Honestly, it never occurred to me that taking photographs of children crapped-off at being parked on Santa’s lap for thirty seconds would be tantamount to child abuse.

Much less that, in later years, it could make these children less likely to report “inappropriate touching”.

This weekend I shared one of my brother’s favourite family pics of my little nieces  (Riley and Mimi, left) howling their heads off  on meeting St. Nick in a New York “Santa Cave” a few years ago.

It’s a classic of the genre and I’ll bet most family albums have a similar snap.

The folks on Twitter thought, like I did, that the photo was “hilarious”, “cute”, “brilliant” and happily passed it on.

@JuanitaSparkle: belly laugh, thank you for getting me in the Christmas spirit:)

But, like I say, nothing quite prepared me for the reaction on Facebook, with some saying they were “distressed” at the image of the girls and their obvious “terror”.

The girls were “scared beyond belief” and “crying out for their parents to protect them”, some said.

Pfft! I replied. Their parents were a metre away, and besides, the girls even yowled when they were placed on their grandfather’s lap for the first time.

Then, this came back: “I have the same issue with the Grandfather, you DO NOT let children sit or be held by people they do not feel comfortable with. If it’s an imaginary Man in a red suit or the Grandfather doesn’t matter.

“Which kind of man would not give his Grandchildren (he never met before) a bit of time to get to know him and feel happy to come to him on their own terms.

“It is that kind of behaviour from irresponsible parents that makes it hard for children later on to discriminate between appropriate and non appropriate touching.”

So now my brother is an irresponsible parent, I’m a child abuse-enabler and my father is a potential sex offender.

All divined from a photo of taking the kids to see Santa? 

Ho, Ho, HUH?

I was also snippily told to read to this article – which I liken to finding a lump of coal in my Xmas stocking.

“Just one incident of forcing your frightened child to sit in Santa Claus’s (sic) lap can cripple the child’s trust in you, and make the child LESS likely to report future sexual abuse to you,” says Jillita Horton  – “qualified US personal fitness trainer” and “expert” who blogs at (I dare not even click on: “Should a Woman with Anorexia Avoid Motherhood?”)

I am now confident enough to call this woman a world-class pest… with bells on.

That Australian mothers are taking advice from this personal trainer/expert is indeed a “scary symptom” of modern parenting: Too much information given by effing idiots.

(BTW: Same dingbats who advise you shouldn’t let you offspring see you in the nuddie – lest it burn out their precious kiddie wholesome-sex retinas.)

Horton continues: “Forcing a child into Santa Claus’s lap strips the child of feeling he owns his body. This makes the child LESS likely to resist sexual abuse. Being made to sit in Santa Claus’s lap will dramatically increase the odds that a child will stay silent through years of molestation.

“A deep, throaty ‘Stop! Or I’ll tell my mom!’ can actually stop a 190-pound predator. But a child does not achieve this kind of weapon by being forced to sit in Santa Claus’s lap,” she writes.

“I myself never feared sitting in Santa Claus’s lap. I have memories of only eagerly waiting in line. However, many parents force frightened children to sit in Santa Claus’s lap. Past warnings of “Don’t talk to strangers!” go clear out the window.”

Where do you even start with this kind of errant nonsense? 

How about with this?

“A deep, throaty ‘Stop! Or I’ll tell my mom!’ can actually stop a 190-pound predator.”

No it can’t. Little kid Vs. 190 lb predator = NO CONTEST!!

This goes right to the heart of the mental anguish of victims of rape and sexual abuse.

“If only I could have said ‘stop’.”

Anyone reading the accounts of those who, as children, were groomed under their parents’ watchful eye – and then serially, sexually molested and raped will know that no amount of pleading (whether it was said aloud or the cry was strangled in throats from abject fear) made it stop. It’s the same with adult victims who are attacked or drugged or co-erced then raped and abused.

If only I could have said ‘stop’.

For so many, taking their own lives has been the final, last gasp in hoping to be heard. Even when there were people to listen, they were too ashamed or frightened to cry out. As for the parents who were vigilant, but were tricked and deceived by a trusted friend or community leader? Their heartache knows no bounds.

Sexual abuse tears at the heart of all decent men and women. It keeps every decent human being awake at night. Listening.

When we throw good sense out with the Christmas wrapping?

