Mother to Hospital Worker: "Hurting Isn't Flirting"

When you tell children that young boys flirt with girls by hurting them, you send a bad message. That's what one mother is saying after a hospital employee told her 4-year-old daughter that a male classmate "probably likes you" after he hit her so badly that she needed stitches.

Merritt Smith, the girl's mother, said that was the last thing her daughter needed to hear because it suggests that the boy's behavior was somehow socially acceptable. She shared her thoughts on the subject in a Facebook post that has gone viral.

"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

"Dear man at the registration desk at Children's hospital, l'm positive that you didn't think that statement through," Smith wrote. "As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior. My four year old knows 'That's not how we show we like someone. That was not a good choice.'"

"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.'"

Growing up, you hear it all the time: boys hit, pinch, poke, and tease to express their affection because they don't know how to properly manage their emotions. And girls are supposed to be flattered by this counterintuitive show of care.

But Smith argues that allowing that sentiment to excuse boys from inflicting harm on girls contributes to a culture of tolerance for men who hurt women. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

"It is time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children," Smith said.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Columbus hospital where Smith's daughter received stitches for her injury said that it was "aware of a recent comment made by a member of our staff to a family seeking care."

We thank you for being engaged members of our community and for always advocating on behalf of children and families –...

Posted by Nationwide Children's Hospital on Friday, October 9, 2015

"Although we know the comment was made with no malicious intent, it is our wish to apologize and express to you that this is something we are taking seriously. This comment does not represent our philosophy as an institution," a hospital representative wrote.