Monday, 13 April 2015

Arm Stroking Christians

I tend to view my body as my own.

I don't think I'm unusual in that.

Only those with permission or those who I count as friends and trust are allowed to touch, even if it’s only a hand on my shoulder.

This is for many reasons….. 
  • History: Don’t ask, just take my word for it that my history has made me wary of close contact with people I don’t know.
  • Pain levels: I have a complicated pain disorder and muscle conditions that mean a touch in the wrong place can cause painful spasms (I’m still getting over the pain of an inappropriate and unwanted approach/action last week.) 
  • Personal Space: Like anyone else, I like my personal space left alone. I’m also an introvert.

So why do people feel the need to stroke my arm when they talk to me? To squeeze my hand ‘sympathetically’ and hang on to it (Often along with the words “It’s such a shame you’re in that wheelchair”)

I was a bit naughty with my title to this, implying that only Christians do the ‘repeated arm stroke’, but actually - it’s not just the preserve of Christians. It just happens more with Christians.

Here’s a good rule of thumb - before you lay hands on a wheelchair user (In any way) stop and think “Would I do this if the person wasn’t in a wheelchair?” Then think “is it appropriate when I don’t really know this person?” Ask yourself this question twice, the second time adding “would I do it if they weren’t a Christian?”. This should give enough time for common sense to kick in.

I have found that being a wheelchair user gives the impression that I’ve given permission for anyone to touch, stroke, squeeze or have a face pushed close to mine (As though this is the only way I could possibly understand them).

My simple response to this is: NO…..just no!

A friend of mine has a child who happens to be a wheelchair user. She has found that in the Christian festival environment people will stroke her child whilst cooing over them (This is not a young child), or even take them away in their wheelchair, without her permission, to have a dance in the worship time. This is not helpful on many levels. It’s not good safeguarding practice, it’s rude, and it’s not helpful when she’s trying to teach stranger awareness. Would these adults do the same with an able bodied child? I think not.

Here’s some sensible advice. If you’re in a situation where you would normally use touch, maybe when praying for someone, comforting or listening to them. Just ask first.

But there is another side to the coin. Being completely ignored - and that’s the subject of the next post…..

Note To My Friends: If you have done any of these things, and I haven't said anything, then it's ok - don't feel guilty! I'm honoured to have you as my friends. Because we're friends I would have no problem saying when not to touch or hug.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.