It's strange how sexual abuse can grab control of a child's mind. Around six years old I recall sitting on the edge of the bathtub while my mom was putting her makeup on. I wanted her to know how I was feeling. This deep agony within my soul which became part of my daily life. From the time I woke up in the morning until the time I fell asleep my mind was constantly trying to understand sex; who it was meant for, when was it appropriate, what jokes I was allowed to acknowledge, or what shows on TV were really about. Children catch on to much more than we give them credit for especially when they are going through abuse secretively. The thought of getting into trouble for knowing too much about a sensitive subject was my number one fear. So the first time I spoke out against the abuse, I told someone that I deeply trusted.
My father's family was huge. He has three brothers and three sisters which made for quite the family function when we were all together. It was not uncommon for the kids to go off and find something to entertain themselves. If two or three of them where missing from the room, the adults assumed they were together and just playing some child appropriate game. That wasn't always the case in my family. One of my uncles which was closer to the kids ages than his brothers and sisters, was looked at like just another cousin most of time. He became a great mentor to many of my cousins and myself included, and still is to this day.
One day when I was six or seven years old I told him that I had a secret to share. In so many words I explained to him that I thought something inappropriate was happening. Although he was older, I didn't understand the stress he was placed under to keep things like this a secret. I was never angry with him for not standing up for me, but I did wonder why he allowed this to continue knowing that I was not okay. Deep down it made me feel like the sexual abuse I was experiencing was normal. And in my own ways I began to test the waters with my friends and other children I had encountered.
While at the babysitter's house at age seven, I began to touch a little boy who was maybe a few years younger than myself. After he smacked me, I realized I had done something bad. I wasn't sure why it was bad or why he didn't enjoy what I was doing. I thought we were just playing like I had done so many times with my cousin. It wasn't long after that when I tried to speak out again; this time to my cousin's oldest sister.
I remember being outside looking up at the stars while we took dried laundry off of the clothes line. Her hair was so long, full, jet black, and beautiful. I always thought she was pretty. While admiring her, a gut wrenching feeling made me spit out the words I was so desperately wanting to get off of my chest. As soon as I said them though, I immediately regretted it. The look on her face was a mix of shock, fear, and maybe sadness. I still believe to this day that she had the best intentions in mind when she told me that everything happens for a reason and quickly moved on from the topic.
The last attempt at speaking out was during my eighth birthday party, when I told my cousin's youngest sister. She, like her older sister, was shocked. This didn't stop her though. She went straight to our parents and told them what had been happening. For this reason she will forever be my savior. I learned years later that my cousins, all three of them, had been severely abused by their father, which made me understand so many things looking back at the situations I had put them in. I will never hold a grudge towards them for not speaking out for me; especially when they were struggling with doing it for themselves. How my savior was able to muster up the courage I will never know, but I will forever be grateful.
My heart was beating fast and I could feel each beat creeping higher and higher until one finally crept out of my mouth in the form of, "Is that him Daddy?!" My father stood tall, was built like a titan (in my eyes), and the look on his face projected pure splendor. He, like my grandfather, was and still is a very skilled carpenter and no doubt he saw his legacy brought to life at that moment. At this time dad still worked for grandpa, but you could tell by looking at him that he was meant to lead, to be an owner, not an employee. Everything about him was controlled, thought out, and often unknowingly manipulative. Of course at the age of four, I wasn't as aware of these things as I am now. "That's him baby girl, go ahead," my dad said proudly.
My newborn brother laid in the arms of my mom. She smiled at me and told me to come closer so I could see him. Unlike my father, I always felt at ease with her. Talking to her always came easy, but I sometimes wondered what I was allowed to share with her. She seemed tired, but had the glowing in her eyes that new mothers often do. She had previously explained how being a big sister would be a great responsibility and how much fun we would eventually have together. Unlike my father, she made me feel like I was a part of this little boy coming into the world. So when the moment came and I could finally get to see this baby, I ran to the edge of the bed then jumped onto it with excitement.
He was so small, had red hair just like my father and I, and I could see nothing but innocence when he opened his eyes and looked back at me. As his big sister I felt the need to tell my parents he didn't look like a Joshua, but a John instead. My father slightly laughed and I remember a brief conversation he and mom had. Dad mentioned how grandpa's middle name was John, and so, my parents named him Johnathon Lee.
The rest of that day is lost along with all other memories of before that time. This is one of my favorite memories for many good reasons. The feeling of love within my family was intense that day, for the first time I would be important to someone younger than myself, and my parents were still in love. However, I suppose the most important reason for the sake of this blog, is because my first memory could have easily been something horrific. While this is the first memory within my mind, things I couldn't comprehend had already happened to me.
When I was approximately two years old my parents walked in on my cousin touching me inappropriately. There is no recollection of this in my mind, but I can imagine exactly what was happening because this wasn't the last time. For several years my cousin explored my body and made me explore his. I constantly tried hard to remember when it happened the first time. It wasn't until I was in my late teens when I found out my parents had actually caught him in the act when I was two.
The first memory of my cousin is always hard for me to pin an age on, but I believe I was between four and six years old. The floor was carpeted and the closet reeked of moth balls. The air gave my bare shoulders goose bumps and the heat from his hand only intensified this effect. My eyes were sealed shut out of fear we would be caught. Like a small child I felt like if I couldn't see anything then I couldn't be seen, and I didn't want to be seen.
My knees started to shake and the carpet dug into them like gravel embedded into tires. I could hear his sisters outside arguing over something. Then suddenly I felt the warm and salty release, and almost like habit, I walked into the restroom and spat into the sink and rinsed my mouth out. A towel was hung on the wall and before walking out I grabbed it, dried my hands and face, and threw the towel onto the floor. I ran into the backyard and started playing with my cousins as if nothing had happened.
It's funny how looking back gives you perspective. I used to fear the cousin who did this to me, not because he hurt me but because of the general guilt I felt when he was near. He would tell me not to tell anyone or we would get into trouble, but the thought was always on my mind. Never did I think of him as a predator or as evil. I would look at him and wonder why me, why he loved me this way, and why no one else did. I began to seek this type of affection from others and often felt hurt when no one else wanted to do the same things. As I started to victimize people I began to understand how I must manipulate in order to feel like I wasn't doing anything wrong, when in fact I only wanted someone to speak out against. Then I started to understand it was all wrong. And so for the first time at the age of seven I tried to speak out against my cousin.
My Attempts to Speak Out