made sure she knew that, and I offered my empathy for her having been mistreated so. She thanked me, though I had nothing to do with any of it.

I’m proud of her. Proud as hell. It doesn’t remove the sting, though. I hate that I feel so helpless, that I literally cannot jump in and fix it. But, that’s part of parenting and loving. I’ve got to roll with it.

______________________
* See the story of Romona Moore and the victims of Cleveland, OH serial killer and rapist Anthony Sowell for an idea of what I’m talking about.

About dopegirlfresh

not here for the 101 stuff.
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176 Responses to I Don’t Have a Title For This; I’m Too Busy Being Angry

  1. Shaun says:

    Something similar happened to me when I was 10, trade the racism for another intersection. I don’t really have anything to add or to make this problem better, I just wanted to say I hear you and I empathize with your anger.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      Shaun,

      Thank you for reaching out and offering your empathy. I really do appreciate it. I hope that you’ve gotten some form(s) of affirmation for your actions, thoughts, and feelings. Again, thanks so much.

  2. Lindzanne says:

    As much as I am totally aware that this happens and have talked stuff like this through with friends and kids I’ve worked with who’ve had similar experiences, I am still ………….speechless. I am so sorry that this happened to her, and so, so sorry that she wasn’t surprised by the lack of adult support. I am also really glad that someone like you has her back. She’s got an excellent parent in you.
    Reading this makes me proud of her too. I wish with all I’ve got it had never happened, but it reminds me what there is at stake and is in a way, galvanizing. (I hope that makes sense.)

  3. arieswym says:

    Excellent post.
    Gripping read and a story that’s rarely told. Usually we hear about the punch and the police were called and that the older, bigger black girl is the problem, not the ways that she was harassed and provoked.
    Thank you for the post.

  4. CassandraSays says:

    Also, what has this incident taught Brianna about her place in society as a girl/woman, and whether or not she’s allowed to defend herself from male aggression and sexual assault? Even if we took out the race element (and we shouldn’t), this kind of behavior reinforces the idea that the proper response from women and girls when a man or boy is violating their physical boundaries is to meekly endure it. Because even other women won’t have their back most of the time.

  5. Mike says:

    I’m not a childcare professional, but I’ve volunteered at various organizations over the years (primarily Boys and Girls Club) and the behavior of the group leader in this case is downright criminal and just utterly dismaying. I’ve had less serious cases, like minor verbal harassment, where we’ve sent the offender home immediately. When we’ve had serious issues, like sexual advances, racial slurs or what have you, the parents are called in, the child is banned for a substantial period of time, and if necessary (if the parents won’t do their job) CPS is called. That you could be leading a group of children and ever ignore something like that…Jesus. What the hell goes on in that person’s mind? Is there anything going on?

  6. Christine says:

    God, this is gross. This is the same kind of adultification of Black girls that helps facilitate bullshit like the case a few years ago where police attacked a *12-year-old* because they “thought she was a prostitute”: http://boingboing.net/2009/02/09/final-arguments-in-t.html

    Just disgusting. It’s great that she has your support to guide her through.

  7. Anna says:

    The one heartening thing in all of this is the paragraph where you said that you did managed to talk with Brianna, where you supported her and affirmed her actions in standing up for herself.

    It’s a terrible situation to have occured, the group leader acted appallingly and I’m so sorry about the potential impact that might have on the children there.
    But thank goodness Brianna does have someone like you in her life to keep that confidence in her alive and to give her the support and affirmation she needs to know that she has a right to stand up to unwanted attention and to have her bodily autonomy respected in the future.

  8. I am so glad to know, at least, that Brianna has a person like you in her life. Sadly, so few girls in those situations do. It makes me sick to think that an adult whose job it was to protect the children was so quick to abandon her to sexual assault and to blame her for protecting herself.

  9. K. says:

    This crap happens again and again, and it never fails to shock me.

    Good for her for standing up for herself. I hope the significant adults in her life are proud of her. It’s not easy. Shame on the adults supposedly in charge at the camp thing/on the bus-that’s so not remotely acceptable.

  10. Spilt Milk says:

    I actually can’t be very articulate about this right now. (Way too close to the bone.) But thank you. Thank you for giving a shit, for being there for Brianna, for making her truth known.

  11. Medea says:

    Brianna has my sympathy. I wish I’d been brave enough to punch the boys who’d harassed me. The group leader needs to lose her job–calling the police when one child hits another is an incredible overreaction.

  12. Natalia says:

    What in the actual fuck?!

    Brianna is lucky that you are looking out for her. Seems like her group leader is, among other things, just a bad fucking person.

  13. NaS says:

    The willingness of school authorities and other caretakers of children being willing to call the police in situations like this is a big problem. However, the gulf between nine and thirteen can be pretty large. On average a 13 year old is 30 – 40 lbs heavier than a nine year old, which difference constitutes 50 percent of the nine year olds body weight. There are also substantial cognitive differences. This nine year old is by no means a fully developed person or fully in control of himself, probably much less so than a thirteen year old.

    She was entitled to defend herself, but punching a nine year old square in the face and hard may have been… excessive. I am a a teacher. There are thirteen year olds at my school that are as big as I am. If one of them punched a nine year old, hard, for any reason, it would alarm me.

  14. Alice says:

    You are right to be upset and heartbroken! That is an awful story and it sucks that Brianna had to go through that. I’m really angry for her. It sounds like you were wonderful about it, though. Her group leader should clearly not be a leader of anything, especially not of a group of children.

  15. Aiesha says:

    First, tell Brianna that I love her. Second, was this the Fresh Air Fund? I know some folks there, like high up folks there, and if it was, you better call/text me because this needs to be handled. Third, if it was another camp, you need to call/text me because I will be drafting a letter. There is no way this is acceptable in any format. When Tiny Smalls was bring hit/touched in Kindergarten, I had to teach her how to throw a left hook–the teacher did all she could and she warned the boy’s mama (as did I) about what was going to happen if the behavior did not stop. After he was clocked, the teacher shrugged, but the mama lamented b/c Tiny Smalls was taller/bigger than her egghead boy. I feel you so much on this and we have to not only teach our children what not to do and then what to do if something happens to you, but educate adults as well. But for real, I need some names.

  16. Elisabeth says:

    You should file a complaint against that group leader. She needs to also learn that if she behaves in a discriminatory, unprofessional manner and violates her job that there are consequences. Also, letting Brianna know that people who treat her poorly can’t get away with it is important too.

  17. elisacurtin says:

    You can’t go wrong for a fifth round pick but the scary thing is Heckett took him # 14 in the draft. That’s not a very good judge of talent. Lets don’t hope that’s a trend. http://bit.ly/rtmrtN

  18. Ashley says:

    That group leader should be fired for two reasons:

    1) The obvious.

    2) A nine or ten-year-old boy who is making sexual advances is giving that group leader reason to believe that he is experiencing sexual violence, and the camp has a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to find out what the heck is going on.

    I’d like to know if there’s anything I/other readers could do to help? Write a letter? Anything?

  19. Danielle says:

    The “you’re older/bigger thus the party that bears responsibility for whatever happens” bias really gets under my skin for other reasons – that was my experience with my parents as the older of two children. IMHO, it is nothing but an attempt by authority figures to abdicate their own responsibility. While there are certainly reasons for it those are much secondary to the problem.

  20. La Lubu says:

    To realize that Brianna had already internalized the idea that she was not worthy of protection (even by her own means) was absolutely heartbreaking for me. Already? She already knows nobody will give enough of a fuck?

    OMFG does that sound familiar as all hell. By that age, I had already well internalized that I was responsible for the sexual harassment/attempted sexual assault directed at me, mostly because of the attitude of adults like that camp counselor. The do-nothing, it’s-just-what-boys (or men)-do, you’re-tough-and-“streetwise”-so-you-can-handle-it (unless you are actually put in the position of physically defending yourself, in which case you deserve punishment), what’re-you-complaining-about-you’ve-already-had-a-lot-of-sex-with-adult-men-there’s-no-way-you’re-a-virgin…fucking attitude.

    Fucking hell. Ahem.

    And all this shit is amplified with the “zero tolerance” school rules of today, which officially require punishing children who finally reach the breaking point and physically defend themselves from assault with suspensions (need I mention these policies are disproportionately invoked against children of color?). Shit. I continually emphasize to my daughter that “every block is a strike”—it may not be enough to prevent punishment under the “zero tolerance” rules, but it’s all I can do. I’m not going to teach her to not defend herself.

    Much hugs to you and Brianna, and I agree with Aiesha and Ashley that this needs to be taken up the chain—this camp isn’t doing their job when it comes to sexual harrassment and assault policy, and other children (especially girls of color) do not need to be exposed to more of that shit, and most especially in a place that is supposed to be “safe”. What message does that send, when the supposedly “safe” place is full of grab-ass?

  21. Amber says:

    How sad that things really haven’t changed since I was a kid and the teachers on the playground would say things like, “if you don’t run he can’t chase you” or “that just means he likes you” when we would complain about unwanted attention and comments. There was a boy when I was in first grade who would tell girls he was going to get them pregnant at recess. The response? “He doesn’t know what that means.” There was never an attempt to correct the behavior of the boys. It was just implied that the girls should change their way of thinking. I was never brave enough to fight back like Brianna. And while I’m not in favor of violence in most situations, she was violated by the boy and the adults in charge. If no one else is going to stand up for you, you have to stand up for yourself.

  22. Angel H. says:

    NaS: She was entitled to defend herself, but punching a nine year old square in the face and hard may have been… excessive.

    Bull-fucking-shit. The kid and the adult supervisor was told on numerous occassions that this shit was going on. She was being assaulted, and she had the right to defend herself. I don’t even know Brianna, and I’m proud of her.

  23. chingona says:

    I’m so sorry. She did everything right, and the adults really failed her.

    And just, aaargh! to calling the police on kids. There is just almost never any way in which the cops are going to have better tools to deal with a problem between or with kids than the other adults in the room, and the consequences for getting into the criminal system are so serious. Adults need to step up and do their jobs.

    I was involved in several physical fights in sixth grade related to ongoing bullying (not of a sexual nature), and I can’t say I always handled it an ideal way, but there is just absolutely no way that anything about the situation – for me or the kids who were bullying me – would have been improved by calling the police.

    Not to mention the message this sends to the boy, that he is entitled to do whatever he wants to another person, and if that person defends herself, authority will side with him.

  24. Doc G says:

    I hate to admit that I have recently been a white teacher of disadvantaged urban middle school students who were mostly brown, and done a horrible job of managing situations like this. I’m pretty sure nobody went completely unpunished for harassment (sexual or otherwise) on my watch, but unfortunately, I can’t be sure. Because of my inability to manage my students’ behavior I chose to seek employment elsewhere for the time being.

    I share this story because I see a lot of comments that the adult supervisor here is a bad person, and even the ones that focus on the supervisor’s incompetence without necessarily denigrating his/her character seem to imply what is often assumed about adult caretakers; that they would do better if they cared more.

    The person who pointed out that the kid doing the harassment in this situation has probably experienced/is currently experiencing sexual abuse himself has hit the nail on the head. Today there are far too many educational institutions where huge numbers of emotionally needy kids – ones who don’t have the social skills needed to function appropriately in a group – have been systematically concentrated together, and well-meaning adults often do not have the training or support necessary to attend to all of their issues simultaneously.

    For my part, I would hear about 50 times a day that different kids were touching each others’ asses (among other inappropriate behavior). Many times this accusation was made spuriously to get other kids in trouble, many times it wasn’t even intended to be heard by me, other times it was ordinary adolescent horseplay where part of the game was for one party to pretend to be more offended than they were, and still other times a boy or girl was being harassed in a problematic, unacceptable way.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I bet what happened to Brianna, though completely unacceptable, was probably one of 10 different things going on that week – probably simultaneously. The fact that Brianna is more well-supported by parents and friends of parents at home in fact probably translates into her getting LESS attention from the adult supervisors, who are busy dealing with the kids that are completely off their fucking gourds. That is, you’re putting out 6 fires with just one blanket – you perform emotional triage not because you want to, but because you literally can’t not do that. And sometimes you make the wrong choice. When I realized that, despite all my effort, despite all the love I developed for my students, and despite the fact that every once in a while some of them did learn some science, I decided I wasn’t really doing them any favors and I had to step down.

    I still think I could be a good teacher, but I need some practice in a place where my inexperience doesn’t carry such constant, high-stakes consequences. I’ve signed on with a private school that has a progressive education philosophy so I hope to remedy my deficiencies in classroom management this way, and return to a setting that has been traditionally underserved sometime in the future when I’m better at it. The reason why I’m writing from this perspective is because the public seems to have this feeling – reinforced by many of the comments this story received – that if we could just get “better” adults in these school or caretaker positions, that would solve our problems. I beg to differ: I have a double undergrad in sciences from Tufts and a master’s in education from Columbia, I worked at least 5 hours a day outside of school for the past two years, and I couldn’t do what I needed to do. We have a system that takes underprepared adults and throws them in immediately with the most underprepared students, and says to the both of them, “sink or swim”. That system isn’t merit-based; it’s not even random. It imposes impossibly high accountability on the students and educators least able to meet those goals together.

    Please, for the love of society, erase from your mind the image of the uncaring, incompetent adult. If it were you in that situation, you’d be as confused and make as many mistakes. We need radical organizational changes to help our children, not just to fire more people.

  25. marnijane says:

    Like the first commenter, i had a similar experience(s) growing up (much younger though, and no cops. My brother though…lawyers, long story) but with a different intersection (only jewish kid at school). And this is, guh, words cannot describe. What you learn right quick, and what Nas seems to be incapable of comprehending, is that you HAVE to resort to violence. Because those teachers/councilors/whatever sit around and look the other way, tell you if you stop running they won’t chase you, and generally ignore your autonomy because girls “don’t really” have breasts yet or some such nonsense. What that adult did was let it escalate and really trap her into that course of action. If anyone should have the cops called on them it should be the adult for being so woefully inept. And when they’re Privileged Person they can also really lose sight of why that child was targeted in the first place.

