12/10/2015 14:40 BST | Updated 12/10/2015 14:59 BST

Mum Shares Important Lesson After Hospital Worker Told 4-Year-Old Girl Punched By A Boy: 'I Bet He Likes You'

A mum has shared a powerful lesson about how children learn to accept lines used to excuse violence against women.

Merritt Smith, from Columbus, Ohio, took her four-year-old daughter Joni to Nationwide Children's Hospital as she needed stitches after being hit by a boy at school.

As Smith was checking her daughter in to the clinic, a man on the hospital's front desk offered Joni an explanation as to why the boy had hurt her.

He said: "I bet he likes you."

The comment troubled Smith and she later took to Facebook to share the reason for her unease.

"I bet he likes you."Dear man at the registration desk at Children's hospital, l'm positive that you didn't think that...

Posted by Merritt Smith on Tuesday, 6 October 2015

"Dear man at the registration desk at children's hospital, l'm positive that you didn't think that statement through," Smith wrote.

"As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior."

She continued: "My four-year-old knows: 'That's not how we show we like someone. That was not a good choice.'

"In that moment, hurt and in a new place, worried about perhaps getting a shot or stitches you were a person we needed to help us and your words of comfort conveyed a message that someone who likes you might hurt you.

"No. I will not allow that message to be ok.

"I will not allow it to be louder than: 'That's not how we show we like each other.'

"At that desk you are in a position of influence, whether you realise it or not.

"You thought you were making the moment lighter. It is time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children.

"Do not tell my four-year-old who needs stitches from a boy at school hitting her 'I bet he likes you'. NO."


The Answer To The Question 'Why Girls?' Is Personal, Political And Very Practical

Mum Shares Heart Wrenching Photo Of Son In Hospital Bed To Warn Of Dry Drowning Danger

Smith's post was initially set to private, so only her friends could see it, but she changed the post's privacy setting to make it public after someone she "respects" asked her to share the message.

The post has now been shared more than 33,000 times.

Smith later added that she values Nationwide Children's Hospital as a "tremendous asset and resource" to the local community and her intention was not to attack the hospital or get the staff member fired as "he genuinely meant no harm".

Smith has been in contact with the hospital following the incident and she says they "acknowledged they had never thought of that situation in that light" and they assured her that her comments were "food for thought".

She also asked people not to judge the four-year-old boy who injured her daughter.

"I want to make it clear here that I fully support this other child and his parents in their journey," she wrote. "I am confident that they will use all their resources.

"Please do not create an environment where parents who need support won't ask because they feel judged or shamed. We are all worthy of love and support."

Speaking about the response her Facebook post has received Smith said: "I am humbled and grateful that conversations, near and far, are being had.

"I know we can change the messages that guide our children as they learn to interact with one another, develop conflict resolution skills, choose empathy and stand strong in their sense of self."