I could go on about the nightmarish trials of  “inappropriateness” endured by many good men who love and care for children… however, I’ll be content to quote my father (grandfather to seven).

My Dad was a primary school headmaster for 40 years and cites being “surrounded by children every day” as one of his greatest blessings in life. Yesterday he told me: “Each child is different. It was a joy to go to work.”

And yes, he “touched” the kids.

“I treated them as if they were my own. I hugged them if they were in distress. Although, I wouldn’t go out of my way to mollycoddle,” he said. “I often found that taking troubled kids out of the classroom and getting them into the garden with something manual to occupy their minds worked well.”

 And as for the blokes who offered to be Santa over the years?

“They were mostly the fathers of pupils and, as far as I could see, they wanted to be Santa Claus because they had the spirit of Christmas.”

The Spirit of Christmas. 

“Peace on earth. Goodwill to all,” is the way we read it in my family. We respect those who have a religious faith. So, a jolly, holly “thanks” to all good men this festive season. And a hats off to Saint Nicholas, for this is his shared celebration with children of the Christian faith.

Here at my place we have been happy to leave Father Christmas a milk and a bikkie (remembering .05) and, if we are blessed with grandkids, will continue to do so.

Stick that up your chimney!!



I can’t leave without citing this from the so-called expert.

Click if you dare… (My fave advice being this: Often, pedophiles lure kids because they don’t want to create a scene. How else can they get kids to go off with them? They entice kids.) Yup, in the middle of  Harvey Norman’s Christmas cave!

Click HERE – why parents should be happy if their child is scared of Santa Claus

Click HERE – Three parents say why they never forced their kids to sit in Santa Claus’s lap.

Click HERE – Child’s fear of Santa Claus’s lap should trump parents’ quest for that holiday photo.




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  • Reply November 25, 2012


    Far out, for someone to suggest that of you is offensive, nasty and plain wrong.

  • Reply November 25, 2012


    Great article. I really can’t see how demonising every adult a child doesn’t know will help anyone.

  • Reply November 25, 2012

    Chantelle @ Once Upon A Nap

    Really? Wait… That can’t be… REALLY?

    Who ARE these people?

    Sheesh – my son cries when he has to go to daycare.

    Hell, he cries when his Daddy leaves to go to work (never mind that Mummy’s still here – apparently Daddy is the favourite), so by THAT line of thinking, being left with me is dangerous to him because he cries?

    Yeah… uh huh. Okay then.


  • Reply November 25, 2012


    All that woman is qualified to do is tell you how to lift weights and run on a treadmill. Having a random qualification doesn’t entitle you to an opinion on EVERYTHING much less on a complex topic like the relationships between child development, psychology and sexual assault . Meanwhile these photos are hilarious. Are you supposed to ensure your kid NEVER cries? Where is the fun in that?

  • Reply November 25, 2012

    Jan Dobson

    Oh dear, I’ve been traumatised and so have all my kids, didn’t know that before reading the expert opinion of Jillita. Because there are several photos of me looking very unhappy as I sat on Santa’s knee, I must have been abused?

    This makes me so angry! There are real people suffering real abuse and idiotic problem creators like this women are devaluing the seriousness of genuine cases of neglect and harm. It is disrespectful troublemaking at its worst.

  • Reply November 25, 2012


    If my kid was crying and resistant, no, I wouldn’t force him/her to sit on Santa’s lap. I do really really strongly believe in bodily autonomy, and my kid is not forced or coerced into hugs or smooches or lap-sittings with anyone, family or not.

    Having said that, I think it’s a pretty bloody long bow to draw to equate this (pretty cute, if not something I’d have done) photo with future vulnerability to child abuse. Bleh.

  • […] (and Wendy, if you are reading this – welcome aboard). She recently wrote an article in the Hoopla about her brother’s kids looking rather uncomfortable on Santa’s […]

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    That woman is a crank. There are so many parenting experts out there who have no idea. A someone training to be a Breastfeeding counsellor is see so many “experts” who give out Breastfeeding advice that is patently wrong, misleading and damaging.

    I think your nieces will live, probably without being scared for life, although, I thought one of the perks of parenthood was to give your kids some quirks?

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I just remember that sitting on Santa’s Lapidup was no guarantee of getting what you asked for in the Xmas sack!!

