I was sexually abused by an adult male as a child. My abuse started with smaller physical touches, while he incorporated fear into his actions to help keep me quiet. He told me my family would dispose of me like the weekly trash if they found out. I would be damaged, dirty goods and they would be ashamed of me. Of course I kept my mouth shut, because who wants to be sent away?
As a child, I was, and I still am, a people pleaser. I did not ever want someone to be mad at me, or feel like I did something wrong. So, I just did what was asked of me because that meant I was being a good little girl. If I was being good, no one would be mad, and if no one was mad, I felt like I wasn’t going to get into trouble.
Those smaller physical touches turned into requests, more like demands I guess, for me to touch him. With my hands, with my mouth…. I always closed my eyes and my mind sort of hallucinated alternate realities that took me to any place but the present. They never made sense, these alternate worlds. Cotton candy clouds, Unicorns with knights and pizza swords. Colours swirling all around me. Random unrelated objects popping into my mind.
I still feel his hands on my body all these years later. Steering me, forcing me, tricking me. I think that is why I am so afraid of people touching me now – whether it is a hug, a tap on the shoulder, someone grabbing my arm lightly as they pass – it takes me instantly back to dark bedrooms and basements, naked and 6 years old. I am ashamed of when I cringe at a safe person’s touch. They don’t mean to trigger me, but they do. He robbed me of the comfort of physical human connection. I hate him for that.
The worst of it all, aside from the brainwashing, threats, and fear-based manipulation, are the rapes. I cry as I type this, because I have never spoken much of it out loud before. Not even to my therapist. I won’t go into details; because I am not sure my heart will let me. But I will say this. To be a child, A CHILD, and have a grown man…. I can’t even type it. The emotions, the absolute terror, the physical pain, the pressure and weight of his body on mine…. I will NEVER forget it.
I thought about leaving you with a happy ending, an image of hope (I do live a happy life full of love, just so you are aware). Instead, I have decided to leave you with an image that may help people realize this happens way too often. If you can picture me, then maybe you might do something about it. Maybe you will make a promise to educate yourself, talk to your kids, your family, your workplace. The children need you. They need us. If you are a survivor, maybe you will feel okay to share your story, too. Because we don’t have to live in silence.
Imagine, if you will, that he has left the bedroom. A man, dark hair, not too tall. But to me, he is a giant. A giant physical being of darkness that haunts me. He leaves angry, of course. Ashamed of what he has done. Again. I am left to sit there, confused. I want to cry. I don’t know exactly what I would be crying over, though. Because I do not yet know what he has been doing to me. It doesn’t have a name. It is everything and nothing all at once. As the hallway light shines in from the door, cracked open slightly, I take a deep breath. I tell myself I hate this. Whatever “this” is.
I pick up my clothes. Most likely a boyish pair of pants and a baggy t-shirt (my sad attempt to be less appealing to him – sadly, it never worked). I put on my shirt and cover the sweat, not mine, and the redness from my stress that still lingers on my skin. I pick up my underwear labeled “Tuesday” but it isn’t even Tuesday. Who cares what day it is. Who cares about the days at all? I put them on, and then my pants.
I stand on my two wobbling legs and try to stop the knocking in my knees and heart. I take another deep breath. I walk towards the door and grip the doorknob. Too tightly. In an attempt to bring me back to the present. I must now act in a play I didn’t rehearse for. For a part I didn’t want. I pull open the door, step into the hall in my unmatched socks. I am sure there are holes in them. I am not sure how, though, because I have nowhere to run. I smile. Not genuine, of course. I play the part of a little girl who is okay. But I am not.
I descend the stairs and sit opposite him in his living room as he ignores me. His wife comes home and joins us. I am reminded of how desperately I want to cry out to her. But I don’t have the words. I just have the fear.