WARNING- explicit themes covered in this post – WARNING
There are certain moments in life that leave an impression on you. More often than not, in my life those particular memorable moments have involved other people. They are sometimes important people, other times they have been complete strangers who have had quite an effect on me. People should have warning labels on their foreheads.
There was a time when I used to be completely innocent. I still had all of my youth and my light and my laughter. There were a few tears of course but nothing extremely serious or ground shaking until I was seven years old. Before that, I was simply a child. A weird, bossy, know-it-all, but still a child.
My mother used to sing lullabies or read stories to me when I was little, then she’d stay with me until I fell asleep or counted sheep. The song I remember most clearly is Away in a Manger and it made me feel so safe and loved. I also recall the first time I understood what it means when someone dies. I was four years old. I cried in my bed all night because my grandma was older than anyone else I loved, so I was frightened of the possibility that she might leave me. I can’t remember if I fell asleep after that or if I crawled into bed with my parents. Either one is plausible.
My parents were a part of my safe place. In my house and in my room and under my covers. It was my sanctuary and the imaginary monsters couldn’t get me as long as I was there. Well…It was supposed to be safe… Home is a place to read and play and sleep and dream. Not a place to feel threatened and scared and confused…
When you learn what a word means, it’s easier to remember it if you have something to associate with it. Learning is supposed to be a positive experience. Until your word association game suddenly takes a turn, and not a very pleasant one.
When you learn and understand what the words ‘molestation’ or ‘paedophile’ means… before you know what the words ‘sex’ or ‘love’ really mean… then there’s something wrong with the world.
When I was seven years old (approximately), I broke my arm. When I was seven years old, I was also molested by a stranger in my house. The monster became real. The boy/teenager/culprit/criminal (I can’t exactly remember how old he was) was somehow part of my extended family by marriage. Not related to me at ALL, thankfully. I don’t consider that part of the tree family anymore either.
I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t understand anything. I just had alarm bells going off in my head, all of them telling me this was somehow incredibly WRONG. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to happen. Except I didn’t know that for sure… He was kinda part of the family now, right? And older kids and adults usually know best, right? Wrong. On so many levels.
For years afterwards, I didn’t fully comprehend what had happened. It was only one occasion… but that’s all it takes to never forget. The purple flowers on my dress, the movie that was playing in the background, the colour of the door. It’s all etched in my mind forever, along with a few more details that I’d rather not remember ever again. Except I did remember them. I still do. Over and over and over again until I hated every inch of my body. I felt so guilty…so used…so dirty. I had been used without my consent. I was not able to understand what consent is, never mind make use of my ability to exert it. It was my fault then, wasn’t it? I didn’t run away or shout at him to stop. He said ‘shhhh it’s okay’. I pushed his hands away from me, because it wasn’t okay.
I told my parents what happened. Or I tried to. I didn’t have the proper vocabulary yet, you see. I didn’t have Google or a dictionary to try find the words. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have known what to type. I hadn’t even had the birds and the bees talk before. I don’t know what happened after I told my parents. I didn’t want to know what happened to him. Last I heard, he’s a drug addict and an overall failure and disappointment. I don’t know if he even felt bad or regretted what he had done, I didn’t even know if he was reprimanded or punished. I didn’t really want to discuss the occurrences ever again after that.
It took me a while to understand and come to terms with everything. I decided to write about this after a lot of deliberation. A few weeks ago, I read the letter that the girl who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner wrote to him. I could relate to quite a few of the things she talked about in her letter. I remember thinking that it was very brave that she said all of those things and put her side of the story and her state of mind into the public eye to be scrutinised. That is because it is not a very common thing for victims to speak out like that.
Over the past ten years or so, I have had conversations with numerous people (teenagers at the time), who have been through something similar. These people have been male and female, although publically you hear more about girls being raped, but we forget that boys are just as vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
They told me about family members or friends doing inappropriate things to them, a few have even been raped. We all have one thing in common though. We never reported any of these events to the police. The fact that the perpetrators are often someone who is close to us or our family makes it very difficult to do so. We don’t really want to ruin their lives. Some of us even care about our abusers.
Now, I don’t really have much advice in regards to gaining retribution for the abuse and assault. However, there are a few other things I would like to give advice about.
For anyone that has previously been abused or sexually assaulted:
Firstly, it is never your fault. We often feel that it is somehow our fault when someone does something terrible to us. This is enhanced by the victim-blaming mentality that our society has adopted. This is something that needs to stop. It wasn’t my fault when I was seven years old, and it also would not be my fault now at the age of twenty, regardless of length of my skirt or the cut of my shirt.
IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT!
Secondly, tell someone. You need to deal with the trauma you have been through, and from personal experience talking helps to come to terms with everything and to work through it. It helps when you don’t feel so alone anymore. On occasion, you can be the support for somebody else who is struggling with something similar. For some, a therapist is the best person to talk to because they are experts and are more knowledgeable in dealing with trauma and even PTSD or other lingering effects that may occur.
The most important bit of advice I have is for Parents.
I really think it is very important to teach your children from a young age to not let people touch them in their ‘bathing suit’ or ‘private’ areas, or any other place that makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell them to say ‘Stop’ and call for help immediately. However you would like to teach this to them, I think it is important for them to know this along with ‘Don’t talk to strangers’, because more frequently than anyone would like to admit, the person who wants to hurt them is NOT a stranger.