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Dirty Pierre

    That’s not Santa … look closely….

    it’s George Pell!!!!!!!

    • Reply November 26, 2012

      Michaela C

      No wonder the kids are crying. Getting near Pell would permanently distress me.

      • Reply November 26, 2012


        Not even close to being funny Micheala C and Dirty Pierre.Calling a man a pedephfile in public when there has been no talk of it happening by him.How would you like it happening to you or a loved one.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    What a load of crud. Things are getting spun completely out of control these days. Because of all the do-gooders, now even I feel guilty taking photos of my kids at the beach – and I’m their mother! Great article, Wendy. There’s quite a few people out their who need a bit of common sense shoved up their chimney.

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Michaela C

    What the everloving f?

    You’re right Wendy, and these worries say far more about the people writing them than the Santas and Grandpas out there.



  • Reply November 26, 2012


    Sigh… what’s the world coming to?? You know yourself as a parent whether your truly “traumatised” or whether they’re just protesting because they don’t want to do something. My two cried like that when I tried to brush their teeth, when I tried to get them dressed, when I dropped them at daycare… the list goes on. My daughter has autism and even then I can still tell when she is genuinely frightened or just protesting. People need to chill out and stop this ‘child worship’ culture. All parents are on the lookout these days to protect their children from harm, but I really think that the consistent preventative safety messages you give your kids throughout their childhood and teenage years are going to have much more effect that sparing them the trauma that is sitting on Santa’s lap. Merry Christmas everyone.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    It’s Santa’s face that’s the killer here – poor bugger! Wailing sprogs aren’t being scarred for life, it’s just one of the experiences that’ll make them reasonable, rounded human beings – rather than dangerous dingbats such as “Jillita” Horton. (Frankly, I’d say her parents traumatised her by giving her such a silly name, but never mind.)
    This is in line with this morning’s whinging about the traumas allegedly suffered by teachers and little pets because of Naplan testing.
    Get over it people!

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Jenny L

    Oh my Giddy aunt…what a load of do gooder, nanny state cr..p. Children need to experience ‘LIFE’, happy, sad, scary, joyous. Locking children away from it does them no favours and creates a generation of anxious, fearful adults. Oops, gotta go now, I think my son just fell out of a tree…..

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Janet Campbell

    It is my suggestion that those people who jumped in with their ignorant rants on child abuse after seeing that wonderful image have no place on Hoopla. I for one do not want to hear their opinions on anything ever again.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    LOL, therein lies the wonder of the internet, where in order to be an ‘expert’ all you have to do is write an article and press ‘publish’. I’m not sure who is the greater idiot- the woman who wrote the article or the snippy miss who referred it to you in the first place 🙂

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    “Nobody has a right to touch your body if you don’t want them to.” This woman is a twit – Jillian that is. I know what she’s trying to say, but seriously??? If I said that to my 6 yr old, that would be it – “you can’t hold my hand to cross the street”, “you can’t put a bandaid on my leg”, “you can’t make me blow my nose” – people are going to the extremes of everything these days. Thank god for comedians to mock the shit out of them 🙂

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Janet G

    Child abuse is very serious charge. Before we go accusing people of abuse, or other inappropriate behaviour, we should be very careful of the evidence that substantiates our allegations. Otherwise we risk a serious miscarriage of justice.

    Hysteria and vindictiveness does not help in deal with the problem of child abuse. It only highlights the accusers own mental problems.

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Jill K

    I am totally gobsmacked. People seem to be always looking for new ways to explain why vile acts are perpetrated on kids by abusers. I understand that it’s a very complex issue but too often it’s seen to be the victims’ faults for not saying stop (despite the unimaginable threats or coercion or grooming they might have been subjected to) and now it’s apparently the parents’ fault for forcing the child to sit unwillingly on Santa’s knee when they were little? Honestly…WTF!!!

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Penny Aagaard

    “A deep, throaty ‘Stop! Or I’ll tell my mom!’ can actually stop a 190-pound predator.” Only if the child is Linda Blair…

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Kerry C

    I assume this Jillita woman is not Australian. If I had to guess, I would say from the good ‘ US of A. They have some strange ideas over there – must be something about the international date line and certain regions of the brain – the part where common sense is manufactured, being one.

    My little grand-daughters, the first time they saw Santa cried… the next year, we’d prepped them up with Santa stories and they were delighted to sit on his knee – asked him where his elves were!

