This mum's response to her daughter being told a boy who hit her must 'like her' needs to be broadcast

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Jenny Noyes

"That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior."

"That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior." Photo: Stocksy/Simone Becchetti

Why do adults think it is OK to tell young girls that if a boy hits her, kicks her, pulls her hair, steals her lunch or teases her that it's because he 'must like her'?

Growing up in the '90s, it was a pervasive message aimed at soothing the hurt. And what did it teach us? That the idea that 'being liked' and having a boy's attention - even negative, violent attention - is more important than being safe and treated with respect.

One would hope that with all the awareness around gendered violence in 2015 that this extraordinarily damaging attitude would have disappeared - but ingrained messages like this can be hard to shake without targeted efforts to stamp them out.

Which is why this message an American mum posted on Facebook after her daughter was told - by a hospital worker of all people - that the boy who hit her must 'like' her is such an important PSA. 

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Merritt Smith's four-year-old daughter was hit in the face so hard that she required stitches. And the message she was given at the hospital? "I bet he likes you."

"As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins," Smith wrote. "That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behaviour.

"In that moment, hurt and in a new place, worried about perhaps getting a shot or stitches you were a person we needed to help us and your words of comfort conveyed a message that someone who likes you might hurt you. No. I will not allow that message to be ok. I will not allow it to be louder than 'That's not how we show we like each other'." 

"I bet he likes you."Dear man at the registration desk at Children's hospital, l'm positive that you didn't think that...

Posted by Merritt Smith on  Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The post has been shared more than 30,000 times.

Let's hope its message - that girls deserve no less than safety and respect, especially from those who 'like' them - will overcome that ubiquitous, irrational and damaging 'hurting is flirting' cliche.