    Your support probably goes further than you realize, hell, than she realizes right now. (I know i didn’t grasp the full level of wrongness until adulthood). Who supports you and who doesn’t and why really sticks with ya. I hope she has a good sense of humor because seriously? Cops? Really? REALLY?

    And as general agreement, right with ya on your views on what equals assault. I think yesmeansyes had up a post re:children and touch a while back? We tend to ignore when a kid doesn’t want to be touched like they’re stuffed animals or something.

  26. SunlessNick says:

    I don’t have anything useful to say, but Brianna absolutely didn’t deserve any of this shit. I hope she knows that.

  27. marnijane says:

    Also Nas, i LOVE the smell of victim blaming in the morning. Why don’t you try a little thought experiment and apply that reasoning to adults and see what happens.

  28. marnijane says:

    And while i’m at it, re: Doc G–holy loaded rhetoric batman! Your “ordinary adolescent horseplay” super assumption coupled with no basis in reality “this is probably what happened that day” DESPITE knowing that a)this adult knew what was happening and b)called the cops despite oh yes and c)told her to take care of herself despite it all, speaks way more than you realize.

  29. Angel H. says:

    I shouldn’t be surprised by the apologists would come out of the woodwork so quickly.

    Doc G: Please, for the love of society, erase from your mind the image of the uncaring, incompetent adult. If it were you in that situation, you’d be as confused and make as many mistakes. We need radical organizational changes to help our children, not just to fire more people.

    If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you. The adult supervisor was an uncaring, incompetent adult who needs to lose her job. She knew what was going on and did NOTHING. There is no excuse for that.

  30. marnijane says:

    “If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you”

    Yeah, sounds to me like SOMEONE’s projecting juuuust a liiittle bit, no?

  31. Doc G says:

    marnijane:
    And while i’m at it, re: Doc G–holy loaded rhetoric batman! Your “ordinary adolescent horseplay” super assumption coupled with no basis in reality “this is probably what happened that day” DESPITE knowing that a)this adult knew what was happening and b)called the cops despite oh yes and c)told her to take care of herself despite it all, speaks way more than you realize.

    Let me be clear that I’m NOT blaming Brianna. She definitely did everything right. I am saying that individual adults aren’t the only ones failing our kids – our system makes it easy for even a well-intentioned, well-educated person to fail our kids. Should we really insist that all our teachers be Superman? I don’t think so – I think we should set it up so that even the less heroic among us find themselves able to do the right thing.

    That said, it’s also completely possible that the person overseeing this week and this bus ride was an uncaring, prejudiced incompetent. That is the straightforward, easy explanation. My point is that it ALSO could have happened if a well-intentioned adult made a series of bad decisions which is more possible than you might think, and shouldn’t ONLY reflect poorly on the adult.

    In summary of my basic assertions that I’m asking people to consider,
    Brianna: not to blame at all
    Crazy 9-year-old: to blame insofar as he needs to experience serious consequences to teach him that his behavior is inappropriate (but more likely counseling, therapy, and intervention to address the causes of his behavior)
    Adult supervisor: mostly to blame, but not entirely, insofar as systemic difficulties do exist which makes it very difficult for even a well-intentioned, reasonably competent adult to get it right 100% of the time.

    The upshot of making this point is not to protect adults, but to stress that we can’t just write this problem off as uninformed or poorly-intentioned adults who need to be fired or taught differently, though many are out there and this person could be one, we just don’t know.

  32. Angel H. says:

    Doc G: Should we really insist that all our teachers be Superman?

    No, but we should DEMAND that they take accusations of sexual assault seriously. That did not happen here. Why are trying to defend this person? She was informed ON NUMEROUS OCCASSIONS that someone under her care was being sexually harassed and assaulted and she did nothing. The camp administration didn’t fail Brianna. The supervisor did not follow policy and Brianna suffered for it. There is no excuse.

  33. Doc G says:

    Angel H.:
    I shouldn’t be surprised by the apologists would come out of the woodwork so quickly.

    If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you. The adult supervisor was an uncaring, incompetent adult who needs to lose her job. She knew what was going on and did NOTHING. There is no excuse for that.

    I’ve by no means ever been in the woodwork. I have been talking about this with a lot of people since I made the decision to leave my post because it was an incredibly emotionally fraught decision and I’m still not sure I understand why I failed so badly. Neither did my supervisors, who constantly praised my work ethic, professionalism, and connection with students.

    You’re right, I am projecting my own situation onto the adult in this story. That’s how we unpack difficult situations and learn about them. When I read this it made me really uncomfortable because I don’t have the ability to instantly vilify the adult and make that the sole solution to the problem. (“Why did this girl get harassed and then unfairly punished? Because the responsible adults were maliciously negligent.”) That’s a little too tidy, and it’s not going to prevent this from happening in the future.

    I am not being an apologist in the sense that I’m condoning the adults’ actions or even suggesting that he/she shouldn’t feel responsible for what happened. I’m not even suggesting that this adult shouldn’t be released from his/her position as a supervisor. What I am suggesting is that as the sole systemic response to these issues, firing people and stringing them up for their evil, racist, patriarchal attitudes is not going to produce lasting, systemic change. Which I assume is the common goal of readers, writers, and commenters at this site.

  34. marnijane says:

    You’re still assuming a lot of good faith for an adult who clearly doesn’t deserve any (from what we know from our reliable author). Does there need to be a change in the educagional system? I don’t think you’ll find many who disagree with you there. And as noted, your post says way more than you seem to realize about your presumptions of the situation and makes equivalencies to your own experiences where there may be none. The author hasn’t given us any info that it is the same.

    Further, the blaming comes in where you talk about your own experiences and your description of attention seeking and ordinary adolescent horseplay to describe the situation. As such, you are drawing a parallel between the two that amounts to rhetorical victim blaming.

    And did you just call a 9 year old crazy?

  35. marnijane says:

    Lol, i typoed on “educational”

  36. Angel H. says:

    Doc G, what you don’t seem to realize is that this kind of situation is very triggering for many of us. Other commenters have already posted about their own experiences with being sexual harrassed or sexually assaulted and not being taken seriously. I understand now how you can sympathize with the adult, but her intentions mean nothing when weighed against the impact and the hurt she caused due to her actions. We all know that the system is fucked up, but the victim here is Brianna, not the supervisor.

  37. matlun says:

    @Doc G:
    Failing to address bullying until the situation actually degenerates into direct violence is not that strange, and not that uncommon (but clearly not good). However: not being able to handle this situation without calling the police sounds pathetic to me.

    As a supervising adult, handling this type of situation should definitely be part of the expected level of competence.

  38. marnijane says:

    And maybe i’m being privileged rural chick here but why shouldn’t they have the same expectations for action by the Responsible Adult where they are that i have for Responsible Adults where i am? The expectation for action in the face of a not-spurious accusation is not at all unreasonable regardless of your race and location i should think.

  39. Doc G says:

    Angel H.: No, but we should DEMAND that they take accusations of sexual assault seriously. That did not happen here. Why are trying to defend this person? She was informed ON NUMEROUS OCCASSIONS that someone under her care was being sexually harassed and assaulted and she did nothing. The camp administration didn’t fail Brianna. The supervisor did not follow policy and Brianna suffered for it. There is no excuse.

    No excuse this time. This person is getting fired, straight up. Good. That shows that the camp supports Briana and shoulders full responsibility for failing her this time.

    But the policy that wasn’t followed may not be realistic. What steps does it take at this camp to file a report of sexual harassment? How many years of experience does this person have managing adolescent behavior? When a bad culture gets to a certain point with a group of kids, you have minor incidents occurring all the time – things you think should be written up – but if you have 15 of those occurring every day, and the camp policy includes paperwork, conferences with administrators, parent phone calls, and you’re still responsible for watching kids for most of the day, when are you going to be able to follow policy on all 15 incidents? You’re not. You make a decision. This time, this guy made the wrong decision. In this system, that will happen sometimes. Should the guy suffer a consequence? YES. Should we as activists look beyond this guy and attack systemic difficulties? ALSO YES.

    (As for the number of years managing adolescent behavior part, see if you can find a person with 5 years experience willing to be a camp counselor. See if you can find a person 20 years into their teaching career willing to actually work as a teacher in a failing school where the stakes are higher and they’re going to be under the accountability gun, instead of taking a cushy consulting job “mentoring” new teachers where their accountability is essentially zero. It’s because we have this idea that any idiot can walk in and take care of a bunch of kids, if they care enough to do it. So the people who can do it don’t get societal props for being highly trained and competent, they get props for being saintly, big-hearted individuals and are compensated as such.)

  40. Doc G says:

    marnijane:

    Further, the blaming comes in where you talk about your own experiences and your description of attention seeking and ordinary adolescent horseplay to describe the situation. As such, you are drawing a parallel between the two that amounts to rhetorical victim blaming.

    Yeah, I want to be careful here: what I’m saying is that from the perspective of an adult barraged by many simultaneous incidents, some are more serious than others, and it is routinely difficult if not impossible to tell them apart in that moment. Once the situation erupts as this one did, it’s brutally obvious that there’s nothing at all normal or natural or harmless about Brianna’s predicament.

  41. Doc G says:

    Angel H.:
    Doc G, what you don’t seem to realize is that this kind of situation is very triggering for many of us. Other commenters have already posted about their own experiences with being sexual harrassed or sexually assaulted and not being taken seriously. I understand now how you can sympathize with the adult, but her intentions mean nothing when weighed against the impact and the hurt she caused due to her actions. We all know that the system is fucked up, but the victim here is Brianna, not the supervisor.

    Good point. I realize many people are attuned to the issues on this website because they’ve been victimized, and as a subscriber who’s white, male, and hetero, let’s face it, I have absolutely no footing to stand on here :) But I assume you know as well as I do that if only people who totally get it already read this blog then it’s not doing all the good it can, right? I’m here because I strive to be a conscientious ally, but sometimes I will still get it wrong, and I hope I’ll still be welcome here as somebody with good intentions in that case.

    But maybe it’s not my place to take this discussion to the broad and systemic when it started as rightful, sympathetic support for a victim of a sort that’s all too common nowadays. Sorry to anybody I offended if it seemed like I was glossing over Brianna’s experience in my efforts to derive some greater meaning from the scenario.

  42. Doc G says:

    marnijane:
    And maybe i’m being privileged rural chick here but why shouldn’t they have the same expectations for action by the Responsible Adult where they are that i have for Responsible Adults where i am? The expectation for action in the face of a not-spurious accusation is not at all unreasonable regardless of your race and location i should think.

    This is a rough accusation to respond to, and people from all camps come down on all sides of the question. Should we treat urban disadvantaged populations as if they’re exactly the same as privileged suburban populations? If we don’t, then we’re saying that one is inferior to the other. If we do, we’re ignoring the fact that there really are some differences there!

    I thought that in 1957 we decided as a society that we were going to eliminate the difficulty by merging the two populations by law, but apparently we are now content to keep the populations separate and just get really loud about insisting that they all meet the same standards anyway, and anybody who can’t make that happen is a racist.

    I’m not convinced that homogeneous grouping across all school districts really is the key to the best education possible for all students – different children have different needs, and if we serve all children according to their needs we will definitely have some schools with different standards than others. But I think the mark of a successful system in that regard would be that they are pointedly NOT divided by race or class, since it’s just as possible that somebody from a tranquil suburb might have a reading difficulty as somebody from a rough urban setting.

  43. Linda says:

    What steps need to be taken to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? From reader responses, its clear that there is not just one problem here, but rather an entire field of quite specific and particular problematic practices. It seems that Brianna, the boy and the teacher were responding to quite different problems, and that an adequate account/response cannot be isolated and pathologized in the teacher’s body alone. In that sense, I agree with Doc G.

  44. marnijane says:

    The privilege comment was a bit tongue and cheek. I’ve seen downhome shit that’d make your toenails curl. My point is that it is reasonable to expect the kids in your life to have the protection they need and adults acting like adults regardless of where you live. To me this really doesn’t sound like a procedural problem but an individual one, this adult didn’t follow through on keeping this girl safe and then acted like a total prat about it.

  45. Mickie says:

    So, dopegirlfresh, what happened? Did you or Brianna’s parents contact the administrators, the group leader, the boy’s parents or any other adult involved?

  46. mb says:

    I think you completely missed the point of the article. She wouldn’t have punched him if the adults in the situation had handled things appropriately.

    And no matter what size he or she is, he assaulted her first, repeatedly! Why would you be more concerned about the defense than the escalating incidents that provoked it?

    NaS:
    The willingness of school authorities and other caretakers of children being willing to call the police in situations like this is a big problem. However, the gulf between nine and thirteen can be pretty large. On average a 13 year old is 30 – 40 lbs heavier than a nine year old, which difference constitutes 50 percent of the nine year olds body weight. There are also substantial cognitive differences. This nine year old is by no means a fully developed person or fully in control of himself, probably much less so than a thirteen year old.

    She was entitled to defend herself, but punching a nine year old square in the face and hard may have been… excessive. I am a a teacher. There are thirteen year olds at my school that are as big as I am. If one of them punched a nine year old, hard, for any reason, it would alarm me.

  47. Amarantha says:

    The counselors should have gotten control over the situation before it escalated–period. But this response to children from authority figures is nothing new–they tell you to “deal with it yourself” or say “there’s nothing I can do.” Then when you do defend yourself, you are disciplined.

  48. marnijane says:

    I want to clarify that last comment, procedural should refer to things like calling parents. I do believe there’s a systemic problem insofar as children’s bodily autonomy is rarely respected and harassment is viewed as normal. In this case i don’t think it’s fair to blame a broken educational system for an adult’s very clearcut failure that sounds more rape culture-y than anything.

