My cousin (we’ll call him Ben) sexually abused me throughout my childhood. I don’t think he knows what he did, or at least that it was wrong. He’s only two years older than me, and in retrospect I’m sure he was abused by someone else, but that doesn’t make it okay. I still don’t know if I can really blame him, but I know I can’t blame myself.
It started so young. I was 6. He made me kiss him because we were playing house. But then I had to get naked, somehow he knew that’s what married couples did. He made me do this multiple times, but eventually it stopped for a few years.
Later, I can’t remember how old I was but I couldn’t have been older than 9, we were playing video games in his room and he said, “Remember when we used to kiss when playing house?” I timidly said yes because I now knew that was wrong, but he continued on about how fun that was. He then showed me his penis. He said whoever lost the next round of the video game had to get naked, and I lost. My grandmother came home (my cousins lived with my grandparents) and told me to fold towels and that I was spending the night. Ben asked if I could sleep in his room that night instead of the girls’ room and he made me ask too, but my grandmother of course said no. This was the end of it for so long, and I almost forgot.
When I was 13, in the 8th grade, I went to the same school as my cousins, so my grandmother would pick us all up from school and I would wait at her house until 6pm for my mom to come get me. Unfortunately, my grandfather was sick and had lots of doctor appointments around this time and my other cousins were old enough to be with their friends all the time, so it was just me and Ben. I would go in the girls’ room to watch tv instead of the living room because I liked the beds, and soon Ben started coming in and watching with me, laying on the other bed. We would joke and laugh and he made me think it was safe.
Let me be clear that in between these sexual abuses, he would verbally abuse me. He hated me. This time I knew his kindness was just an act, so I started locking the door when I went into the bedroom, but I couldn’t just tell him to stay out because I had no real reason to be worried, and so after jiggling the door handle multiple times every day and acting like I was being weird, I started letting him in again, and I curse myself for this. He started saying, “Oh wow remember when we were kids and used to kiss? That was so crazy and weird!” I thought he meant it was bad, but I guess not, because he started asking me how girls liked to be kissed, touched, etc. I had only kissed a boy (boyfriend I should say) once so I didn’t really know, so he asked if he could practice on me because there was a girl who he liked. I told him it was wrong, I told him it was gross, I told him he shouldn’t think of me that way, and I told him I didn’t want to. I don’t know how, but he talked me into it.
Does that make it my fault? I feel like it does, and I feel like other people think it does, but I don’t know. I do know that I was scared of him all the time. He kissed me, he touched me, he grabbed me, he asked me if things felt good. Nothing felt good. He did this multiple times and each time I said nothing because he was so much bigger than me, I was so scared he would just beat me if I said no.
One day we were in the room, and I had been trying to be firm against his advances, but as I got up to get water he jumped on top of me and started tickling me. I thought, “This is it, my cousin is going to rape me and nobody can help me.” I heard his belt buckle. I started screaming that I couldn’t breathe, that I was having an asthma attack and that I needed my inhaler. I don’t know why but he stopped. That was the end of it, he hasn’t touched me since, but it was the worst.
I have nightmares, and I feel guilty that I am so traumatized even though I escaped, I feel like my experience doesn’t really make me a survivor, it just makes me a whiny baby. I won’t let my male family members touch me anymore, and I’ve heard my dad crying because he can’t kiss my forehead to check my temperature or hug me when I cry, and it makes me feel worse. I told some people, close friends and some people at church, but they didn’t understand that I couldn’t rip my family apart by telling my parents. My boyfriend at the time told me I was too sensitive when I cried about it instead of holding me. My best friend called me a lying bitch and stopped talking to me. I stopped going to church, I started self-harming, and I tried to hide myself. Two years after this, I told my mom, and later accidentally told my father. I thought my dad was going to kill him, but I told him that he can never talk to Ben about it. I have support now, but I still cry when I think about it. My current boyfriend holds me and tells me it’s not my fault. I don’t know if this story has a resolution, but I needed to share.
