Sexual Assault is Never "No Big Deal"
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Please read my story of survival and share.
Do you remember your first kiss? Your heart racing, palms sweaty, wondering who was going to make the first move. Wetting your lips, testing the freshness of your breath. Then, that electric moment when it happens and stars flash across the sky.
At least, that’s what I imagine it must be like. My first kiss came when I was four.
We got out of the car at my grandfather’s house and my uncle grabbed my hand and led me toward the barn. They had a pony I liked to ride. But that day, we weren’t riding the pony. My uncle, who was probably about 18 at the time, told me he was going to teach me how to French Kiss.
I remember that he laid down on top of me on the dirty floor of the barn, hay strewn about. It was cold and I had my heavy coat on. I remember that he laid down on top of me, but I don’t remember anything else besides the sunlight streaming through the slats in the walls.
And I didn’t remember the incident even happening until I visited his house one day, many years later. I worked for Medicaid developing mental health services for children and teens, and I had paperwork to take out to his house for his son to receive services. Driving back the dirt road, dust flying up around my car, that day in the barn suddenly appeared before my eyes, snuck in like a thief. I completed my mission of getting the paperwork signed, but once remembered, I couldn’t forget again.
The memory didn’t come back crystal clear. I had to think about it like it was a dream, decipher what had happened. My parents had never said anything to me about it, so I started feeling this vulnerability and resentment about that. I was confused because my parents would not have ignored something like that, but I had no memory of any repercussions.
I began researching child sexual abuse and realized that many of my faulty coping mechanisms I had adopted as a teenager and young adult could be directly tied back to this incident. As a life coach, in my research about childhood trauma’s effect on our physical health as adults, I could see how both the incident and my parents’ perceived silence about it had helped to many conditions I have now as an adult including depression and an autoimmune disease. And I learned that the first step to healing was to start talking about it.
So, I asked my mother who was so brave in letting ask questions. I discovered that until I first mentioned it about six years ago, neither she nor my father had known what had happened, and even then, I didn’t spell it out. I just asked her why they hadn’t done anything when “Dale had taken me out to the barn”. When I talked to her again a few years later, that was when she learned what he did. She told me that they knew something had happened because I acted a bit odd and upset, but I didn’t say and they hadn’t pressed. They had stopped taking me to my grandfather’s house and definitely never left me alone with my uncle ever again. They had done the best they could.
As I’ve started to share my story, I feel like I have to apologize for the abuse not being more graphic or violent or…something. That’s the shame of the victim. “It isn’t any big deal,” I would say to myself. But it is a big deal. I was four. My first kiss was from abuse, not romance, and it damaged a part of me that I’m still struggling to heal.
Sexual abuse is never ok, in any form. Not to a child, not to an adult, not to a female or a male, friend, lover, or stranger. Until our culture stops sexualizing children, blaiming victims, objectifying women, and advancing the rape culture so prevalent in media and social interactions, it won’t stop. We must speak up and say something. We must stop being silent about abuse that happens to us so that others know they are not alone and that it is happening. We must provide a safe place for victims to share and heal. We simply MUST.
April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Any unwanted advances of a sexual nature toward another human being are sexual violence. There is no non-violent means of violating a person’s body.
For all my fellow sufferers, peace be with you. You are not alone.