“Stop being silly, forget about it.”
That’s what I was told after it happened, stop being silly, forget about it.
I was 8 when “it” happened, my mother worked three jobs to put food on the table, as a single mother life wasn’t easy, and she needed a baby sitter. My 16 year old cousin seemed the best choice, he was close, he was old enough, and he was family so could be trusted with the care of myself and my younger brother and sister. I would help my baby brother at the time to go to sleep, I would rock him gently to sleep and put him down and silently walk away to wait at the door and see if he would wake. The first time he touched me it was after I had done just that, standing in the door way waiting, my cousin groped my rear. I froze, I felt cold inside, how should I react? What should I do? I felt so confused, what had I done to get that response? Was I over reacting?
I ignored it, I pretended it didn’t happen and hoped it wouldn’t happen again, I told myself to relax that it was nothing even as I felt panic in my chest. The next time he touched me he sat next to me whilst I watched TV and touched my leg then higher and higher. “It” got worse with time, the touching, and trying to force me to respond. It never became rape, but still it terrified me, I felt cold and confused inside whenever I thought about it. Why was he doing this? Was it me? He never spoke to me about it, was always silent, I tried to tell him no, but the words just didn’t come out, won’t come out even now at 22 years old saying allowed what happened is almost impossible. How do you explain “it”? the way it makes you feel, the guilt, the self-hatred, did I do something? how do you explain that to an 8 year old girl? Even now a part of me stays in that cold hard feeling, that makes your scalp prickle and your skin crawl, slivers down your spine and makes your muscles feel like lead closing your throat off so you can barely breath let alone speak, and yet inside you’re screaming.
I don’t know how long it went on for, I don’t remember, I do remember crying every time my mum left the house because I was terrified it would happen again.
She says I was a clingy child, she never understood the panic I felt when she left me alone. I didn’t get the courage to tell her for a long time, I was scared of being told it was nothing or worse being blamed for “it”.
But then one day “it” wasn’t just happening to me he started to do the same to my little sister, she was only 5. He would sit her on his knee and I would see his hand in places I knew it shouldn’t be, and I felt guilty, I still do. I hate myself, if I had spoken up sooner, It would have spared her. Only then did I say something, tell my mother what he had been doing.
He left and I didn’t see him again for five years. But it is kept a secret, I was never allowed to talk about it, it wasn’t truly abuse they said, my grandma and mother, he didn’t force me to do anything, it was just a little thing they said. Nothing really, I should get over it.
“Stop being silly, forget about it.”
As I got older I learnt to push it away, and not talk about it try not to think about it. It’s not that bad I would think, it could have been worse, much worse things have happened to people. I would begin to believe that I was being silly that I should forget about it, but the memory of terror and guilt stayed, the panic would rise up whenever a man came near, that cold prickle would haunt me. The confusion and hurt at being told those feelings were not, valid? Correct? Right? I was not allowed to feel traumatised by what had happened. It made it worse, the nightmares, paranoia, and fear of men. My mother never understood it, and when my brothers were diagnosed as disabled and autistic I was sent to live with my grandmother, there I only mentioned it once. Tried to talk about it, and was told to shut up and stop being silly, I was making drama out of nothing.
It hurt that no one would talk about it, my little sister only spoke of what happened a few times but she only remembers a little, thankfully. But as we grew older an understanding brought us together, she was my only solace that I wasn’t making it up, it wasn’t in my head, it DID happen. Without her Im sure I would have been much more unstable. The fear, panic, terror whatever it is that’s left after that got worse until I got to college. Finally I saw a councillor about it, I never told my mother or grandmother, by then I was old enough that they couldn’t be told if I didn’t want them to. They just thought I finally stopped being silly.
In counselling I never talked about “it” outright but I cried, I cried more in those half hour sessions in a stuffy room with more emotional freedom than I had ever felt with my family.
I realised I wasn’t being silly, and I won’t and can’t forget about it.
Im allowed to feel traumatised, angry and hurt by what happened.
I can move forward, knowing that in time the cold part inside will get smaller, I will get used to carrying it around, and those feelings are a part of me but not all of me
I have found a man who loves me, who waited over a year for me to feel comfortable enough to explore sex with him, who cares for and looks after me and accepts my past for what it is, through him I have learnt to trust more.
Im not being silly, and I can’t forget. But I CAN move forward.