Girl Scouts warn parents not to force kids to hug relatives

Now that the holidays are upon us, Girl Scouts of America is sending a warning to parents to not force your children to have physical contact with others, including family member if the child does not initiate it. Brittany Dionne reports. 11/22/17

National statistics show one in nine girls under the age of 18 is sexually abused or assault at the hands of an adult.
    
Now that the holidays are upon us, the Girl Scouts of America is sending a warning to parents to not force your children to have physical contact with others, including family members, if the child does not initiate it.

Girl Scouts posted the announcement on their website. It warns parents that they could be teaching their children that they owe someone a hug, or kiss, as gratitude for a kind gesture.

We spoke to Mary Ann Jacob's, CEO of Girl Scouts of gateway council in Jacksonville. 

Jacobs says parents should always self-reflect to make sure they are doing what's best for their children.

"Girls are often encouraged to affirm a gift or affirm seeing someone with a hug or a touch. That may be considered inappropriate," Jacobs said. "It is teaching young girls your body is a method of payment."

First Coast News spoke to a local sexual abuse survivor who says it's good advice. 

"If you feel the urge to give them a hug, then obviously, but you shouldn't be told. They shouldn't be encouraged to do that at such a young age because that imprints on them and plus them along the way as they're getting older," 17-year-old Hayley Giannuzzi said.

Giannuzzi is a beauty queen. She currently holds two titles: 2017 Florida's Miss Teen United States Agriculture, and 2017 North Florida's Teen Miss Heart of Freedom.
      
She's on track to compete for the title of Miss Jacksonville and hopefully one day, Miss America. 

Giannuzzi also advocates for victims of sexual abuse or exploitation.

She was just eight-years-old when a family member assaulted her.

"It's a feeling of shock and disbelief. You don't understand what's happening."

Four years later, she found the courage to speak up. She told her mom, whom she calls her biggest supporter, and they went to the police.

"My mom was there every step of the way. I began to sink into depression because I was just so overwhelmed by the what happened," she was just eight-years-old when a family member assaulted her.

"It's a feeling of shock and disbelief. You don't understand what's happening," Giannuzzi recalls. 

Statistics show in the majority of cases- a family member or a someone close to the Family is the abuser.

"He had threatened to hurt me if I said anything," she said.

But, Giannuzzi, says she refuses to let her past hinder her future. 

She continues to press forward with hopes of one day becoming a nurse.  

Her accused abuser was never prosecuted. Yet, she says she finds healing in going after her dreams and speaking out about sexual abuse. 

She hopes speaking out will encourage others to do so as well.

"It's not something you should be ashamed of. It's not something that needs to be hidden. You can speak out. There are people we can help you. It's not your fault. Because those are all things that I was feeling," Giannuzzi said.

Giannuzzi is raising money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

She hopes to raise $500 before she graduates high school in 2018..

Click here to donate.  


 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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