The first time I was sexually violated was when I was around 6 years old.
Growing up my parents made SURE I knew where people SHOULD NOT touch me and what was inappropriate. I always thought this type of conversation went on in EVERY household and that I was instantly immune from the negative emotions and repercussions that came along with “being touched down there”. BOY OH BOY was I wrong.
Hearing and reading the various reactions to the Bill Cosby verdict this week have me reflecting on my experience with sexual abuse and misconduct. While I was never violated by a family member or neighbor, my first sexually inappropriate encounter was at the hands of my 7-year-old classmate. I remember how confused, scared, helpless I felt as he and his friends circled mine that day on the playground. I remember being shoved down to the ground as he got on top of me. I remember squirming as he simulated sex all while trying his best to put his hands down my panties. Thankfully I was able to get away before he could succeed. I remember running back to school, dirty from being held down in the gravel and being scolded by my teacher for getting back to class late.
When you are sexually violated (whether you experience some actual sex or not) it messes with you. You ask yourself a million questions and try to make sense of what happened — even as a child. Did you say something to make them mad? Did you do something wrong? Did you in any way make yourself open to this act and make the violator think it was okay?!
You don’t automatically process “oh I should tell someone”. You try to figure things out in your mind and decide how you are going to move forward.
This is what makes me annoyed and upset with people who have made negative remarks about the accusers of Bill Cosby and even Brett Kavanaugh. TRUTH: some women and men who cry rape cry falsely. TRUTH: most of them are telling the truth.
I remember going home that night and having a debate with myself — to tell someone or not to tell? I felt nasty and too embarrassed to tell my parents outright, so I was happy when my babysitter Sabrina Thompson asked me that night how my day was as she was helping me get ready for bed. My nerves were on 10,000 when I finally hinted that something was wrong. If you know Sabrina, you know she doesn’t take mess and is unapologetically bold. I’m so thankful for her persistence that night because I told her what happened and how “a boy jumped on top of me.” I still remember her face — now that I’m an adult I know why it was fixed the way it was — she was ready to jump into action; but she probably recognized that I was honestly afraid and was able to reel herself back in and calmly explain why what happened to me was wrong….. why she needs to tell my parents. At the time she was in 9th or 10th grade by the way.
CAN YOU SAY MATURE!!?!?
Even though she convinced me she wouldn’t tell my parents, she eventually did and I’m so glad. Later that week they sat me down and talked with me about what happened and answered questions I had. Because they knew the truth, they were able to truly put me at ease and I was able to continue my childhood with few lingering effects.
Like the Bill Cosby victims, all victims of sexual trauma aren’t blessed enough to have a ‘Sabrina’ to step in when fear has stifled our own courage. Even though I was unfortunately sexually assaulted again later in life, I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that I would be one messed up chick if I hadn’t had Sabrina’s help the first time in speaking out. If she would have not told my parents and allowed me to stay silent, I would have stayed in the bad headspace I was in and probably try to deal with the trauma myself. A child’s mind isn’t set up for that. No one is really.
While I can honestly admit, that first assault still has had some negative effects on my life, my life is richer and healthier than it could have been all because I was able to tell the truth and have a compassionate ear to listen.
Like you, I plan to keep an eye on what happens with each of these #MeToo and assault cases and take note of comments like Donald Trump’s . I know that the world has a long way to go and things are not going to get better overnight. It’s up to us to really HEAR one another and support one another instead of immediately resorting to jokes and harsh criticisms — you never know what victim you may be pushing into hiding.