  49. Politicalguineapig says:

    DocG: Some teachers are just completely and utterly incompetent. Unfortunately, Brianna was in the care of one of the utterly incompetent and uncaring adults that periodically surface in educational areas. Some teachers are caring and totally, completely incompetent and oblivious. Even when they are given all the tools, they’d still need a sheepdog to keep order.I should know, one of those teachers was my first grade teacher and she was one of the reasons I left the public school system.
    A lot of adults are completely blind to bullying or accept it as normal. (While bullying IS normal, it shouldn’t be.)

  50. IrishUp says:

    DocG – As you identified as a white guy, let give you some shit to ponder:
    1. You have been socialized your whole life to give WP the benefit of the doubt;
    2. You have been socialized your whole life to be “chivalrous” to white women, and rush to their defense (google white women’s tears);
    3. Your continued defense of your post here has the effect of reinforcing to WOC that you don’t value their feelings & lived experiences. Your actions are helping to prop up racism.

    If you are truly interested in, as you say, getting “… some practice in a place where my inexperience doesn’t carry such constant, high-stakes consequences” I suggest that right here and now, you *practice* some Shut-The-Fuck-Ups, and start LISTENING to the women you hope to do better by as an educator.

  51. Jadey says:

    Doc G: Yeah, I want to be careful here: what I’m saying is that from the perspective of an adult barraged by many simultaneous incidents, some are more serious than others, and it is routinely difficult if not impossible to tell them apart in that moment. Once the situation erupts as this one did, it’s brutally obvious that there’s nothing at all normal or natural or harmless about Brianna’s predicament.

    Look, as someone who has also been a temporary caregiver, I know there are times when we are completely overwhelmed and just doing the best we can, and there are times when we flat-out FUCK UP because of our own prejudices. You keep pushing the one interpretation at the expense of the other when there’s really not enough evidence to make that call. And it is possible that the caregiver was completely overwhelmed and out of resources, but it’s also quite possible that she wasn’t, that her triaging process was biased because she saw an older, bigger black girl and made assumptions about how that girl could and should behave based on fairly prevalent stereotypes about black female pathological aggressiveness and hypersexuality (see also: the extreme hype about girls of colour in gangs). Even when I was overwhelmed, I know there were times when I could and either did or should have taken fairly simple measures to intervene in a potentially escalating issue – it’s not easy, but neither is it impossible unless the situation is truly, extremely dire. There’s no reason to assume that the situation was that extreme, although clearly that is the situation you have just come from which as you have admitted is leading you to project.

    It certainly is more than a question of just one nasty teacher acting in isolation – this is an endemic, systemic issue. Cuter, behaviourally-conventional (which doesn’t necessarily mean good behaviour – “boys will be boys” is a common justification), and socially adept kids get better treatment – people pay them more attention, support and reward them more, defend them more quickly, and treat them more sympathetically when they screw up, and this support helps them become more functional, effective kids who get even more rewards and support while kids who don’t meet the ideal standards are handed more and more shit that can fuck them up. And *white* kids are often seen as more cute and less physically threatening than *black* kids, regardless of other behaviour.

    One thing that could be done to help teachers and caregivers is more anti-racist social justice education built in to their training, to teach them to be aware of and manage their own prejudices without being defensive and defeatist about it. Whether or not this will ever be widespread practice remains to be seen.

  52. mb says:

    And as I’m rereading this, dopegirlfresh is and isn’t talking about Brianna specifically. There are lots of Briannas that have this happen every day. I think the really telling thing is that no cops would have been called if this was Becky. Hell, it might not have even been allowed to escalate if it was Becky. Assumptions about who is an appropriate victim and what’s an appropriate response are entangled with the interlocking systems of oppression that shape the way different children are seen. It’s not just about this one incident but all those like it.

  53. SamanthaPink says:

    That is just crazy, insane, and utterly, unspeakably horrible. I can’t believe a 13 year old had to go through that, only to have the police called on her. Have you talked to the adult who was supposed to be supervising? Is the issue resolved? Your niece doesn’t deserve any of this.

  54. Bushfire says:

    I’m also someone who quit a teaching job (partly) because I was no good at managing my student’s behaviour (among other reasons). But, if I was this camp counsellor, the minute I heard of sexual harassment, I would have made sure this boy did not go near this girl again, and I’d be telling the other counsellors to watch him for me when I’m somewhere else. If the girl hit him, I wouldn’t call the police. What are the police going to do? It’s a pathetic way to try to get someone else to do your disciplining job for you. I do sympathize with teachers who are trying their best in the face of insurmountable problems, but this counsellor was not doing hir best.

  55. NikiJ says:

    Thank you for this story. Brianna is lucky to have you in her family. I will be discussing this story with my 13yr. old daughter today.

  56. Doc G says:

    IrishUp:
    DocG – As you identified as a white guy, let give you some shit to ponder:
    1. You have been socialized your whole life to give WP the benefit of the doubt;
    2. You have been socialized your whole life to be “chivalrous” to white women, and rush to their defense (google white women’s tears);
    3. Your continued defense of your post here has the effect of reinforcing to WOC that you don’t value their feelings & lived experiences. Your actions are helping to prop up racism.

    If you are truly interested in, as you say, getting “… some practice in a place where my inexperience doesn’t carry such constant, high-stakes consequences” I suggest that right here and now, you *practice* some Shut-The-Fuck-Ups, and start LISTENING to the women you hope to do better by as an educator.

    1. I just skimmed the post again and I don’t think there was any mention of the race of the camp counselor. It’s also clear that Brianna’s action on the bus at the end of the week was provoked by actions that were chronic throughout the week and were monitored by more than one adult.
    2. I now notice that the counselor on the bus was specified as being a lady. I had never heard of WWT before googling it – I have to admit, after reading a little, I think I’m shedding some white women’s tears in this case more than responding to them, to be honest. I guess I sort of hijacked this comment thread to have a chance at grappling with how terrible I feel about my utter failure as a NYC public school teacher despite my good intentions, so I problematized the community’s vilification of the individual counselor because it hurts my feelings, identifying as another incompetent. I don’t think that makes my accusation of the system as ALSO complicit in the incident any less valid, though. Whether these people were incompetent with good intentions or just plain evil, a bad system makes it easier for them to fail as they did.
    3. First I want to reiterate that I’m not saying that this person isn’t racist. I’m just saying resolution of this issue has to be more complex than “1. Identify the racist(s)/sexist(s), 2. Exterminate.” But in the case that even that assertion is still problematic to most members of this community, what would you suggest I do, just stop talking? So far it’s been my experience that stifling discussion doesn’t lead to reconciliation. In order to listen I have to hear more in response, which necessitates asking more questions and elaborating my point of view.

    One thing I HAVE managed to learn about teaching is that just because I can get a student to stop expressing a misconception they have about science doesn’t mean they’ve actually stopped believing that misconception. Does my continued engagement on this subject indicate a LACK of caring and will to support and understand? Because I think somebody who really doesn’t care what you think would have left a long time ago. The students that care are the ones that, maybe annoyingly, continue to ask questions and push the boundaries of their understanding, not the ones that clam up and accept the “right” way to answer even if they don’t understand it. I know who I’d rather have in my classroom.

  57. marnijane says:

    She’s white. Please do try to read it next time.

    The rest of that comment: omgwtf!

  58. MSB says:

    Mickie 8.3.2011 at 9:21 am
    So, dopegirlfresh, what happened? Did you or Brianna’s parents contact the administrators, the group leader, the boy’s parents or any other adult involved?

    This story does not make a lot of sense. I have the same question as Mickie. Also, I can’t understand why the parents of the children were not notified when they picked their child up about the incident. If I had a nine year old son and he had a bruise on his face, I would want to know how it got there. Also, if you are co-parenting, who is the other parent and why didn’t they raise any concerns? I find it really hard to take any position on arguments that involve children with no adults being held accountable. If this, in fact, did happen – what actions were taken to get in contact with all parties involved? And I think its cool to teach the young lady to stand up for herself, but she also needs to learn how to call the police herself and report harassment. Even if they don’t do anything, they still have to file a report about the call, eventually that lil booger is going to get placed in a situation that a punch won’t fix and some prosecutor is going to pull all of the accusations and incidents as far back as he can go – basically create a track record. Also, I am wondering why the need to alert us to the fact that she has courses in a magnet school or as to how she travels, are women that go to magnet schools privi to not being sexually harassed? Of course not. I’m just saying… hold somebody accountable or keep it movin. Words and stories are just that if there is no action involved.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      MSB, I’ll address this in detail later. I’m pretty sure you’re looking for a reason to say that I’m lying, or that Brianna made something up, though. Which is pretty fucking sad.

  59. marnijane says:

    Skimmed it+projecting. I’m sorry but this is soooo not debating in good faith. I am so pissed off you wasted my time and others when you couldn’t be bothered to actually read it and get the details.

  60. Mickie says:

    Bushfire: If the girl hit him, I wouldn’t call the police. What are the police going to do?

    For starters, handcuff the miscreants!! Lucky you don’t live in NYC, you’d have an aneurysm every week!!

    Autistic “unruly” boy handcuffed:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2011/04/23/2011-04-23_i_sued_when_they_cuffed_my_child_its_no_way_to_handle_any_7yearold_sez_bronx_mot.html

    10 year old girl in fight with other girl taken to precinct:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/nyregion/02lawsuit.html

    Boy in a fight considered a “threat”:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2010/05/12/2010-05-12_school_safety_officers_treated_brooklyn_9yearold_like_a_criminal_by_handcuffing_.html

    Nine year old girl did not “sit down fast enough”:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/08/2010-04-08_girl_cuffed_on_bus_will_net_50g_payout.html

    Twelve year old girl caught doodling on desk:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/02/06/2010-02-06_cuffed_student_wont_draw_suspension.html

  61. so_treu says:

    MSB, gone somewhere.

    it’s amazing how impossible it is for some folks to just, you know, BELIEVE black women.

    amazing, but not surprising.

  62. XtinaS says:

    That is 100% pure-D horrifying.  I’m so sorry that the group leader did that to Brianna, on top of what she already went through with that boy.  D:

  63. Angel H. says:

    MSB, what doesn’t make any sense is why you would doubt her account, especially since other commenters have said that this type of thing happens far too often. Also, whats makes you think that Dopegirlfresh and the other parent(s) aren’t doing more than venting on a blog?

  64. IrishUp says:

    To be clear, DocG, we are ALL racist, as there is no place on planet Earth where there is not systemic racism. That racism is predominantly White Supremicism. The OP identified the counselor as a woman, an adult, and white. (And even if it hadn’t, can you honestly say that, as a WP, the default counselor you pictured in your head wasn’t also a WP?)

    What I was pointing out to you is that 2 things are going on. The first is that the OP centered on a particularly nasty form of intersectional oppression that victimized her kid. That incident followed a racist and misogynist script that any WOC is more familiar with than you or I can ever be, no matter how good either of us gets at unpacking and attacking our privilege.

    The second was that your series of posts in response followed a different script, but one still informed by the same racism and sexism as that of the incompetent counselor. Your responses have the effect of reinforcing and validating the white supremist and misogynist position, while erasing and decentering the WOC in the OP, and who responded to the OP and to your posts.

    I’m saying that *if you really are sincere* about wanting to change how you do by other human beings and the children you claim you want to educate, you will stop centering *yourself*, and start centering the people whose experiences you do not share.

    And with that, I will stop contributing to the derail.

    Dopegirlfresh, thank you for sharing this; I can only imagine how heartbreaking and enraging the whole thing must be. Do you feel like your non-bio (perhaps informal legally? it wasn’t clear to me from the post) parent postition further limits what you can do in response in this instance? That is to say, a lot of times, unless you have a socially or legally sanctioned relationshipt to the kid in question, authorities won’t even give you a hearing, so I can see where that would be especially frustrating in this case.

  65. marnijane says:

    MSB, Can i add that not even all adult women are comfortable calling the cops when they’re being harassed let alone a 13 yr old who was routinely ignored by the adult she knew? Yet you think she’s irresponsible? How the what the…

  66. DGF, you are amazing as always. Thank you for sharing this story with us. Especially here at Feministe where the trolls and the killer bees are known to thrive but where these narratives NEED to be heard.

    Brianna is fcuking kick ass. Tell her I–a random e-body she doesn’t even know, but whatev–thinks she’s bawse.

    To those commenters who can’t seem to grasp their own privilege; you can miss me on responding to you in any coherent fashion but peace be on you.

    Huge kisses and hugs and see you on the Twittah,
    Kis

  67. PBG says:

    I can’t even describe how this story has angered me. Brianna did everything she was supposed to do in the situation. She followed the rules and STILL got in trouble. Got in trouble for defending herself against unwanted sexual touches.

    I am absolutely livid. Our girls should not have to grow up afraid of men/boys, afraid to defend themselves and afraid to go to the authorities for help. This is why RAPISTS WIN.

    Fuck…I’m mad.

  68. FrankTalk says:

    Great post. She is blessed to have you in her life. It takes a village.
    Is it too late to address this issue to the camp administrators?
    In my youthful age, I have taken to letter writing and phone calls about the unjustice I encounter.

  69. Politicalguineapig says:

    MSB: For a whole lot of women, calling the cops is not part of the solution. It simply guarantees more problems. Given how prevalent racism/sexism is in police forces, would anyone here be willing to bet on the outcome of this case if the cops got involved? I’d bet it’d be the same outcome, only the girl (the victim here) would end up getting a juvie record.

  70. matlun says:

    MSB: And I think its cool to teach the young lady to stand up for herself, but she also needs to learn how to call the police herself and report harassment.

    Seriously? You think that the proper response would be to call the police on this “nine or ten years old” boy. I would say that the proper response is indeed try to deal with it yourself and if this does not work (for example if this continues for an extended period as in this case) then contact a responsible adult. The adult in this case let her down which is kind of the point of the OP.

    Certainly we can not fully judge the truth of this story (since we only have testimony from a single non-objective source), but except for the police part I find it very believable. Ie
    1. The bullying – this happens, so this part is very believable
    2. The failure by the supervising adult to deal with it – sadly, this is also very believable.
    3. The overreaction once there was direct and obvious violence – still sounds very plausible to me. Calling the police or threatening to call the police certainly sounds over the top (unless she actually did some serious damage), but it could well happen.

