So say you were about four years old, and you were circumcised at birth while most others in your community were not. You enter kindergarten and as kindergarten children do, they compare their private parts by showing them to one another. Kids find out you’re different. You feel strange and different from everybody else (because you ‘are’ different).
One day, the kindergarten teacher brings me up to the front of the classroom, and asks to pull down my pants. She tries to pull down the front of the pants to expose my private part. At first I resist and start to sob, but she says ‘it’s okay, it’s okay’ and I then yield. She goes on to ‘explain’ my private parts to the classroom, saying something to the effect of ‘this penis is circumcised; boys will be getting them one day; it’s normal’. This was a one-off thing, and there were no sexual connotations. It was more of an explanation and a vindication rather than an attempt at humiliation, but at the time I don’t exactly remember how I felt. Would you say this is sexual harassment of a minor? The law at home says it might qualify as such, but as far as I know kids before the age of four are not abashed at showing their private parts in public because it is a natural thing for them to do. Thoughts? (From Korea)
I am sorry this humiliating experience happened. As you’ve described it had a psychological impact on you — and more than 25 years later it is still a concern for you. Regardless of the legal definitions the psychological implication is clear — this experience was way outside the norm. This was not something that happened every day in your culture. Boys and girls were not put on display as a regular event. I can understand why the law in your country would say it qualifies as sexual harassment.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2018). Childhood Sexual Abuse. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/09/19/childhood-sexual-abuse/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 19 Sep 2017) Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.