Something really upsetting happened to my daughter this week. She’s 4 and goes to a wonderful childcare center. Her teachers are awesome and the other kids are too. But for the first time something occurred that has left me upset and angry.

Turns out that while my daughter was on the school playground she had been playing a game with the boys in the class, some kind of tag game. She decided that she didn’t want to play anymore but the boys (two in particular) kept after her. To the point that they pushed her up against the metal chain fence and one pretended to shoot her with a gun. I can barely type this right now because it’s so upsetting.

And the teacher said that Lillian was saying no the entire time. She was YELLING no at these boys and they continued with this behavior. I’ve been assured by the head of the school that this happened very quickly and as soon as the teacher heard Lillian yelling no she ran right over. The school sounds like they handled it well. The boys were taken to the directors office right away, were told strongly about why they need to respect when someone says no, and their parents were told about the incident and asked to reinforce some behaviors at home too.

Apparently my daughter, who remained on the playground, continued crying for a while. The staff comforted her, told her she did everything right by saying no and that they understood why she was upset.

I can’t help but feel like this is where rape culture begins. My kid was pinned against a metal fence and was yelling no and she wasn’t respected. Now I know these are young kids and this is how they learn. And I am so glad that her childcare center handled it so well by removing the boys from the playground immediately, talking to them and including their parents in a conversation about why this isn’t OK. But I feel such anger knowing my child felt this kind of violation.

To really, truly end rape culture we must begin at a young age with our kids. We must teach them that when someone says no, or is showing body language that implies they want you to stop whatever the behavior is, they MUST stop. As a friend of mine wisely said, teaching consent begins on the playground.