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To Sam

What exactly is inappropriate touching?

I'm sorry, I didn't know what topic to put this letter in, and I think 'age difference' kind of covers a fraction of what my letter is about.
Basically I'm a 15 year old girl and went on work experience at some offices a few weeks ago. This man of about 30 was very friendly to me, not flirty or anything, we were just talking about football and stuff like that. He was stood quite close to me when he was talking to me.
I sort of embarrassed myself I can't remember what about, and he laughed at me and put his hand on my shoulder/back for about 2-3 seconds. He didn't do anything else, just kept it still for no more than that time. Anyway, he sort of lightly touched me on the shoulder and patted me on the back a couple more times later on. And when my week's placement was over and I said bye to him he said "nice to meet you" and put his hands on both my shoulders, again he didn't squeeze or do anything else. He did it to his other colleagues too, and another girl my age who he'd seen more of, he hugged her goodbye. I don't know, I know none of it's sexual and he only touched me on my back and shoudlers, but I still felt a bit uncomfortable. Men/boys have touched me whilst talking lightly before, but I've never felt that way before. i don't know whether it's because he was kind of good looking and I felt a bit nervous in that way, or it was because I actually felt it was a bit wrong.
Whatever, does that sort of touching seem inappropriate??
Ask Sam


Hi there,

Thanks for writing to me. I got the sense from your letter that you’ve been thinking over what happened a lot. You said how this man at your placement wasn’t flirting and didn’t do anything sexual but that he did make you feel uncomfortable.

Being touched and touching other people is something that each individual can have really different feelings about. How comfortable someone feels about it can change both because of the situation and on who the other person is.

At your placement, when you go to work or even in school how you feel about being touched is what is important. If you ever feel that someone touching you is making you uncomfortable then it’s okay to ask them to stop.

I’m really glad that you had the courage to write to me about this. I can see how much you’ve doubted yourself because you were nervous and because he was quite attractive. When you’re unsure about what someone else was thinking it can sometimes leave you worrying about whether you should say anything.

You are never doing anything wrong by wanting to say that you felt uncomfortable with someone. It doesn’t always mean that the person has done anything wrong but it can be good to help them be more considerate of the people who are around them.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to deciding what you would like to do after reading this. I’m really glad that you’re out of the placement now, even when something is in the past you are allowed to talk about it.

Talking to an adult you trust about this can help you to feel like it’s not being left unsaid and it can even help this person to understand that it isn’t always appropriate to enter people’s personal space. There’s a really good page about asking an adult for help which gives advice on how best to do it.

No matter what you decide, ChildLine counsellors are always here to support you. They can give you a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling and help you to think about what you would like to happen next. You can talk to them online using our 1-2-1 chat service, by emailing or calling free on 0800 1111.

Take care,

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