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    One smart Santa station had a decorative wall next to the big Santa seat with a big hole in it (looked like a little cottage with a window, all snowy and northern hemisphere winter pretty). At the appropriate moment the Santa would leave the scene and hide behind the wall, so Mum/Dad/Grandma could get the kids sitting on the big Santa seat to look cute for their photo without having to sit on Santa’s lap, and once the kids happy and photogenic, the Santa would stick his head through the hole, have a big smile on his face and wave to the kids for the shot – brilliant!

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I remember waiting in line and being so excited to see Father Christmas up until I was about 5 when I asked for a cowBOY suit. I got a cowGIRL suit and was beyond consolation. Never wore it, and never went to see Father Christmas again!

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    This all reminds me of the ‘recovered memory’ hysteria that began circa 1988 and continued strongly into the mid 90’s (and is still going on but to a lesser degree as therapists are now being educated better about the dangers of false memories).

    It is not helpful to make people believe they are victims (or not at least raise the question of doubt regarding the credibility of ‘memories’ that arise after years/decades of supposed amnesia) – mental health issues are exacerbated when false memories of sexual/satanic etc abuse are believed – these people cut themselves off from their non believing families and usually get worse. And where are the well intentioned therapists when the money runs out…??? I have seen lives ruined.

    Another thing – it doesn’t help those people who really have been seriously abused as people are now doubting their credibility. These kinds of bigoted, zealot, uneducated, ‘true believer’ therapists must be discouraged, forced to remove the blinkers they wear and see the damage they are doing.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I agree with Wendy but first hand, the Santa i took my kids to for at least 6 years was charged with inappropriate behavior with small children. I thought he was wonderful as the kids did not cry, he remembered their names (unusual Italian names) and he took time with each child. Be happy the kids cry…healthy attitude.

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Judith Rubbish

    Hi Wendy, I was scrolling FB and saw your photo and cracked up laughing and scrolled to next post, not nearly as funny or memorable (I can’t remember!) and moved on etc. I’m floored today, to see all this reaction!!!!!!! Definitely a first world reaction! Sadly, being one of seven siblings and living in the middle of nowhere where Santa photos were not an option I don’t have one, but happily paraded my son to various shopping centres for the annual snap. Some beauties, gives us lots of laughs today. Your nieces are going to love having that photo on display at their 21st’s!

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Reservoir Dad

    I’ve been a Santa for Anglicare Family Services. It was great fun, a bit nerve racking (saying ho-ho-ho convincingly for an hour is really tough) but it would be devastating to think that some parents may have been watching me in case I touched the kids inappropriately.

    It’s becoming the norm to be suspicious of all men when kids are around. I sometimes feel self-conscious with my own kids at the park, at play centres etc.

    Isn’t there a rule that single men can’t sit next to kids on air planes now?

    It’s depressing.

    When the Jill Maher murder occurred there were so many messages on twitter, facebook, media along the lines of ‘Tell men not to rape’ and ‘start influencing your boys away from violence now’ and the underlying message was one that men are intrinsically bad. I worry about my four young boys picking up on this subliminal message.

    The Jill Maher murder was horrid beyond belief. But it was done by one messed up person. And there were male victims in the crime as well. Her husband was also strongly suspected of killing his own wife by so many people simply because he was a man.

    Strong, approachable, gentle men are important to a child’s development. And that includes men who are new to the child (let’s not use the word ‘stranger’).

    If it’s now getting to the point where people are second guessing a trip to see Santa and hugs between a grandfather and grandchild then I am really, really depressed abut the future for my boys.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    As far as the Xmas photo – why would you keep trying to get a photo when your child clearly doesn’t want too or are obviously scared.. Is it that important?

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    Well said Wendy! The word ‘expert’ is overused!
    My daughter was fine for her first Santa photo, the 2nd one, we had to sit with her and Santa. She doesn’t like beards and we’re cool with that. She’s 6.5 years old now and she said she wanted to have a Santa photo this year.
    To kill some time I checked out Reads like a page for hypochondriacs. I had to laugh when I read in the website’s sidebar, ‘Worried about Moles?’ because it had Jillita’s photo right underneath.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I never bothered with the santa photo and none of my children ever cared for one to be taken. If my kids ever cried in the lap of someone I would pick them up and try again some other time with the family person. No one was damaged in the process.

