Like a lot of people, I have been reading endless articles about that one family with 300 kids who have recently been further thrust into the proverbial spotlight for sexual abuse and their desire to look the other way. Reading the articles is tragic, but even more tragic are the endless comments from people walking this planet who sincerely believe that this situation is being blown out of proportion. Yes, there are those people. One comment from a woman around my age on a FB thread was “This is goofing. I’m sure the 14-year-old kid who groped me when I was a child didn’t end up being a sexual predator as an adult.” I immediately threw my laptop, screamed ‘Fuck you’ at the top of my lungs, and completely gave up on humanity. A lot of things can be considered goofing, like kids lighting fireworks or door bell ditching their neighbors, but sexual assault is not goofing. And if there are still people who think it is, we as a culture are in a fuck load of trouble.
When I was a child, around the age of 9 or 10, I was touched inappropriately by my friend’s brother during a sleepover. These were family friends, people my parents knew, who lived in our neighborhood. My friend’s brother was high school age, I was in elementary school. I woke up to find him lying next to me with his hand under my pajama top. He was touching my breasts and then began moving down toward my underwear. He murmured something about the situation being okay and how I shouldn’t be afraid. But I was afraid and I knew it wasn’t okay. I rolled over, scooted myself away from him, jumped off the trampoline, and ran home. There was no goofing involved. He knew exactly what he was doing and I was far too young to be a willing participant to a late night fondling session. In case there is any misconception here, there is a difference between sexual exploration and sexual assault. As a teenager, I did make out with boys my age and I willingly allowed them to touch me under my shirt. I wanted them to, it felt just fine to me. We were the same age, we were both experiencing a normal part of human sexuality. And I wasn’t scared. That’s key. I knew it was okay because I had given them something that I was neither capable of giving nor wanted to give as a child, permission. My friend’s brother had no fucking permission to touch me in any way, shape, or form. He knew better and he did it anyway.
When this kind of bullshit happens to a child, it fucks you up forever. Hear me now…IT FUCKS YOU UP FOREVER. I don’t care how put together you look as an adult, how nice your spouse is, or how wonderful you seem as a human being…you feel broken. I am broken. I have so much shame. I’ve always had so much shame. I don’t even know what a life without shame would look like. My body has always felt wrong, ugly, strange, not quite right. Apologies don’t change that. Counseling doesn’t change that. When you have the experience of being sexually assaulted at a young age, before you know what sexual assault is, it shatters something deep inside you. The part of you that loved your funky toes, your long, skinny legs, your button nose…that is gone. You are left feeling that there must be something very wrong with this body you are occupying, otherwise this nasty thing would have never happened to you.
The woman who called the sexual assault between a teenager and a child ‘goofing’ needs to have her face slapped by every human who has ever been broken by this kind of sickness. Did the guy who touched me that night on the trampoline turn into a pedophile? I don’t fucking know. I would rather drink ammonia and light my hair on fire then ever see his face or know his whereabouts. And it doesn’t matter. It was still wrong, it should have never happened. If he has never received real counseling for his perversion, he very well may have hurt someone else. The thing is…as long as there are women, men, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, humans on this planet who think this kind of behavior is something we as a culture should write off as “normal behavior”, it won’t end. We will continue to raise children who feel shame, predators who feel entitled, and a society that sits idly by while sexual assault is called goofing.
If you have a child who has been affected by sexual abuse, this is a great article about how to help them.