This post discusses themes of child sexual abuse and may be graphic for some readers.
For the past four months I have been writing a memoir about my experience growing up in a dysfunctional household and how it has affected me through each stage of my life. Though I have been trying to take a subjective stance with my writing by not allowing my emotions to dictate the text, I have found that my writing has been not only cathartic but it has helped me pinpoint certain events that still negatively impact me to this day.
While I have relatively “gotten over” (does one ever really “get over” traumatic experiences or do they simply learn to live with it?) most of my childhood traumas, I found myself catching my breath when writing about specific events — such as child sexual abuse.
I have a hard time calling what I experienced “sexual abuse” or even to call the person who did this to me my “abuser” because we were both five years old. However, this wasn’t they typical “Playing Doctor” or body exploration as you might expect from children. This little boy had clearly violated me.
I want to stress that I do not harbor any ill-will toward this boy and I am not angry with him; I am actually sad for him. However, I do believe sharing my experience will help open up the conversation about sex abuse between children.
I had just recently began Kindergarten and I was starting to really enjoy school. One day our class was doing an activity where our tables were placed in a U-Shape facing the chalkboard. A little boy of whom I was familiar, but not friends with, sat on the right side of me. While we were all enjoying the activity, this little boy reach over and began rubbing me between my legs. Being a child who was naturally mild-mannered and shy I couldn’t speak up. I was frozen with fear because I knew what he was doing was wrong but I was too scared to ask for help.
After about a week of not wanting to go to school my mom eventually sat me down to ask why I suddenly not wanting to attend school. I confessed to her what had happened and she quickly apologized to me. Being a mother now I could only imagine how she felt when I told her. She went to the school to discuss what had happened to me to which the school administrators told her “We have had this problem with this family before. We have contacted CPS multiple times and that is all that we can do.”
I couldn’t tell you if there was any more action on the part of the school, but if there was CPS did absolutely nothing because I still had to be in class with this boy and for the subsequent school years thereafter. He would verbally torment me for a while by remarking that he could watch me in the girl’s restroom from the boy’s restroom or he would say that he knew what color underwear I was wearing. He never touched me again though.
While writing about this experience in my book, I could feel my breath quicken and a lump form in my throat. This had happened to me well over twenty years ago, but while I was writing, I was that five year old little girl again. I didn’t realized how impactful this moment was on me, but then thinking back I started to see the pieces fall into place.
I was six years old when I was diagnosed with Acid Reflux after my mom took me to the doctor for repeated stomach aches. I knew my dysfunctional home life was probably the reason for my anxiety but I think what I had experience in Kindergarten was what solidified my future with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and social anxiety. I had also began to hate school and would have panic attacks most mornings after the incident which followed me well into my high school career. It had gotten so bad that I would fantasize killing myself in the mornings so I wouldn’t have to attend school.
I now know that that little boy had traumatized me far more than what my mom thought. After I had “confessed” (I call it a confession because at the time it felt like I had something to be ashamed of) to my mother no one had ever spoke of the incident again.
We parents often believe our children as virtually indestructible. After traumatic incidences we say things like “they’ll bounce back” and “kids are resilient” which is true in most cases. But it is important that we can discern the moments in which our children are unable to “bounce back”. It’s not my mom’s fault for never seeking out help or even sitting down to talk to me about it. As a mom myself, I can see why my mom probably thought that if she didn’t mention it I would just forget it. She was doing what she thought was best. In fact, I did forget the incident until many years later. However, I was still displaying behaviors that contradicted my temporary amnesia. Though I had consciously forgotten for many years, I remembered sub-consciously.
Now that I am an adult I have to wonder what had happened to that little boy for him to even think about rubbing a girl’s private parts at only five years old. It saddens me when I think about what his home life must have been like. I do forgive him, though I don’t necessarily blame him. I blame his parents/guardians. If the school was telling the truth (which I am apt to believe they were) and they had this problem reported to them on multiple occasions then the parents/guardians were aware of the issues. What were they doing at home? What were they overlooking? Why didn’t they get him help? They were responsible for this little boy and due to their failures –or worse– their child was traumatizing other innocent children.
Because of my experience I realized how important it is to have an open dialogue with your children when it pertains to “good touch/bad touch.” The majority of parents have warned their children about adults touching them inappropriately, but we fail to also warn them about other children touching them inappropriately without consent. It’s not our fault. No one likes to think that children are also capable of the unspeakable (watch Netflix’s “Killer Kids”).
We must teach our kids that no one should be touching them without their permission. We must also take care in making sure we provide a safe space for our children so should such an incident occur. Be mindful and alert with picking up the Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse. If your child is exhibiting behaviors of being abused — or of being an abuser — it is our duty to reach out and get them help. While an isolated incident might not affect your child, there is still the possibility that it could. It’s better to seek temporary help than your child suffering long term. Even if you think that it might be a “waste of time” to take your child to a therapist, I assure you, it is not. When s/he is cleared by a licensed therapist then you and your child can have closure.
Let’s help end child abuse together through education, compassion, and love.
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