    I was in a waiting room once and a person – a complete stranger asked to hold my baby. This had never happened before and I am definetly not the type to say yes to a stranger (including santa) – but this was an old woman, about 85 and I willingly handed her my baby. It gave her great delight and pleasure and it was wonderful to watch.
    Baby thought it was alright too.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    It is the beard and glasses that are scary because it is something new to them that the children might not often see in that combination. New stuff is scary but you get over it. My daughter was scared of nice old ladies with heaps of make-up on. They of course loved her and stuck their faces into hers and she screamed her head off. Should I have whisked her away? Of course not. And she is not traumatised whenever she sees a woman with too much make-up on now (although, sometimes, I am).
    You do harmless stuff you don’t enjoy and learn from it. Otherwise we would all be scared of Santa.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I am a survivor of multiple incidents of child sex abuse via a number of different paedophiles from the age of 5 and found your photo priceless. I did not even think child sex abuse when I looked at it and have put my own children on Santa’s lap at various places over the years.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    Well both my kids were scared of santa from the age of 2-4 so we don’t have photos with santa for those years for them but it wasn’t really for them so much as I would feel too guilty putting the poor santa through having screaming struggling children on their knees. I just didn’t think it was fair or even feasible. And I was scared of santa as a child too. I was shy and scared of all strangers. Personally I suspect it may have helped me being encouraged ( gently of course) to at least talk to santa occasionally.
    Wendy It seems to be the website and the comments on your photo were part of a sub-culture I have noticed within mothers groups which has become so fearful of strangers and men in particular that they have started to perceive all men as potentially bad. These are the same women who won’t allow their children to play in the front yard or walk home from school even in groups, etc.

  • Reply November 26, 2012


    I just finished a degree in child psych. Nowhere in that degree did we ever list ‘mothers making kids sit on Santa’s lap’ as a variable that may lead to child abuse.
    In fact, the very idea of blaming a mothers’ actions, or a child’s, for ANY type of abuse, is abhorrent to me, and every other professional I know.
    It’s as stupid as a certain Sydney-based member of a religion claiming that if women dress inappropriately, then it’s kind of like meat left out for cats- they’re asking for it.
    I’d suggest that your US friend is taking a short cut to the field of ‘psychology’ via studies in psychotherapy (as is so popular in the US), without having to study anything about research, statistics, personality, psychopathology etc etc. These are the same people that apparently discovered ‘recovered memories’, a controversy that continues to this day.
    As you were Mums… Case dismissed!

    • Reply November 26, 2012


      Agree with Tara…..most child abuse I spent my working life investiagting did not involve too many men in Santa suits…..most were subtle, gentle, long term groomers…usually well known to, or belonging to, the victim’s family. Leave Santa alone & look out for the real creeps, both male & female. Our children should be allowed to grow up safe & happy. (In plain terms I think this is just ‘more Yankee B….shite!)

  • Reply November 26, 2012

    Loretta Bolton

    Year 1: Blissfully unaware son. Year 2: Screaming banshee struggling to escape Santa, half-eaten corn chips (AKA “bribe”) strewn across the floor. Year 3: Sullen toddler glaring at camera while baby bro is blissfully unaware. Year 4: Big smile from big bro who now understands that photo which pleases mummy = Freddo Frog, scowling little bro refuses to remove dummy but still manages to look surly… Ahhhhhh the memories, what will this year’s photo be with masters 4.5 and 2.5; as they are finally getting into the idea of Xmas?!? I LOVE your pic Wendy, it makes me feel happy to know there are others with Xmas disaster pics! I’ll be dragging my boys along to uphold the tradition for many years yet!!! Merry Xmas you f-ing do-gooders! 😉

    • Reply November 26, 2012


      Tara….thanks…well said. The photos make great ‘blackmail’ for 21st’s & weddings!!!!!!

  • Reply November 27, 2012


    I find this all quite amazing…adults with such hangups! Let children be children…my daughter showed the same reaction at 2yrs old being sat on the fat man’s knee…she soon got over it when she realized what he was all about…ok to be cautious but this is taking it all too far!!!

  • Reply November 28, 2012


    Tracy, how lovely that you gave an elderly lady such a special moment with your baby. The world needs more people like you. : )

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