    Children do not always act like little angels. If you are not competent to handle this type of situation, then you should not place yourself in the situation of being the adult in charge.

  71. La Lubu says:

    Doc G, I’ll cop to reacting to this post based on my past experiences (and those I’ve observed). It does a hell of a number on one’s psyche realizing that even before you’ve hit your teens, you’ve already picked up the label “unrapeable”. Tough. Streetwise. One of Those Girls. One of the throwaways. And this despite your efforts to avoid those labels; to demonstrate your worth in the face of those who already doubt it. I don’t think I can convey exaactly how vulnerable and abandoned I felt when….incidents in my life made it crystal-clear to me that if anything happened to me, it was because I deserved it. Brought it on myself. Just by being. See, I realized rather quickly that this didn’t happen to every girl. That some of us were basically regarded as sacrificial lambs—not worthy of protection.

    I’m still bitter.

    More than that. I’m a mean motherfucker over it.

    And I’m also Somebody’s Mother.

    You know what else is triggering, though? Your constant emphasis on formal education, as if that’s some sort of balm against insensitivity, ignorance, racism, the internalized negative imagery of young girls of color, or even being able to have contact with one’s own subconscious. Hell, you even name-checked your resume. Color me unimpressed. I was a camp counselor in my youth, before I got into the apprenticeship. And yeah, it was an urban setting. We never called the police, and we had a strict policy on sexual harrassment. This isn’t rocket science; it’s basic training. My daughter attends that camp *right now, as we speak* and there isn’t any of that stuff going on there.

    Thing is, we aren’t operating in a vacuum. I’m with the others on this thread in thinking that the larger systemic forces at hand played the leading role in this camp’s abdication of its responsibility towards Brianna. That if she had been “Becky”, the scene would have played differently. We develop survival strategies for dealing with the forces against us; some of us have to develop a variety of techniques. I also noticed how dopegirlfresh immediately posited Brianna as “a good girl”, studious and bright, with good parenting and a warm community, lest her markers of “thirteen year old black girl” not be enough to fill in the rest. She what she did there? Proving Brianna’s worth? That’s all day everyday for me with my daughter, ‘specially at school. Bringing out all my upscale vocabulary hoping to pave her way (a technique she’s already learned, without having to be taught).

    From your comments, Doc G, I strongly suspect you have internalized the hierarchies of race, class and sex that you claim to be fighting against. I smell the notes of Savior Complex, taste more than a hint of objectification of people who don’t share your social markers. And if I can get that from a few paragraphs on the internet, I can only imagine the whiff your students were getting—kids already well-attuned to picking up subtleties as a survival skill.

    *Assabenedica.*

  72. Doc G says:

    Ok, you’re right. I reread it carefully and realized that ample details were provided that indicate that this particular person is probably heavily biased and made the wrong choice a series of times. Add in that this person is the leader of the program and you have a giant soup of WTF. I also probably didn’t stress enough in my original comments that under no circumstances was calling the police the right choice. I can’t identify with that part of the story at all, nor the fact that the same event happened multiple times with the same adult, the one who was in charge, and nothing happened.

    Serious apologies to everybody for making this something it wasn’t. I think I am a lot more fucked up by my work in NYC public than I originally thought.

    DGF, thanks for your story and thanks for your patience with the rest of us. Keep fighting, because even some of the people that think they’re on your side will inevitably, like me, turn out to be unhelpful.

  73. Ellie says:

    dopegirlfresh, I am so sad to read the story above, and so glad she has you in her life. As someone who grew up quite often being the victim of things like this, to varying degrees, and who was frequently ignored and didn’t have the support of the adults around her, I feel so, so strongly for this girl. I wish I had had the gumption to punch other kids in the face when they crossed my final boundary and I wasn’t getting outside help, and I wish I had someone like you in my life at that time.

    The messages we send to young people when we refuse to acknowledge things like this can become so, so deeply ingrained in their ways of thinking about the world. To this day, I struggle to blame people who are clearly crossing my own boundaries, and instead focus on what I could have or should have done differently, and I know it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s so hard to un-learn, though, and I feel like by being there for her, you’re at the very least giving her a bit of a foothold to build upon.

  74. Dao says:

    That is just crazy, insane,

    Not to derail the thread, but can we avoid the use of ableist language? There is nothing “crazy” or “insane” about that person’s actions. Their actions were irresponsible and damaging to a young woman and there should be consequences for their lack of properly handling the situation and taking action to protect Brianna from this boy.

  75. Mztress says:

    Thanks, Doc G. I would not have been fully satisfied with this discussion until a privileged white teacher with a bunch of university degrees and no common sense made a bullshit comment. So the inner-city black kids are the ones with the emotional problems, huh? The ones who have impulse control issues and ethical deficits? The little black kids act like animals because their parents fucked up (as all black parents inevitably do); so the put-upon, civilized white teacher who has $1,000,000 worth of ivy league education is overwhelmed with trying to “fix” them so that they can “function properly” in society. Do I have the situation just about right?

  76. Doc G says:

    La Lubu:

    From your comments, Doc G, I strongly suspect you have internalized the hierarchies of race, class and sex that you claim to be fighting against. I smell the notes of Savior Complex, taste more than a hint of objectification of people who don’t share your social markers. And if I can get that from a few paragraphs on the internet, I can only imagine the whiff your students were getting—kids already well-attuned to picking up subtleties as a survival skill.

    So what are we supposed to do? So I grew up in a society where I’m getting secretly programmed to comply with these hierarchies of class, sex, and race. I spend my entire life hating myself and hating my privilege because of all the things I have that I don’t deserve. The kids I grew up with went hard into science, engineering, and finance, and looked sideways at me when I told them I wanted to be a teacher. Now they’re all pulling 80k, 100k, 450k a year at age 26 and telling me I could be doing the same, and what do I have to show for my efforts? 70k in student debt, and two classes of middle school kids who I probably ruined forever because they wouldn’t listen to me. And this, apparently, is because despite all my efforts to the contrary, I am secretly racist.

    What do we learn from this? That white men shouldn’t try to teach because they’re poisoned? Only people who have shared these students’ experience should even attempt to serve them?

    Once I would have thought that itself was a racist idea to be dismissed outright, but every day I feel like killing myself a little bit more when I realize how stupid and fruitless my efforts have been towards redressing the wrongs my people have inflicted upon humanity. I haven’t been able to do a single good thing. And now here I am on this website talking about things I have no business talking about, making it about me again, because I’m so guilty.

    I used to hate all the professionals in my suburban town who would teach me about all the injustice in the world and then go back to their upper middle class cushy jobs creating and helping nothing and securing their place in the system that perpetuates all those injustices. But I guess becoming a teacher because just because you can’t bear the thought of the alternative is not really a good reason to become a teacher either.

    It’s hard for me to convey the existential pain of this realization. Having wanted to devote my life to helping people and ending up doing the opposite of that. There are a lot of organizations out there to help people outside that sexist, classist, racist hierarchy to fight it and speak truth to its power, but where does a guy like me go when he tries to join up as an ally and ends up just being a jerk?

  77. Iany says:

    I hit a kid for harassing me once when I was just a little younger than your daughter. They called my mum to make sure she knew I was ok and a teacher drove me home after. They gave me a detention but they actually didn’t really want to (I deserved it, though). All they wanted was no repeats and for those involved to be well.

    That is what that damn camp leader should have done, stopped the boy from invading people’s space and being inappropriate, checked Brianna was ok (then reassured her that she wouldn’t have to hit anybody any time soon because they’d help protect her) and told her parents. And then had a conversation with that younger boy about what brought this on and why he needs to make some changes.

    You do not let that behaviour slide, the camp leader fucked up.

    (This is not to say I’m blaming the boy, if you see kids behaving that way you need to figure out why and support them while you make sure they damn well stop.)

  78. Iris says:

    Thank you for posting this.

    Thank you for standing up for her and reassuring her she has the right to protect herself.

    I, too, empathize with your anger.

    Sending you and yours many blessings.

  79. Marianne Milton says:

    Please, please, *PLEASE* file a grievance with the camp about this matter, with B. watching over your shoulder as you do it. While the woman supervising her and the younger camper who *molested* her (let’s call it according to its actual name) did not act appropriately, you will be modeling for B. that every one who works has a boss and that, eventually, a harmed person (in this case, B.) should be listened to, heard, and treated properly. I have had to go up the ladder quite a number of times on behalf of my daughter who has gotten pegged as the aggressor unfairly by white teachers, coaches, music teachers (you name it), when in fact she’s been defending herself, either verbally or physically, against racist/sexist attacks. The last stop for me, in our small city, is the local newspaper: if the school/superintendent doesn’t respond, if the Board of Directors of the music school doesn’t respond, if the Director of the Rec. Dept. doesn’t respond, I attempt to go “public.” Invariably, the newspaper decides that there isn’t enough evidence to publish a story about the incident, but in the process of following up on my letter or call, the reporters make calls to the institution that has been ignoring me and the incident. And, lo and behold, someone from the institution suddenly has the time to call or write, and appropriately process the incident. Whenever possible, I request a meeting that my daughter can attend with me, so that she can hear the higher-up say, in clear terms, that what was done to her by the other child was *wrong*, that the adult in charge who did not intervene on her behalf was *wrong*, and that she deserves to be safe and protected. While there might be some punitive action taken against the other child, the most important thing to me is that two messages are conveyed to my daughter: (1) She shouldn’t give up when she’s been harmed; she should keep making noise, higher and higher up the ladder, until she gets redress. (2) She deserves to be treated fairly and to be kept safe by the adults in charge, wherever she is. Peace to you and B: I’m sorry you were subjected to this harm and trauma. ~ Marianne

  80. Becky says:

    Doc G: So what are we supposed to do?

    A good start would be to stop making this thread all about you. First lesson in being an ally – give marginalized people space to talk about their own experiences without jumping in to argue with them or derailing the thread with your own experiences. Listen more, talk less.

  81. Ann says:

    Ashley:
    That group leader should be fired for two reasons:

    1) The obvious.

    2) A nine or ten-year-old boy who is making sexual advances is giving that group leader reason to believe that he is experiencing sexual violence, and the camp has a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to find out what the heck is going on.

    I’d like to know if there’s anything I/other readers could do to help?Write a letter?Anything?

    maybe we could show that with friends, adults don’t get away with behavior like that.

  82. Iris says:

    Doc G: So what are we supposed to do? So I grew up in a society where I’m getting secretly programmed to comply with these hierarchies of class, sex, and race. I spend my entire life hating myself and hating my privilege because of all the things I have that I don’t deserve. The kids I grew up with went hard into science, engineering, and finance, and looked sideways at me when I told them I wanted to be a teacher. Now they’re all pulling 80k, 100k, 450k a year at age 26 and telling me I could be doing the same, and what do I have to show for my efforts? 70k in student debt, and two classes of middle school kids who I probably ruined forever because they wouldn’t listen to me. And this, apparently, is because despite all my efforts to the contrary, I am secretly racist.

    What do we learn from this? That white men shouldn’t try to teach because they’re poisoned? Only people who have shared these students’ experience should even attempt to serve them?

    Once I would have thought that itself was a racist idea to be dismissed outright, but every day I feel like killing myself a little bit more when I realize how stupid and fruitless my efforts have been towards redressing the wrongs my people have inflicted upon humanity. I haven’t been able to do a single good thing. And now here I am on this website talking about things I have no business talking about, making it about me again, because I’m so guilty.

    I used to hate all the professionals in my suburban town who would teach me about all the injustice in the world and then go back to their upper middle class cushy jobs creating and helping nothing and securing their place in the system that perpetuates all those injustices. But I guess becoming a teacher because just because you can’t bear the thought of the alternative is not really a good reason to become a teacher either.

    It’s hard for me to convey the existential pain of this realization. Having wanted to devote my life to helping people and ending up doing the opposite of that. There are a lot of organizations out there to help people outside that sexist, classist, racist hierarchy to fight it and speak truth to its power, but where does a guy like me go when he tries to join up as an ally and ends up just being a jerk?

    I have a suggestion… you could try not making it all about you.
    I’m not trying to be mean. I’m serious. If you are going into a profession to serve, it helps to be clear on your motivations. Service is about the other, it’s not about your drama.

  83. Jadey says:

    Doc G: It’s hard for me to convey the existential pain of this realization. Having wanted to devote my life to helping people and ending up doing the opposite of that. There are a lot of organizations out there to help people outside that sexist, classist, racist hierarchy to fight it and speak truth to its power, but where does a guy like me go when he tries to join up as an ally and ends up just being a jerk?

    I know that this is still derailing, but I really, really, really want to answer this question because it’s one I keep asking myself (minus the male part, but that’s it).

    You can learn. You can figure out a way to contribute. It’s going to take work to get your privilege and your ego under control (says the lady with serious ego issues) and it’s never going to be easy. Accept the fact that the school was not a good fit for you and move on. Work to your own strengths and learn how to account for your weaknesses. Pry your fingers off the desire to be a saviour or a martyr (or is that me projecting this time?), accept the fact that fucking up is part of life and work on how to deal with the consequences in a productive way. You are not doomed by your privileges to perpetuate the system, it just makes it harder to fight and easier to quit. Because that’s the point. Your self-recrimination is getting in the way of your activism, so do what you need to do to deal with it and move on.

    Also, try reading this essay on helping and fixing versus serving.

    I’m sorry for pushing the derail and if this comment needs to be deleted, I’m totally on board with that – this is an amazing post and a conversation that needs to be had.

  84. bhuesca says:

    A nine year old is in third grade. The premature sexualization that the OP describes sounds very much to me, a layperson, like a overt sign of sexual abuse.

    But, instead, we’re wasting our time focusing on the races and academic credentials of commenters. Yay.

