Boys in the Ladies Room: Sometimes OK?

A report about a 6-year-old boy who was sexually molested in the men’s room at a public park in Los Angeles over the weekend is enough to keep any parent from every sending their child into a public restroom. According to the Los Angeles Times, the boy was attending a soccer match at Rio Hondo Park. He immediately reported what had happened to his mother and witnesses saw the suspect fleeing in a white van with a license plate that started with “6J,”says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Thomas. Authorities have released a sketch of the suspect.

On the StrollerDerby blog at the parenting website Babble, Meagan Francis, who has four sons, asks if the child should have used the women’s room instead. That is, if you’re a woman, you have boys, you’re out in public without an adult male and your kids have to answer the call of nature, what should you do?

Francis writes:

Of course stories like these always come with a rash of judgments against the mother, who “should never have let her child out of her sight for even a moment!” But it’s not always so easy. Five is the cutoff age where I’ve felt comfortable bringing my boys with me into a public restroom unless there was nobody else in there; some of my boys have started balking at using the ladies’ room well before their sixth birthdays, and often there are rules in place that limit how old a boy in the ladies’ room can be. While family restrooms are becoming increasingly available, you won’t find them at most parks, restaurants or big-box stores.

Stranger molestations in restrooms are extremely rare, and anyway, whether a child is 6 or 10 or even 13 doesn’t seem like it would make much difference in the case of a motivated pervert who happened to catch them in the right place at the right time.

Francis has her children use the buddy system when that’s possible and has coached them so they “understand that it’s always right to trust their instincts and get the heck out of a situation that’s making their mental alarm bells ring.” When she’s out with only one child, she says she “chalk[s] it up as one of those “risks with a lower-case ‘r’ ” and has a child go in alone.

As the parent of a disabled son, letting our teenage son use a public restroom is always a risk, as in a RISK. My son’s verbal abilities are not sufficient to tell us if something happened. As he is 14 years old but looks older, it’s extremely awkward to take him into a women’s room.

But safety always comes first and, on some very rare occasions, I have just decided to take my son into the women’s room. I used to be very shy about doing this from some deeply imbedded sense of “boys room vs. girls room” instilled in elementary school. But, especially after reading about the incident involving the 6-year-old boy in Los Angeles, I’ve just become prepared to explain the situation. Some women definitely look askance to see a tall teenage guy in the women’s room, but most quickly realize that Charlie is disabled and don’t say anything.

To me, the whole issue points to the need for more unisex and family public restrooms and restrooms for individuals with disabilities. Having such facilities means that my son and others can go to more places; can be a bit freer — let’s also make sure we can keep them safe, too.

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Photo by sylvar


Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

I understand people want to keep there children safe, but ever since I was a little girl I have never felt comfortable when I see a boy over a certain age, perhaps over 5, in the women's restroom. Most public restrooms I find don't have very private stalls, that are broken or can be looked right into--in a situation like that it's uncomfortable enough to bare private parts in a crowded room of strangers, but putting the opposite sex into the mix just makes it all the more uncomfortable. The idea of multi-stall unisex bathrooms seems more dangerous to me, because then both women and children would be more vulnerable to sexual assault. There is always going to be fear and discomfort because this is a very dangerous world.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Better safe than sorry!

Jane R.
Jane R6 years ago

Young boys should be taken to the ladies room if no adult male is with them. The stalls are private and no woman would complain about it.

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

I have no problem with a mother bringing her son into the ladies' room if need be. Better safe than sorry.

Manuela B.
Manuela B6 years ago

i only have grandsons if i'm out with them they come with me as there is NOW WAY that i would put them at risk in a man's toilet without me....and what's the difference men and women use the same toilet when at home...???

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

Women with or with out children would prefer a child to be safe,so bring them into the ladies toilet if you have to or maybe the disabled if no-one is using it.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

@ Ken M - To answer your question about what a parent would do if a stranger offered to take their child into the restroom, I don't think that the nationality of the stranger would make much of a difference. If my son was crying about going into the ladies' room and a stranger offered to take him to the men's room, I'd thank him and politely decline the offer. It's not that I distrust everyone on the spot, it's just that I don't know. However, there wouldn't be a reason to be rude about it unless the stranger persisted. That would totally get my hackles up, and I might even report him to security if he was very persistent.

And thank you for pointing out that statistics don't matter to a child who has become one. Not many people like to think of it in those terms.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

My oldest son is currently 4, and I bring him to the ladies' room with me unless we're with an adult male family member. I expect this will be the case until he's 10-ish (give or take, depending on his level of understanding of these issues and ability to protect himself... most perverts will avoid anyone that they think can fight back because they're cowards... my kids will be learning some form of martial arts or other and not be afraid to use it to protect themselves.)

This is an interesting topic, though, and definitely needs more discussion to get people thinking. Thanks for posting, Kristina.

Theresa L.
Theresa L.6 years ago

I am in favor of avoiding public restrooms as much as possible. Even if he is 14, if he is disabled you should use the women's room, the room of your adult gender rather than you as an adult woman going into the men's because the women's have all private stalls. A changing room at a gym or pool, no way. I have a girl, but when I was a child my dad would never have taken me through the male locker room past the age of 8.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

it's ok in Asia, what's the problem ????