A Tennessee mother says that her 4-year-old daughter was shamed and sexually harassed by employees at a public pool who insisted that the girl wear a top while at the facility.
Sarah Parada told The Tennessean that she was forced to leave Longview Recreation Center’s indoor pool on Friday after a Williamson County Parks and Recreation lifeguards and a supervisor said that the 4-year-old girl could not swim while wearing only bathing suit bottoms.
"She left feeling really ashamed of herself," Parada explained.
Pool policies listed on the Williamson County Parks and Recreation website do not include a requirement that little girls wear tops, but Parks and Rec Director Doug Hood said that it was just "common sense."
"The rule requires tops and bottom for girls. It’s never, ever been questioned in my 34 years," he told the paper. “Protection is part of that common sense. I wish I could tell people that everyone coming in there is someone you’d want to have over for Sunday dinner, but they’re not.”
In a Facebook message posted on Tuesday, Parada said that "the lifeguard had put hands on my daughter to pull her out of the pool - so that he could shame her for not covering her imaginary sex organs."
"She stood there cold, wet, scared, confused and ashamed of her body for the first time in her life," she continued. "For my daughter -- at age four -- she experienced her first encounter with a sexual harassment.. that is so systemic in this culture - that the notion of my daughter being allowed to grow into her modesty on her own (without the imposition of the shame we like to place on a woman's body) is revolutionary."
Parada argued that "string bikinis" and beauty pageants were doing more sexualize young girls and attract pedophiles than a 4 year old not wearing a top at a public pool.
"I would like to protect my children from being sexualized by pedophiles AND lifeguards AND Doug Hoods," she wrote. "By the way -- the lifeguard who put hands on my daughter (not to save her life.. what are the state laws on this issue.. anyone?) he was not even slightly worried about pedophiles. Or my daughter. He was worried about 'upsetting the other members.' And he confirmed that a triangle bikini -- so long as her nipples were covered -- that would be all she needed to get in the pool."
But from now on, Parada said her 4-year-old daughter would be wearing a top.
"My daughter was treated like there’s something sexual about her she needs to hide," the mother remarked. "From now on I’m definitely putting a top on her. I don’t see the need to traumatize her."