  85. zoe blaq says:

    This is so familiar. Thanks for speaking out for others who can not. I wrote a zine about families of color and taboo topics such as abuse. I would love for you to read it.

  86. Fat Steve says:

    I myself had similar experiences at summer camp, and I hate to say it, I probably still harbor subconscious resentment at my parents for sending me into such a toxic environment. Based on my experience summer camps are little more than breeding grounds for bullying.

    While Brianna’s case is certainly horrible, in no way do I find it at all ‘shocking,’ and I have no doubt that for every Brianna, there are 10 girls in her direct peer group suffering the same abuse in silence.

  87. Rare Vos says:

    A nine year old is in third grade. The premature sexualization that the OP describes sounds very much to me, a layperson, like a overt sign of sexual abuse.

    Exactly what I was thinking.

    If this is the case, then tragically, what he likely learned is that he’s allowed to do whatever he wants and, if a girl stands up to him, she’ll get in trouble for it.

    So, if someone is doing something bad to him, he’d probably get in trouble for defending himself.

    That worthless woman has no business being around children.

  88. 10G says:

    Doc G: while I appreciate your frustration and acceptance of your own limitations in this field–oh Christ, my take on this is going to be prejudiced anyway because I HATE most teachers and find most to be incompetent. And yes, this is due to my own trauma in the public (and temporarily, private–though I DID admittedly receive a superior education in private school) school system. I can think of maybe ONE teacher who was helpful to a painfully shy, BPD ridden white middle class girl such as myself. The rest? Inept, incompetent, LAZY-ass bunglers who cared about nothing except their pay, their TENURE, and their popularity with students. Most of them need to be removed, and quickly, from an already unprofessional, clueless system…but I digress…

    My point–you must have done some student teaching at SOME point to prepare you for working with children, so to some degree–hey, you KNEW the goddamn job was rough when you took it. And if you can’t stand the heat–get out of the kitchen (which you did, and which I applaud). Most kids would be better off home/cyber schooled, anyway. My school years taught me NOTHING but how to hate and fear others. Teachers will ALWAYS be scum to me.

    And to rest my case–as a former T.S.S. (Therapeutic Staff Support) for a Puerto Rican kid in a Magnet School, I have witnessed firsthand that the unprofessionalism I suffered under continues today. I sat in my “clients” math class and watched while his frustrated twenty-something “teacher” made a cell phone call IN FRONT OF and within earshot of her (albeit, annoying and frustrating) sixth-graders who were taking a test, complaining on the phone left and right about these kids. Bullshit. Get some fucking balls and be professional and KIND or get the fuck out and be a prison guard. Problem solved.

  89. 10G says:

    And to Brianna–I’m sorry you had to endure this, but you ROCK ON, little lady! All the best……10G

  90. raya says:

    Mztress:
    Thanks, Doc G. I would not have been fully satisfied with this discussion until a privileged white teacher with a bunch of university degrees and no common sense made a bullshit comment. So the inner-city black kids are the ones with the emotional problems, huh? The ones who have impulse control issues and ethical deficits? The little black kids act like animals because their parents fucked up (as all black parents inevitably do); so the put-upon, civilized white teacher who has $1,000,000 worth of ivy league education is overwhelmed with trying to “fix” them so that they can “function properly” in society. Do I have the situation just about right?

    my single parenting father worked as a teacher when I grew up and I had to go to bed hungry all the fucking time. due to horrid student debt, I would’ve definitely considered us lower class.

    $1,000,000 worth of ivy league education my ass.

  91. Jadey says:

    More on topic, I want to say just how awesome other-mothering/co-parenting is. The more resources the better – kids get more support and more sources of validation and a better chance that someone will be there and know what to say when they need it, and the parents (all of them) have less stress and pressure by knowing that they are not alone in the parenting gig and that they have trusted people watching their backs and helping out. Thinking back on Brigid’s recent post about the factors her desire to have children, I know one of my big reservations about having kids is wondering if I will be able to have a solid (preferably local) support network for them and for me. I know people make do without and succeed admirably, but I would feel much more inclined to have my own children (because I actually do adore kids) if I knew I was bringing them into a big family network. Instead, I am now more motivated to be an auntie to someone else’s children, and maybe that will help me when I am ready to have my own. Thank you, DGF for talking on your co-parenting experiences.

  92. vanessa says:

    I havent read all the comments. Any of the comments. Comment threads over here can be…nuts.
    But I’m so, so sorry that this happened. as someone who works extensively with kids in this age group, it is so obvious that the correct response to validate the girl’s feelings and also to make it clear to the boy that this sort of behavior is unacceptable. The reason for a strong, swift adult reaction is not just to keep the girl safe–although obviously that’s a HUGE part of it–but also to make it crystal fucking to clear to the boy that it is not okay to act this way.
    And I don’t get why the adult would have called the cops. Jesus. I mean, Brianna shouldn’t have punched him, but it is certainly understandable that she did. And even if it weren’t, she’s a child.
    For the record I wouldn’t have called the cops on the boy either–that’s also overreacting. His behavior doesn’t outright make him a bad kid, but it does require some serious adult intervention. Immediately. and I’m so sorry, for both of them, that they didn’t get that.

    I have some resources on helping kids/teens cope with stuff like this: feel free to email me at vsteck at gmail dot com if you’d like ’em.

  93. Jen says:

    I’m so glad Brianna has someone like you in her life. I’m so glad that maybe she won’t have to learn through hard, repeated, painful experience what to do when sexually assaulted. Even if no one listens to her, you’re telling her, “It’s okay, because you were still attacked, they were wrong, you were not.”

    One less girl having to go through those flames is a victory.

  94. Azalea says:

    THIS is the ind of shit that pisses me all the way off. ALL the way. I have said this soo many times but young black girls and women are oversexualized and clutch your pearls if one of us stands up for herself. I agree with the comment upthread about the fact the group leader handled this poorly. Brianna did exactly what she was supposed to do by telling someone. If Brianna was white the group leader may have been concerned about a lawsuit if they would have allowed the harrassment to go on. And really, wtf is going on at that child’s home that he feels it ok to make comments and then put his hands on someone? The idea he has that what he has done is ok and if someone stops him SHE will get in trouble needs to be removed asap.

  95. Azalea says:

    NaS:
    The willingness of school authorities and other caretakers of children being willing to call the police in situations like this is a big problem. However, the gulf between nine and thirteen can be pretty large. On average a 13 year old is 30 – 40 lbs heavier than a nine year old, which difference constitutes 50 percent of the nine year olds body weight. There are also substantial cognitive differences. This nine year old is by no means a fully developed person or fully in control of himself, probably much less so than a thirteen year old.

    She was entitled to defend herself, but punching a nine year old square in the face and hard may have been… excessive. I am a a teacher. There are thirteen year olds at my school that are as big as I am. If one of them punched a nine year old, hard, for any reason, it would alarm me.

    I would hope a nine year old sexually assaulting anyone would alarm you enough to take action the very first time you hear about it.

  96. Shelby says:

    Doc G: I think I am a lot more fucked up by my work in NYC public than I originally thought.

    Naw. It’s white supremacy that fucked you up, b. Don’t blame it on the kids or their schools.

    But I guess I’d be pretty devastated too if I thought “activism” meant “fixing” all the poor, damaged coloreds. Pro tip: your job as a white guy is to help out in the areas we’ve identified for you. Not execute your own rescue mission. Not pathologize us and try to mold our kids into your specification of “normal” or “healthy.” Service is about lending a hand wherever it’s welcome and you’re able.

    Hint: you’re not welcome everywhere.

    You don’t have a right to be everywhere. You came and dropped your personal shit into OUR thread. You forced us to put whatever feelings we had about this piece on hold to coach YOU. To make space for YOUR emotions and inner turmoil.

    And what you had to say? Your comments? Your comments made me doubt myself. Like I do over and over and over again. Because I’m a Black girl who’s been told I don’t have the right to expect protection. And that I’m SO, SO VIOLENT for protecting myself. And that Nice White Ladies deserve my sympathy and patience because looook how emotionally daaaaamaged I am! Look how hard it is to simply COPE with all of my/our overwhelming, sad, uncontrollable, pathological BLACKNESS! Of COURSE they couldn’t treat us like human beings, it takes Nice White People all their energy just to deal with the color jumping off my skin!

    So, while I realize teachers don’t get nearly the emotional and material support they need and deserve, I absolutely WILL NOT take time and energy to train white people on how to see me as human. If you can’t do that, I will fire your ass and keep it movin. You get no training you get out of my fucking way.

    We clear? Cool.

  97. NaS says:

    I think that the action of the adult in the situation was awful. He was unable to stop the harassment, which was bad, and he called the police on the girl, which was way worse. The nine year old clearly should have been isolated from the thirteen year old, and punished in some non-physical way.

    I guess my point was that we should take the physical size and the mental development of the children into account in this situation. A nine year old, in my opinion and in most jurisdictions I hope, cannot sexually assault someone. This is because they are not competent to form the intent to do so, because they are nine year olds, not sexual beings and not really in control of themselves. Nine year old boys weight 63 lbs on average, 13 year old girls average from 95 to 105lbs. In my experience, 13 year olds are a lot smarter and more mature than 9 year olds. So her response needed to be proportional considering those factors.

    Now, why did this caretaker call the police? Bad judgement, probably. Determining the best response really depends on how hard the punch was, and how much damage it caused. If she knocked his teeth out, and caused him to need stitches, etc… maybe he had to call for liability reasons. If she slapped him or hit him hard enough to scare him and make him cry, but didn’t do damage beyond a bloody nose or a scrape… unreasonable to call the police. I was just saying, if I saw a teenager hurt a nine year old for any reason, I would have a talk with them about how young adults should use forbearance and proportion in the face of provocation from little children.

  98. McSnarkster says:

    I used to work as a camp counselor, and I would’ve been fired if I’d let things escalate this badly, and then ignored procedure and called the cops on camper. (I really cannot imagine any summer programs where the cops are the first people you call if someone gets hit.) Of course, I still remember the harassment I dealt with in middle school (I guess I was lucky it was only verbal) and would’ve known that telling him to stop wouldn’t have worked at all. I wish I’d had the guts to punch the sucker when I was thirteen. I’m glad your daughter not only had the guts to punch him, but even warned that was what she’d do. Nine is old enough to understand better.

    I’m so glad she has your support, to help undermine the awful message the adults who kept ignoring the problem sent. I wish you both all the luck in pursuing this–the camp really handled this in the worst way.

  99. Bagelsan says:

    The kids I grew up with went hard into science, engineering, and finance, and looked sideways at me when I told them I wanted to be a teacher. Now they’re all pulling 80k, 100k, 450k a year at age 26 and telling me I could be doing the same, and what do I have to show for my efforts? 70k in student debt, and two classes of middle school kids who I probably ruined forever because they wouldn’t listen to me.

    Inspired by your tragic story, I got a college major in chemistry with a minor in physics, spent 5 years in a graduate program studying nanotechnology to get my Ph.D. in Bioengineering, and have invented an entirely new type of nanostructure that can transmit sub-audible sound waves via tiny vibrations as its single-molecule carbon tubes are stroked by a single bacterial flagellum.

    All so I can play for you the. TINIEST. Violin. In the WORLD.

  100. Sulyp says:

    Ellie:
    As someone who grew up quite often being the victim of things like this, to varying degrees, and who was frequently ignored and didn’t have the support of the adults around her, I feel so, so strongly for this girl…..

    The messages we send to young people when we refuse to acknowledge things like this can become so, so deeply ingrained in their ways of thinking about the world.

    YES, YES, Motherfucking YES. Messages like this are exactly why so many women can not just rely upon or give advice of “just try talking it out” or “get a couple of guys to talk some sense into him” in good faith, as if our brown and black selves are even worth such defending and protecting. I know better than to think that such advice applies to us.

    Everytime I see that advice given or taken by White women with the expectation and knowledge that “that’s all it takes to be heard” makes the flames rise up behind my eyes. I know that White women and girls are socialized to believe that they don’t have to and don’t need to resort to violence, and many times, it can and does work for them. But I know that it takes something more severe to stop sexual harassment in its tracks when it’s committed against a girl or woman of color. At least it always did in my case, when compared with the plight of my white girl peers. And then we’re publicly chastised for defending ourselves in one of the few ways that actually work. You just can’t fucking win either way, but I’ll be damned if someone tells me fighting for myself is not a worthy cause. The minute people decide that I and other girls of color aren’t worth the same fight that “Becky” is, is the same moment they lose any credibility in telling us not defend ourselves in the manner that preserves some shred of dignity we have left.

  101. Oh FUCX. THIS MAKES ME MAD TOO! RAR! SO many times I’ve been there. Please tell Brianna Doctress Julia says RIGHT ON, good for you for standing up to that kid!

    I am 36 and I STILL have to watch my back in public. The last guy who slapped my ass (hard enough that I had a bruise!) got straight-armed into a pool table, HARD. Cue the bartender telling me that if I was a guy he would have beat me up (for defending myself?) and an open debate amongst the other bar patrons as to whether or not I was justified in shoving him. I’m too old and pissed and tired of it to care- if any man touches me, grabs me, or tries to hurt me, I will punch him in the fucking face. FTP.

  102. arbequina says:

    This has already been said but I have to add my voice to the cacophony: that camp staffer needs to be warned/fired/sued whatever because her response to the whole situation was wrong wrong wrong on so many levels. Good luck to you… So glad girls like Brianna have women like you in their lives. The more the better.

  103. IrishUp says:

    “Brianna shouldn’t have punched him, but it is certainly understandable that she did. And even if it weren’t, she’s a child.”

    I’m curious vanessa, what you think Brianna *should* have done, given the escalation from harrassment into sexual molestation without any adult showing any inclination to protect her? What reasonable recourse was there? Because it looks like you’re supporting the “even if you are being hurt, don’t defend yourself” position so often foisted onto women and people of color, and I just can’t get behind that.

  104. Annaleigh says:

    bhuesca:
    A nine year old is in third grade. The premature sexualization that the OP describes sounds very much to me, a layperson, like a overt sign of sexual abuse.

