Bravehearts founder, Hetty Johnston has defended comments she made over the weekend after copping the brunt of a social media backlash. "Contrary to media reports, Bravehearts is not anti-Santa or against kids sitting on Santa’s knee if they want to. However our position is that kids shouldn’t have to do something against their will if they feel uncomfortable or unsure about a situation."
Hetty founded Bravehearts in Australia as an organisation to stop child sexual assault in our society.
Hetty originally responded to a social media debate that broke-out when Queensland parents expressed their concern for their children sitting on Santa's lap each Christmas. She called for children to not have to sit on Santa's knee for their annual Santa photo, telling the Courier Mail that her foundation would like shopping centres to update their child protective policies. “The directive would be for children to stand beside Santa, unless parents or children request to sit on his knee. Shopping centres have duty of care to protect children on premises.”
These comments sparked a social media uproar as parents complained this was offensive and uncalled for.
Mother & Baby asked our Facebook community whether children should be allowed to sit on Santa's knee or not and the response was strong. Melinda said, "Pathetic, why turn something that's innocent and such a traditional part of Xmas that's been done for years and years into some new drama."
Sharon took an opposing view, "No. I will never allow any of my children to sit on a strange mans knee. It's gross. What's to say if I allowed them to do that they wouldn't go off with some pedophile in a santa suit. And how do I know that the store Santa's aren't predators who just haven't been caught. It's way to scary and very common. In my line of work I see a lot of little girls who have been hurt by trustworthy men."
Debbie shared her family's less conventional Santa photo with her family sitting on Santa's chair as Santa lay sprawled on the carpet below them. Debbie said, "Our Santa here is awesome & offers many other options besides sitting on the knee though for kids who are a bit scared. He managed to get my anxious daughter to chat to him & smile in the pics so for that alone get gets a thumbs up from me!"
This is Bravehearts full statement on Facebook today:
Contrary to media reports, Bravehearts is not anti-Santa or against kids sitting on Santa’s knee if they want to. However our position is that kids shouldn’t have to do something against their will if they feel uncomfortable or unsure about a situation. We teach kids personal safety skills with our Ditto Keep Safe Adventure program where they’re taught that “it's OK to say no” if they don't feel safe and what to do if they feel unsafe or unsure around someone. This means not having to sit on anyone’s lap, including family members or Santa, if they don’t want to.
We applaud those centres that have in place strong strategies for ensuring children are safe. This is not about taking the fun out of Christmas, this about ensuring that children do not receive mixed message around their rights to say ‘no’ and to feel safe. We are not against children sitting on Santa’s knee or receiving a hug from him, we are against kids being forced to do this. Thank you to everyone for your feedback on this issue and the media reports.
Do you agree with Bravehearts in supporting the rights of children, or do you still find this push to be over-the-top?