You can probably imagine the emotions that rushed over me when my 3 year old daughter said, "Sometimes babies are fed milk from penises". There was an intensity that began to build up and was immediately suppressed as I went directly into detective mode.
I am a strong proponent of open, honest dialogue and communication about everything with my daughters. We refresh every couple days our action plan for inappropriate requests or contact from adults or kids. I remain vigilant and take painstaking measures to discuss everything in gory detail. So when I heard this from my 3 year old, my mind then shifted to find moments where something heinous could have happened. I began to blame myself. I never really leave my kids with anyone but it's often family and people you trust who are culprits. So my database searched for a person who would seize such a moment to violate my child and my trust.
I talked to her. "Sweetheart, who told you this?". My question was met with laughter. 'Oh my god' I thought, 'Someone must've made this a game to her'. "Lady, I'm not joking this is serious. Who told you this? Did someone touch you inappropriately?" Her sisters gathered around for moral support, putting their hands on her and saying things like "you aren't in trouble" and "it's ok to tell mom nothing bad will happen". She laughed at us all. So I began saying names- Cousins, parents, grandparents, other family members and friends. All my efforts met with joking nos and other playful banter. All of which consumed me with frustration. I was prepared to make phone calls.
"Mom, I saw it in TV". What? Someone's showed her porn! I was so angry. "Who showed you this?" I asked wondering how and when a toddler would come across something so inappropriate. "Mom on TV. The animals do it. The baby horse". Still not convinced I continued to probe until finally it clicked. She saw utters or the horse equivalent of cow utters.
So instead of going crazy I pulled up pictures on the internet on my phone. "Ok is this what you saw?". "Yeh. A horse penis with milk". Hmm. Ok time to talk. So we talked about how horses and cows and deer have their breasts under whereas ours are up top because we walk upright. She asked where their vagina would be since the utters are there. We looked it up on the internet and talked about that. We talked about how if we were on all fours our breasts are under like a horse, primarily like a gorilla. We looked at pictures of mother animals nursing and I explained that their mammary glands were not penises. (My kids know what a penis is/looks like and they know what a vagina is.)
I further explained that nothing comes out of a penis that you drink. That penises are dirty and they do not go in anyone's mouth. I think for a three year old and her sisters this is perfectly fine to say. Frank and to the point. We can have another talk about oral sex as they approach teen years but for now no child should have anyone's privates near their face.
With that said I'm not fully satisfied with my findings today but I am glad that I could use this as a moment to talk with my kids again about other people; their own private areas and their use; the inappropriate request that hopefully will not but may come their way; what happens after something inappropriate happens; and how they are empowered in what they can do about it. It's important for parents to be frank. It's important to think worst case scenario, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for you, because it's war out here. People are willing to do horrible things to children. I will continue to listen and probe every day to make sure my children grow up educated, empowered and safe.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a Child Abuse Resource Center. Abuse, Molestation and Incest are real issues that should be taken very seriously. If you suspect your own child or another child has been abused, please do not feel ashamed. Report it and help that child get help and support as soon as possible. More resources can be found at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673).
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.