    But, instead, we’re wasting our time focusing on the races and academic credentials of commenters. Yay.

    Michael possibly being one (alarming) possibility for why he’s acting that way. The other is I think some boys are actually raised to sexually harass girls from a young age. Dopegirlfresh doesn’t say what Michael’s background is, and my experience is as a half-Chicana living in a mostly Latino/a community, but my one experience with physically defending myself from sexual harassment/assault involved 9 year-old me defending myself from a 7 year-old boy, who was a bit of a bully in general. I warned him if he touched me again I was going to hit him, so when he did I did slap him across the face, when he immediately went to touch me there again I slapped him again across the face, but harder. With the second harder slap, he got the message, stopped what he was doing, and started crying. I think he cried out of shock. I think he was taught both that his behavior was acceptable, and that girls don’t defend themselves from that kind of treatment.

    —–TW for child abuse—–

    I later found out that when the boy’s father got home later in the day and found what happened, the father beat the boy. I learned that he didn’t beat his son for harassing me (which is not something I would have wanted either, I was horrified by the whole thing), he beat his son for crying when I slapped him. It shows where the father’s priorities lied, and at the very least sexual harassment was not a big deal to the father.

    By the time I was 12, I was harassed by a boy my age who was both an experienced and prolific sexual harasser. And when I noticed that when he did things like grab my butt, he seemed to be acting exactly how the adult men who harassed me back then did (like one adult man who grabbed my butt that same year at a flea market for instance). Either he was imitating things he witnessed, or the men in his life were directly teaching him to harass.

    This is awfully rambly, and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m saying Michael couldn’t have been sexually abused, I’m just trying to say that I have observed through hard experiences that little boys can learn to sexually harass either indirectly or directly though the adult men in their lives, and it doesn’t necesarily mean that there was sexual abuse involved.

  105. Annaleigh says:

    I am very proud of Brianna for defending herself, and I’m sorry that asshole staffer both failed to protect Brianna and then freaking called the cops on her when Brianna had to take care of things herself.

  106. Ellie says:

    McSnarkster: I’m glad your daughter not only had the guts to punch him, but even warned that was what she’d do.

    This is the thing that boggles my mind the most about the situation, I think. She said, this boy is harassing me. She said, I’d like him to stop harassing me. She said, if he keeps harassing me I’m going to hurt him. And then nobody paid any attention, and he kept harassing her, and then she hurt him. I don’t think her action is outrageous. I am so peeved at their supervisor.

    I also really, really hope that some significant forces in the boy’s life prevent him from continuing to develop into an adult abuser.

  107. Nahida says:

    IrishUp: “Brianna shouldn’t have punched him, but it is certainly understandable that she did. And even if it weren’t, she’s a child.”

    I’m curious vanessa, what you think Brianna *should* have done, given the escalation from harrassment into sexual molestation without any adult showing any inclination to protect her?

    I second this question. She’s a child, and the boy was harassing her and PHYSICALLY GRABBING at her. She most certainly SHOULD have punched him. It was entirely self-defense.

  108. Ellie says:

    Nahida: I second this question. She’s a child, and the boy was harassing her and PHYSICALLY GRABBING at her. She most certainly SHOULD have punched him. It was entirely self-defense.

    Fucking agreed. I was typing up something saying how it would have been nice to have a support system that didn’t necessitate the punching, or that it’d be nice if she had other options, or something along those lines; but you know what? It was very patient of her to give a warning first, but if she’d punched him on the first offense, I still wouldn’t blame her.

    Now, if the boy didn’t know what he was doing, if you don’t think he could be held responsible for his actions, fine; but don’t put that responsibility onto a 13 year old girl. Put it on the adults who could have taught him that what he is doing is unacceptable. Put it on the adults who set the example he may be following. Put it on the one adult who was fucking warned of what she would do if it didn’t stop. It’s not this girl’s fault he got punched.

  109. Robyn says:

    As a former camp counselor, camp program person, and someone who is still involved in camps and children and youth programming, file a report. Call the camp or the governing body and ask how. Write the letter. Name names. Be detailed Tell them about how the staff they hired and were responsible for training and supervising failed. Because no 13 year old girl should be left to defend herself when she is surrounded by adults.
    Because Brianna deserved better. And that little boy missed a chance to learn that those behaviors are wrong.
    And thank God someone is mad and informed.

  110. Dopegirlfresh says:

    I’ve been traveling pretty much all day, so my time to sit and reflect has been greater than my time to go back and forth with folks here.

    Let me first say that Brianna’s mother — her primary, live in caregiver — has followed up with the camp administration. Because I am not legally responsible for Brianna or her brother Patrick, I am not in a position to deal with things on that end. I thought I was clear in this post: I have no legal responsibility here. My choice not to discuss Brianna’s mother’s actions at length should be respected; no matter whether she protested the camp or sat and scratched her ass the fact remains that the adult at camp who was responsible for Brianna’s safety and care failed to do so. I am amazed that anyone would decide that the failure of camp staff automatically means that a child should pick up the slack.

    This little boy may indeed be dealing with sexual abuse issues of his own. He might not be. He was still responsible for what he did, to whatever degree his personal cognitive function allowed. Being a victim of abuse DOES NOT lessen the wrongness of one’s actions.

    I may or may not be back later to discuss or respond to some other comments. By and large, there have been some great responses.

  111. Brennan says:

    I wish I were more shocked by this. Kudos to Brianna for standing up for herself.

    I’ve been in and out of the martial arts world since I was just a little younger than her, and I’ve noticed something interesting: (ANNECTDATA ALERT) among young people studying martial arts, boys tend to outnumber girls in all but one age group. Between the ages of 10 and 14 a lot of boys who’ve trained as children quit to focus on sports or clubs but we see an influx of adolescent girls (like myself, aged 11). I used to wonder what it was about that age that made so many young girls decide they needed to learn self-defense. Then I read stories like this and it makes a horrible kind of sense.

  112. Spilt Milk says:

    Some of the victim blaming here is literally making me want to vomit.

    I did time in detention for kicking a boy in the shins at school. The same boy who had been physically and sexually assaulting me on a regular basis for many weeks.

    It was a different situation, we were both white kids and he was a little older than me. But I fucking wish I had punched him in the face. And that I had a parent who would listen to me. Or a teacher.

    Don’t think this shit doesn’t happen. Don’t think that the devaluing of children’s voices and erasure of their agency doesn’t have consequences (and in this case, the intersections of race and gender makes Brianna’s position particularly vulnerable which is ever so fucked up).

    Anyone who has an ‘opinion’ on what Brianna should have done differently: I hope you know you’re a giant arsehole. To the majority of commenters here who are kicking against victim blaming of any kind, thank you.

  113. JS says:

    Oh dear. I was Brianna once, and in some ways, still am…probably because I didn’t have someone like the writer on my side. It is still really difficult — at age 55 — to ask anyone for help, having been denied it so often when I was young.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      I really feel this. We learn over the years that our need for protection means less and less — because so rarely are we affirmed in our choices to protect ourselves. Thank you for your comment.

  114. Fat Steve says:

    It’s totally irrelevant whether Brianna was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to strike a smaller child. The point is, she tried to do the right thing 3 times before an adult’s (in)action led her to believe her only choice was doing the ‘wrong’ thing.

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  116. z.bediako says:

    I am happy Brianna has you in her life. May you continue to reaffirm her, and teach her how to protect herself.

    love,
    z

  117. IrishUp says:

    Dopegirlfresh – thanks for the clarification. As the beneficiary of three, I just want to say how appreciative I am of the love and care Other Mothers give. Mine saved my life.

    “I thought I was clear in this post: I have no legal responsibility here. ”
    – As an aside, one of the women who raised me fits the relationship you described in the second paragraph. But for a couple of years in my late teens, she did have legal authority as a guardian for me (from my mom, not court ordered or anything). That’s why I didn’t want to assume more than was stated; I grew up getting that the universe of “not partnered & parenting” is pretty complex.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      THANK YOU!
      I wish folks understood this better. I can discipline, help with homework, take them on trips, etc. But when it comes to the paperwork? I can’t do a damn thing without approval from the custodial parent!

  118. Mickie says:

    ” I thought I was clear in this post: I have no legal responsibility here. My choice not to discuss Brianna’s mother’s actions at length should be respected; no matter whether she protested the camp or sat and scratched her ass the fact remains that the adult at camp who was responsible for Brianna’s safety and care failed to do so. ”

    I hear your position, but it leaves the situation open-ended and unresolved. There is additional value in reporting what happened next.

    There are feminist questions and issues branching out all over from this story.

    It is about the camp and the policies they have for these situations. It is important to know whether the camp administration, if told about this situation, responded responsibly. It is also about whether a woman who is a mother/primary care-giver decides to follow up on an incident like this.

    Granted you want to protect her privacy, but stories about women in her situation get discussed here ALL THE TIME.

    There are often news stories discussed on this blog about “mother decides not to report that her daughter was raped!” or “mother reports incident of abuse against her daughter, and gets sent to jail!” or “mother reports school abuse against daughter and gets the principal fired!!”

    We just don’t personally know them.

    I would ask that you consider closing the loop and letting us know what happened.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      Mickie,
      Why are you so pressed to know what happened next? Is there a personal stake in this for you? If there is, it’s okay. Really. I choose not to go into a lot of detail, particularly about what Brianna’s mother’s next steps were. Things are still being resolved. If you’re looking for a call to arms, this won’t be it. I’m going to kindly ask you to stop right where you are and just relax your shit. I am not rallying people around Brianna in some grand public fashion. It won’t happen — not now, possibly not ever — because I am not her primary caregiver. I do not have her mother’s consent to shout any of this from the mountaintops, nor am I the appropriate party (legally speaking — I did not sign the paperwork for Brianna to go to camp) to deal with this. What I am is Brianna’s emotional support in this situation.

      I don’t think you have been paying attention to what I’ve said, quite honestly. I don’t call those shots in her life. I’m going to say it one more time: with no legal guardianship or power of attorney, my hands are completely tied regarding any legal action or contacting the administrators of the camp. Is that clear?

      I don’t have to tell anyone what happens next. Because it is my right to divulge what I see fit.

      I’m not going to go over this again with you, so any response you have for me will most certainly go unanswered.

  119. XtinaS says:

    Mickie:

    “I would ask that you consider closing the loop and letting us know what happened.”

    DGF already stated, in the comment you’re quoting from, that she doesn’t want to discuss what happens next.  Why are you disrespecting DGF’s choice by pushing them?

  120. Sheelzebub says:

    I know that White women and girls are socialized to believe that they don’t have to and don’t need to resort to violence, and many times, it can and does work for them.

    Uh, no. It really doesn’t.

  121. Sheelzebub says:

    It’s not true that talking it out or going to the teachers/adults helped–they did not care and said that the harassment meant the kid “liked” me and that I should be flattered.

    So I physically defended myself. And got into trouble. (Though unlike Brianna, I’m White and no cops were called–holy fucking shit. I mean, that’s all I can say to that.) I’m not sorry I elbowed the fucker in the jaw.

  122. Sheelzebub says:

    so_treu:
    MSB, gone somewhere.

    it’s amazing how impossible it is for some folks to just, you know, BELIEVE black women.

    amazing, but not surprising.

    No kidding.

  123. Sheelzebub says:

    Some of the victim blaming here is literally making me want to vomit.

    Yep. If she hadn’t smacked the kid, we would have heard a chorus of “how could she let him” from certain special snowflakes. That she did smack him now gets a bunch of Monday morning quarterbacking from other special snowflakes.

    She had every right to defend herself, and it’s disgusting that no one roused themselves to give a shit about violence until SHE defended herself. It’s reprehensible that they called the cops when SHE was being assaulted and the adults she went to sat on their thumbs and whistled Dixie.

    I did defend myself physically and got into trouble (going to teachers, telling him to stop, etc. did nothing) but it was nowhere near the level of trouble Brianna got into for doing the same damn thing. Then again, I’m White, so there’s that privilege. A White girl who hits in self-defense may be disciplined. A Black girl who hits in self-defense will end up in cuffs.

  124. Annaleigh says:

    Sheelzebub: A White girl who hits in self-defense may be disciplined. A Black girl who hits in self-defense will end up in cuffs.

    Sad but true. Well said.

  125. Fat Steve says:

    Sheelzebub:
    It’s not true that talking it out or going to the teachers/adults helped–they did not care and said that the harassment meant the kid “liked” me and that I should be flattered.

    So I physically defended myself.And got into trouble.(Though unlike Brianna, I’m White and no cops were called–holy fucking shit.I mean, that’s all I can say to that.)I’m not sorry I elbowed the fucker in the jaw.

    I think it was extremely unfair that either of you had to be put in that position due to the ignorance of teachers/adults, because that’s what we are talking about here. This conversation about ‘violence’ is just stupid, because even if you agree 100% with the proposition that the violence against the boy was wrong, the fault lies with the responsible adults. In both cases the adults could have pre-empted the violence and therefore you shouldn’t even have to consider whether you’re sorry about elbowing the kid in the jaw because even if you were-that wouldn’t somehow make you weak, just someone who possesses a good deal of empathy.

  126. Politicalguineapig says:

    Brennan: I started martial arts at twelve, and I noticed that many of the girls and boys who started with me were between the ages of 7-13. And of the two groups, the girls seemed to be pushed harder by their parents to progress to higher levels. I know that learning self-defence was the main reason I wanted to learn karate, and I assume a lot of girls start from there. Either because they’ve had an experience like Brianna, or something else makes them aware that they’re very vulnerable. (For me, it was hearing about an escaped convict that was in my area. I didn’t give a damn what happened to me, but as the oldest sibling, I was obliged to protect my little sister and my little brother.)

  127. Politicalguineapig says:

    *like Brianna’s*

  128. karak says:

    I had a somewhat similar situation happen, where the teacher and other kids watched, laughed at me, and did nothing–in fact, a few of the other kids held my hands behind my back so he could grab me.

    When I went home, crying, my mother was so enraged she could barely talk–and then she called in the big guns. My dad. And while it meant everything to ME my mom was on my side, knowing my Dad, a man, thought it was wrong meant almost more, because it meant that this was not how men behaved and that not all men were dangerous.

    Have as many people as you can tell her to be strong, reaffirm her right to self-protection.

    I’ve done a bit of a comment scan and come across OMG DON’T HIT type-stuff, but I call bullshit. My mom always told me, “don’t you start it, but if they start it, I expect you to finish it.” I beat the ever-loving crap out of more than one person in my years of elementary and junior high school, and I believe it is a perfectly reasonable response to any kind of physical assault.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      YESSSS! I totally identify with this. My maternal uncles and grandfather always told me when I needed to, to kick asses. I was afraid to until I was about 14 when I pretty much threw some kid about 10 feet. He thought because he was a 6th grader and I a 9th grader that I wouldn’t strike him. But he hit me. My rule has always been: once you put your hands on me, don’t expect me to go a non-physical route.
      Kudos to your parents for supporting and affirming you.
      Thanks for your response.

  129. NancyP says:

    I am very sympathetic to Brianna’s plight. Still, I think the supervisor had to say something to B to impress on her that 1. punching boy X in the face is not the ideal way to do things. 2. apologize to B for not paying as much attention to B’s request for help as she should have 3. from a practical standpoint, send one child to one end and the other child to the other end of the bus 4. suggest other tactics to keep future noxious boys from touching her (eg, yelling “hands off” in a situation where there are adults around, shaming X before his peers (after shoving him away)*, shoving offender away or doing a tackle, kneeing in groin, stomping on foot, grabbing wrist and bending back a finger; assuming an alert, aggressive posture demanding body space (make my day…) when offenders or probable offenders are around and other people aren’t paying attention to an interaction; taking a self defense for girls course after school at the local Y or dojo, making sure that a female teacher / sensei runs the course.

    The boy needs to be punished and educated as well (“real men don’t grab”), but a lot of the punishment has already been started by having peers and older boys see him defeated by a woman.

    A single adult should not be chaperoning / keeping track of a bus of 40 kids.

    I find it ridiculous that the adult panicked. All kids end up with at least one fist-fight or shoving match, all boys try to feel up girls, the adult’s role is to separate the two, check each party for injuries, and if no injuries requiring immediate attention are seen, demand that the two parties sit down well apart from each other and stay put. Inform them that the incident will be reported to school and parent, and dealt with when they got home.

    *”Hands off, loser.” Additional insults (ugly, smell bad, aren’t fooling anyone – obvious that you are a young boy) as appropriate.

    • Dopegirlfresh says:

      Nancy,

      Because of my personal investment in this little girl, I find it incredibly hard to read your suggestions and not feel like asking you one simple question: why NOT punch him in the face?

      He had gone from being physically violent (hitting, pinching, etc.) to MOLESTING HER. I really would appreciate it if you’d relax your prescriptive tone. At the end of the day, she did what she thought she should do to enforce her boundaries, which this other child continually ignored. Her boundaries, for which she needed reinforcement from the adult in charge, who COMPLETELY FAILED HER. And honestly, apologizing to her, IMO, wouldn’t make it better. Because the group leader had already demonstrated a laissez-faire approach to discipline and safety. The damage was already done by the time Brianna punched this boy in the face. I also read victim blaming in your comment about self-defense classes for girls instead of TEACHING EVERY CHILD TO FIRST KEEP THEIR HANDS TO THEMSELVES.

  130. NancyP says:

    I had an incident in 6th grade. I am white, was an “early maturer” (breast-wise) and the boy who harassed me is white and also middle class. I had been promoted a year ahead (skipped first grade), so I was a year younger than the boy. I took the verbal harassment and the attempts to crowd me to cop a feel for a while, mostly trying to avoid him. One day in an art class we were making signs or painting cardboard sets (forget which), he got on my last nerve, and I threw an open quart plastic jar of brown poster paint at his face. The entirely coated boy had no physical damage but was the object of ridicule and got disciplined. OK, I got a talking to and some token discipline, but the teacher called my mom and basically told her that I had been peaceful for too long, and the teacher was glad I finally let loose.

  131. Spilt Milk says:

    @NancyP
    ‘all boys try to feel up girls’ — this is basically the same statement as ‘boys will be boys’ and it is not helpful.

  132. When I saw that this post now has 134 comments, I thought “Please tell me it’s just 134 people agreeing that this is a fucked up situation, and nothing else”. Keep dreaming, self.

  133. miga says:

    Sadly, ish like this is not uncommon, and messages like this will take a LOT of unpacking and healing in order to undo some of the damage.

    It’s horrible that Brianna had to go through that, but it is good that she has someone to explain that it’s not her fault and that she did the right thing by protecting herself, and that those who did nothing were wrong.

    And it’s good that she told you. When that stuff happened to me at that age I never told anyone except a few peers, and of course they thought I was tough enough to handle it. That screwed me up for a long time, and set the stage for later abuse and self-blame. So what i’m trying to say is…it’s good that you’re having this discussion now rather than a few more years down the road.

  134. Blackamazon says:

    <blockquote cite="comment-382

    JS: 55

    515″>

    Sheelzebub: totally

    That’s the kicker though. It’s about at the end of it the value of what people is being transgressed . I don’t think it’s ever that folks don’t BELIEVE black women for the most part , it’s that what is happening is never serious enough for them to disturb the peace or violate a more ” valuable” ( by virtue of race, gender, class) person’s person or just experience.

    ESPECIALLY in places where there is this belief of ” coexistance” or familiarity. They ” know” what is actually worth physical assault or being scared or unable to act so how of course lil Brianna shouldn’t punch a boy in his face !

    Because it is okay to grope and fondle and harass a maturing girl if you are small enough OR the authorities feel it’s okay. And should you defend yourself the cops will be called

    And that’s what Brianna learned at camp and scarily enough that’s what a few of you think is okay

    and how do I know cause I was Brianna and now I am JS . PEople yella t me for not asking for help and seem to think it’s me being negative when I point out it doesn’t come

  135. C. A. Brown says:

    Why is it so hard to believe that a woman is sometimes forced to safeguard her own space? What other recourse is there? When someone is continually violating her space with no recourse from the so-called authority, there aren’t many other options left. Brianna did the right thing protecting herself because women — especially marginalized women — don’t have people to go to when they’ve been violated. They aren’t readily believed. They’re asked to play the “mature” role, the role that always asks them to acquiesce when it isn’t the mature or even correct thing to do under the circumstances. And then we’re the ones told we are undesirable, unrapeable, unviolable, unhealthy, and unreliable because short of protecting ourselves and our loved ones, we rarely have people out there going to bat for us beyond those on our level. So fuck all this shit about how things should be. They clearly aren’t that way because Brianna went through what she went through. So why are you bringing it up?

  136. William says:

    There are a lot of organizations out there to help people outside that sexist, classist, racist hierarchy to fight it and speak truth to its power, but where does a guy like me go when he tries to join up as an ally and ends up just being a jerk?

    As another heavily educated white guy who has had trouble being an ally and has often been a jerk I can tell you that the answer is: somewhere the fuck else. If you want to be an ally, thats great, but its not on the people you’re standing beside to help you process and get to a point where you aren’t just fucking things up. You need to do that on your own because other people have neither the time nor the responsibility to hold your hand while you work out that you aren’t the fucking scion of tolerance and progressive thought your imagined yourself to be. You don’t burden people already burdened with the weight of helping you through your existential panic. Your position as an ally is not so valuable as to be worth taking away from their cause.

    I’m not saying this to be mean or dismissive. Get your shit together on your own. Shut the fuck up and listen for a while. Maybe find a shrink who can work in this area and explore your motivations and object relations. Theres lots you can do, but it has to be you. Because it just ain’t the responsibility of the oppressed to fix their oppressors and, as a teacher, for a lot of folk and in a lot of ways you’re in the same class as cops and prison guards.

  137. Julia says:

    dopegirlfresh and Feministe powers-that-be,

    Could we cross-post this to Love Isn’t Enough (blog on parenting and race)? I know our readers would really appreciate this article.

    Please let us know at team@loveisntenough.com

  138. William says:

    I think the supervisor had to say something to B to impress on her that 1. punching boy X in the face is not the ideal way to do things.

    — Trigger warning for violence and child abuse —

    Why? Why is this not the ideal way to deal with things? Brianna had already been shown, quite explicitly, that she could depend on no one to keep her safe. She needed to defend herself. Aside from the pragmatic concerns of her likelihood of getting arrested because she’s black and racists are fucking everywhere, who the fuck are you to suggest what the ideal way of defending yourself is when you’ve been absolutely abandoned by the people paid to keep you safe?

    I’ve been victimized a lot in life. I’m a childhood rape survivor, I’ve been locked in darkened closets by special education teachers to “teach me a lesson,” I’ve been badly injured classmates and then told by teachers that “bad little boys don’t deserve first aid,” I’ve been attacked for being disabled, for being fat, for wearing the wrong clothes or listening to the wrong music or being a faggot because my hair is long. One of the earliest lessons I learned was that you cannot depend on those in authority to help you and that usually if you’re being abused you’re in the minority so you cannot depend on your peers.

    Now I’ve got some privilege. I’m white, I’m male, and when puberty hit I became very large. When I was in high school I was walking to the train at the end of the day, this would have been freshman or sophomore year, and a classmate of mine (with some friends in toe) decided I looked like good sport. He’d bullied me before and I’d reported it but nothing ever happened. Ever since I escaped the terrible ghetto of Behavioral therapeutic day schools I had been told that I didn’t have to defend myself like an animal. It was time for me to act right. So there I was, being called names, and I did what I was told: I ignored it. The names got worse, my personal space was violated. I told myself again: “be good.” So I ignored it like I had been told. Then he hit me and I did exactly what I had been told to do: nothing. Sure, there were three of them, but I needed “to be the bigger man.” More importantly, I was the bigger man. It would be wrong for me to hit this person who had just hit me because I was 80 pounds heavier and five inches taller. I knew it, because I had been told. More, I knew that if I fought back I would be the one to get in trouble.

    When his body language changed and he reeled back to hit me again, though, I knew. I knew that it would keep happening. I knew that no one would come to save me. I knew that it wouldn’t stop unless I stopped it. So I did. His friends froze. I’ve been told since that when I get violent something switches and its scary. I know that I dissociate a little. He did manage to hit me that second time but I don’t remember if I consciously felt it or not, all I remember was that I needed to make him stop. I hurt this boy, 80 pounds lighter than me. I hit him until he bled, until he fell down, until he stopped putting up a fight, until I felt safe. Because I had been taught, by brutal and repeated experience, that no one was going to keep me safe.

    After it happened word got around. There weren’t any consequences. After that only one person ever hit me again in high school, partially in jest, and when I moved to respond they ran. I’m more than a decade out of high school now. Closer to 20 years out of those terrible day schools where I learned to be violent, and I’m still trying to unlearn that lesson. I’m an adult with advanced degrees and I still sometimes find my back against the wall and think “am I going to have to fight?” And every time that thought pops into my head, every time that survival mechanism gets triggered, I feel bad about myself because now I’ve lived up to the stereotype of the “angry retard” or the dangerous madman or the violent working-class thug that I had applied to me over and over again as a child by privileged adults who had written me off because I didn’t seem worth the effort.

    But as bad as that is, for me, its better than being a victim. Its the old equation that people who are oppressed have to work out: do I take it and live a life of beaten submission or do I fight it and stoop to the worst they have to say about me? No right answer, to way out, inscribed by power no matter what. Its absolutely tragic that Brianna has been failed so badly that she has to do that math. Its fucking repugnant that you would dare judge her for her answer.

  139. Dopegirlfresh says:

    William:thank you. I really, really appreciate your words.

  140. Keantre says:

    I’m glad that Brianna learned to be critical of authority. Her counselor did nothing but contribute and establish a racial-sexist structure. Brianna reminded me of a Queen Latifa, I think the punch in the face was the best lesson that asshole of a kid could have learned. I can feel your rage, because I’m helping raise my younger sister and these little niglets boil my blood with their sexist notions about the female body.
    Peace.

  141. Sheelzebub says:

    Nancy, Brianna did everything she was “supposed” to do, and nothing changed. Instead, he escalated, and continued to escalate, despite her telling him to cut it out and pushing him away. I’d say punch to the face was being kind.

  142. vanessa says:

    IrishUp: I’m curious vanessa, what you think Brianna *should* have done, given the escalation from harrassment into sexual molestation without any adult showing any inclination to protect her? What reasonable recourse was there? Because it looks like you’re supporting the “even if you are being hurt, don’t defend yourself” position so often foisted onto women and people of color, and I just can’t get behind that.

    Nope. I do not think that punching is generally a solution. Or ever, really. That said, Brianna HAD tried to do the right thing over and over, so I may be revising my initial opinion somewhat.

  143. Dominique says:

    This makes me so unbelievably angry I want to throw up. Quite frankly, I think Brianna would have been totally justified in socking that *adult* in the face.

  144. Dawn says:

    I’m glad Brianna has someone who supports and understands this, so many children don’t have that support or understanding.

    As for folks like:

    NaS: As a victim of this sort of thing myself, how dare you attempt to shame any child for defending themselves from sexual assault? Attitudes like that reinforced by people like you are responsible for much of the harm that befalls sexual assault victims, it’s easy to blame a child, but it takes a lifetime to repair the damage afterwards.

    How she reacted is not the important part, the fact she was let down by the person who was supposed to protect her is the important part.

    Blaming a child or anyone for how they defended themself from violence and sexual assault is simply completely untenable. Whether we’re a child, an adult, PoC, White, Disabled, or belong to any other group, you do not have the right to judge us for how we defend ourselves. The victim is NEVER at fault, how dare you ever suggest otherwise.

    Doc G: As a victim of incompetent teachers who blamed me for my own sexual assault, I’d just like to say, how dare you make excuses for them.

    Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement, sexual assault should be taken seriously. That it was not wasn’t just a “bad decision”, it was a complete abdication of an adult’s responsibility to protect.

    How dare you call it a bad decision! A bad decision is deciding not to check the recipe your students take home only to find that one of the ingredients is wrong after the food is cooked, a bad decision is deciding not to check you packed something you inevitably need and didn’t pack after all. Ignoring assault, sexual assault, failing to protect a vulnerable child then blaming a child for defending themselves and calling the cops on her? That isn’t a bad decision, that’s being thoroughly incompetent at basic humanity!

    Nobody cares about your struggle with race issues and being a teacher. It isn’t about you! It’s about the children who get sexually assaulted while on school grounds or trips because some adult didn’t give enough of a damn to be a decent human being much less do their job.

    Seriously, trying to make it about you, then blaming your behaviour on your “trauma”? That’s low.

    The minute you thought “aha I can explain to the PoC why they should blame the system not the person” was the moment you should have stopped and realised that it’s not your place to try and “enlighten” any minority about their own issues.

  145. vanessa says:

    Yes, I think upon closer examination I have revised my first opinion. IDEALLY, Brianna shouldn’t have hit the kid in the face: but the situation was so far from ideal, and she was so lacking (through no fault of her own, obviously) the support to help her deal with it any other way. By which I mean that the adults were not supporting a solution, not that she didn’t try for a better one first.

    I do stand by my comments that the right thing to do would have been both to protect Brianna and to try to understand what was going on with the boy. Healthy kids do not behave like that, by and large: they may experiment with it a bit, but upon being told to stop will stop. The kid may well be a victim too, and it’s an interesting question of when we stop caring about that kid as well as Brianna. (no, I am not accusing anyone of anything!)
    Anyway, I am so, so sorry that this happened.

  146. Computer Soldier Porygon says:

    vanessa:
    Yes, I think upon closer examination I have revised my first opinion. IDEALLY, Brianna shouldn’t have hit the kid in the face: but the situation was so far from ideal, and she was so lacking (through no fault of her own, obviously) the support to help her deal with it any other way. By which I mean that the adults were not supporting a solution, not that she didn’t try for a better one first.

    I’m really confused about why you felt the need to say shit about this in the first place. Did you even read the thing to begin with? How much clearer could it be that the situation was ~less than ideal~? I’m really blacked out here.

  147. leonine says:

    JS:
    Oh dear. I was Brianna once, and in some ways, still am…probably because I didn’t have someone like the writer on my side. It is still really difficult — at age 55 — to ask anyone for help, having been denied it so often when I was young.

    <3 TO YOU. To brianna too.

  148. vanessa says:

    Computer Soldier Porygon: I’m really confused about why you felt the need to say shit about this in the first place. Did you even read the thing to begin with? How much clearer could it be that the situation was ~less than ideal~? I’m really blacked out here.

    Don’t know what to tell you then. I responded, then revised my opinion. Not sure what’s wrong with that. It was an off the cuff remark that I almost immediately regretted. But I forgot, feminists aren’t allowed to make mistakes?

  149. William says:

    Yes, I think upon closer examination I have revised my first opinion. IDEALLY, Brianna shouldn’t have hit the kid in the face: but the situation was so far from ideal, and she was so lacking (through no fault of her own, obviously) the support to help her deal with it any other way. By which I mean that the adults were not supporting a solution, not that she didn’t try for a better one first.

    I’m sorry, but your ideals don’t have a place here. That little “ideally” back there is a means of judging Brianna’s action as sub-optimal. No.

    She did what she had to to protect herself. Adults could have supported her better but the sad reality is that they didn’t then, they won’t in the future, and she’s on her own. She can do everything right and still be abused, still be harassed, still be oppressed, and still be ignored because throughout much of her life no one in a position of authority will give much of a shit at all about her. Sometimes they’ll even care more about her abusers. “He’s such a nice boy”/”He has such a promising future”/”He’s too young to know better”/”He’s not as tough as this urban kid.”

    Whatever the narrative is, this isn’t about ideals. A kid was grabbing Brianna when and where she didn’t want to be touched. She told him to stop, he kept doing it. She’d be in the right if she slugged him without telling an adult. Telling an adult was a favor that boy was not owed, it was playing a game designed to protect abusers and let adults make compromises that predators can take advantage of. It was something she could do to avoid being made a target and having the cops called on her. There is a lot of deconstruction we can do around it, but this “hitting is wrong” bullshit isn’t much more than an appeal to a system which had already failed her. That you’re comfortable talking about obedience to that system as “ideal” is a mark of privilege.

  150. Dawn says:

    Anyone ever notice how “ideals” only apply to victims, everyone’s willing to fingerwag at the victims about how they “should” handle it but you rarely see folks fingerwagging at the aggressor or enabler about how they “should” behave?

    Sorry Vanessa but nobody has to be an “ideal” victim because you’ve swallowed socieities line about how victims are “supposed” to not hit the people victimising them.

    Furthermore bringing it around as a focus on “poor you, you’re being attacked because feminist’s can’t make mistakes” that’s low. Kindly re-examined your beliefs and stop trying to act as if people are out to get you because you said something victim blamey, anyone can do what you did, we all swim in a toxic sea of patriarchy and isms on a daily basis, it would be a miracle if we didn’t occasionally struggle with those toxic ideas. The problem is when we ignore that and try to cry foul cos how dare someone say “that’s part of the problem”.

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  152. Alice says:

    As a childhood sexual abuse survivor I can understand how the adults in the situation let Brianna down.

    You would think they would follow the law, keep the boy away from Brianna and call you straight away. They would call the police to come and escort the boy to the station for a charge and then taken home so he learns that sexual abuse is not on for if he gets away with what he has done he will think its acceptable and will continue on with this behaviour for years to come. He already thinks its somehow ok because the police were called on Brianna, not him. Which disgusts me to no end. I really do hope Brianna follows through with charging the boy I am sure there is witnesses? The other kids? So many people disbelieve sexual abuse because it ‘suits’ them they prefer to ‘pretend its not real’.

    My abuser, my father was convicted in a court of law. He pled guilty due to evidence. Yet, I know the adults involved who tried to protect him from jail who tried to shame me and make me look like some child villain…. which is despicable because adults are meant to protect children not allow them to be violated and by standing by a violator and protecting them from justice they also violate the child. They do feel quite guilty now, my ‘apparent family’ and can not look me in the eye. But, they still show a lot of hate towards me for bringing a sex offender to justice. Just because he is family doesn’t mean he is free from justice! Every offender is related to someone, sure the family will never stop loving an offender because we all love our family. It doesn’t mean its acceptable to condone sexual abuse. If you stand by and stand up for a sex offender and bully the victim YOUR CONDONING SEXUAL ABUSE, you may as well have also abused them as it hurts just as much. Just like those adults that were meant to protect Brianna…. instead they called the police on her… its just disgusting that humans can behave in such a pathetic manner.

    Brianna — your loved and your respected and we all wish you to be happy to be free. You should not feel scared or afraid, you should not feel responsible in any way. Nothing that happened was your fault. I hope you get justice, I pray that you will someday feel free of what happened to you. It was not fair, it was not right. I hope society changes their ways as we can not keep going down this path. **HUGS**

    I was told by my grandmother that if anyone tries to touch you in your private places or tries to harm you kick them in the balls and pinch their eye area so they can not see you, they can not run after you. Get away, get help. She told me to tell her. When I told her about her son though she didn’t want to know or believe it. Even after there was evidence to prove it. Mothers love their children and thats alright, I know I would love my children no matter what they did. But it still doesn’t excuse what happened and if my kid was the child who harmed Brianna or was my father I would give them a swift kick and tell them they need to get their act together and never do it again and take your punishment for wrongdoing!!!!!!!!!!

  153. Peech says:

    It’s always sort of funny to me (in a laugh so you don’t cry way) how we constantly tell people – don’t be afraid to fight back; go for the soft parts; make noise – BE LOUD!; pinch this; kick that; punch this; stab here; use your keys in the space between your fingers; go for the eyes! But when it happens in life, more often than not, the victim of the assault (hopefully attempted because the fighting thwarted the assault) is blamed for being violent, doing the wrong thing, “we should look at why this happened, why this person felt the need to fight/stab/kick/punch/etc..”

    When in fact, we shouldn’t look at what the victim did in any capacity except to see what the predator did to make the victim feel the action was necessary.

    Many of us will have our stories about being told to fight, and the negative repercussions we experienced because of fighting, but that shouldn’t stop us. It shouldn’t take our fight away and it shouldn’t make us tell our children not to fight.

    There’s no reason and there’s no justification for what the boy did – and Bri was PERFECTLY within her rights to punch him squarely in the jaw. Age, height, race, weight, and other markers Do Not Matter. What matters is that, in the face of adults who ignored her safety, she fought and protected herself – which is a lesson none of us should have to learn, but sadly, most of us know extremely well.

    Ah, I shouldn’t preach. I won’t. But good for you, Bri and good on you, DopeGirlFresh – for reinforcing the fight and for letting her and us know there are still people out there who will fight when it’s necessary – and that’s okay.

    Never lose your fight.
    xx
    Peech

  154. Leni says:

    Gee. I hope she hit him hard and on the spot, so he remebers it for the rest of his life. May this blow be a warning to him! Bigger and older women hit harder than a teenager! To many idiots still out there who think women can be overwhelmed easily, too many discouraged women who take too much shit from them every day. Usually I oppose violance of course, but this girl was in acting in self defense, pure and simple.

  155. CaliOak says:

    There was girl locally whose parents went to court and got a restraining order against the other kids (two girls I believe) who were bullying their daughter. The school whined and sniveled about over reacting, but they had know about it for months and not done anything.

    I really wonder how much of this bullying crisis is adults not doing their job and supervising kids, especially with the younger ones.

    Good for Brianna for punching her harasser. I’m sorry to hear this happened and glad she has someone like you building her up.

  156. Matt says:

    When I was in boyscouts and also in school bullies were never dealt with. Ever. Only when a kid punched me in the face in front of a huge crowd was any adult concerned.
    This is similar to the idea among counselors and educators that punishing the whole class for something is okay. Their excuse is that they didn’t see anything, can’t be sure who is right, and don’t have time to deal with an issue unless it gets out of control. No adult is ever going to step in for you, except your parents, and often not them. If our scout camp had lasted a few days longer, and i am absolutely serious here, someone would have ended up dead, or seriously injured. This isn’t some sort of race, class, or gender issue. This is an issue of adults not supporting children when they are out of their death. Adults don’t take action unless they absolutely have to. If they aren’t going to get sued, or fired, or embarrassed in front of their adult peers, they don’t do shit.

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  158. Angel H. says:

    Matt: This isn’t some sort of race, class, or gender issue. This is an issue of adults not supporting children when they are out of their death.

    In Brianna’s case it’s most likely an intersection of all of the above.

  159. Politicalguineapig says:

    Well what do you expect of kids and adults? Unless the kids are in a small enough group that they can be monitored at all times, there will be bullying. And a lot of adults view bullying like chicken pox- they got through it as kids, and they were ok, so it’s no big deal.
    I’m not saying bullying is ok, just ineveitable. It’s like groping or catcalling- an undesirable behavior that’s ingrained in a certain population.(And yes, groping and catcalling are forms of bullying too.)

  160. Dawn says:

    @politicalguineapig,

    From kids? Nothing better, from adults? Basic human consideration.

    It’s not acceptable, no matter how many people consider it okay.

  161. Alex says:

    I only want to say Brianna did the right thing. BECAUSE the adults were not doing anything to stop the harassment and assault, if Brianna hadn’t punched him in the face, WHAT ELSE WOULD THAT BOY HAVE DONE TO HER NEXT?

    I have known of cases where a girl’s clothes were ripped off, and the child was raped in situations where adults did nothing about children engaging in sexual harassment and sexual assault of another child.

    Violence is a tool to stop assault on one’s own body in situations where “using your words” and “playing nice” and “being non-violent” do not work.

    And to be fair, there ARE people who are non-violent who will deal with whatever violence or indignity is heaped on them….yet it is unfair to expect a child to behave like a martyr. Brianna did not go to camp to be an example of non-violence in the face of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

    I’m sorry. I teach my son to defend himself if someone tries to assault him, to tell me, and that he better not go around assaulting people who have not been doing anything to harm him. I also teach him that we treat people with respect, period.

  162. Megara says:

    I am sorry to hear of Brianna’s experiences, and particularly sad that she already knew not to expect support and then had that reinforced a hundred-fold. I admire her courage. I hear your anger and I am glad you are there to help her unpack what all of this meant, and will be in the future.

  163. jaybee says:

    I got one word for you. COURT.

    You need to bring the Camp and the parents of the child to court so that the camp and the child understand that their behavior is WRONNNGGG on all accounts. I’m pretty sure that if her parents go to the camp and complain about the situation, nothing will get done. If you bring them to court and judge tells them that they are wrong, they will listen. It will also teach that 10 year old boy that his behavior was definitely not acceptable.
    I’m pretty sure a judge will agree with you on the fact that Brianna did not deserve to be treated this way by the camp counselor or the boy.

  164. CHC says:

    Right on sis!

    Aiesha:
    First, tell Brianna that I love her. Second, was this the Fresh Air Fund? I know some folks there, like high up folks there, and if it was, you better call/text me because this needs to be handled. Third, if it was another camp, you need to call/text me because I will be drafting a letter. There is no way this is acceptable in any format. When Tiny Smalls was bring hit/touched in Kindergarten, I had to teach her how to throw a left hook–the teacher did all she could and she warned the boy’s mama (as did I) about what was going to happen if the behavior did not stop. After he was clocked, the teacher shrugged, but the mama lamented b/c Tiny Smalls was taller/bigger than her egghead boy. I feel you so much on this and we have to not only teach our children what not to do and then what to do if something happens to you, but educate adults as well. But for real, I need some names.

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