When I was very young, my mom and dad got divorced. I was about five when my stepfather came into my life, so I had always thought of him as being my father. He had always been emotionally abusive, but it had taken me a long time to realize that. He would become angry at me and my sisters very easily for silly reasons; I remember being scared to come back home after our scarce visits with my real dad. He claimed that he would get jealous of my dad; we were often manipulated into feeling sorry for my stepfather because he would constantly remind us of how much he was doing for us although he did not have to and we were accused of being unappreciative. Throughout most of my childhood, my mom developed a terminal illness that worsened over the course of a decade, which created tension in our small and isolated family. It might have been my mom’s sickness that caused him to distance himself from her, but it was not until I was about to start my senior year of high school that he revealed his attraction toward me.
I lost my virginity to a boy from my high school; when my stepfather found out he was furious. He completely ignored my existence for a few months; I would sit in my closet with the lights off and cry. Finally, he decided to talk to me. He sat me in his office and told me that the reason he had been so mad at me was because he was madly in love with me. He described to me how he wanted to sit me on his desk and take advantage of me and that when I went to college, no guy would ever love me; I would come crawling back into his arms and he would marry me. I was disgusted, but he asked me if that was weird and I said no. I didn’t know how to react and thought it would be best if I pretended nothing had happened. Later, he said that he made up the story to make me hate him and I believed him because he had a habit of playing mind games.
I used to sleep in my mom and stepdad’s bed all the time. I thought nothing of it because I did not think of it as being sexual in nature, although as I got older I felt I was too old to be sleeping between my parents. I kept sleeping there, however, because if I indicated that I was uncomfortable, my stepdad would get angry. I don’t know how long it had been going on for, but my stepdad would touch my side right next to my chest. It was close enough to my breasts that I felt very uncomfortable, but far enough that I couldn’t tell if he was actually touching me inappropriately. I used to have stomach pains often as well, and he would frequently offer to give me stomach massages, but his hands would go further down than I was comfortable with, the tips of his fingers touching the area at the top of my low cut underwear. Although it felt awkward, I kept telling myself that my stepfather could never do such a thing to me and that I was imagining it all because I had a perverted mind. This happened frequently; I remember when he pulled me close to him as I was in the bed beside him, I would put my arm in front of my chest so that it wouldn’t come in contact with him. He would tell me to move my arm and I refused saying I didn’t know where else to put it.
One night, as I lay in bed between my sleeping mom and stepdad, his hands moved from the side of my chest to the front and he started fondling my breasts. He may have thought I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I was trying to convince myself that this wasn’t really happening; I was having a bad dream. He moved his hands down and below my panties and started to finger me vigorously. I tried to build up the courage to turn around and tell him to stop, but I couldn’t. I was terrified and felt guilty because it felt good. After he was finished, he got up and left. I waited for him to leave before I went to the bathroom and cried. I didn’t talk to him for awhile and he realized I was upset. He asked me what was wrong and I told him that he should know. At first he said he was sorry and told me not to tell my sisters, but then told me that I wasn’t so innocent myself either as if I wanted it.
I can’t remember whether this happened before or after the molestation, but once I was taking a shower in a hotel room. I reached for the shampoo and thought I saw something weird on the floor. I turned around again to look. It was a phone; after I looked to see what it was, it was quickly removed from under the door. He had been watching me shower. After I finished, he was no longer in the hotel room. His phone was on the bed, so I searched it to see if I had been recorded, but I didn’t find anything.
These incidents were isolated and didn’t happen again, although he did continue to admit his love for me. I never got a chance to tell my mom because she died before I went to college. My stepfather has helped me to pay for my college, so I can’t tell my other family members without them confronting him. I only contact him via email when I need something, but have separated myself in all other respects as much as possible. My other family members know my stepfather is somewhat emotionally abusive, but they think that I should be the bigger person and develop a better relationship with him. They probably think I am ungrateful because he has helped me financially and I refuse to talk to him. I wish that I could tell them so that they could understand.
You stole from me.
You full of hate and anger looked at me and saw something you can never have.
So you stole from me.
You stole from me.
YOU TOOK MY INNOCENCE!
How can I ever get that back?
For years I walked around with a chip on my heart.
Darkness surrounded me.
I can never let anyone close.
You stole from me.
There’s a part of me that will always be silent when I meet someone new.
You stole that part from me!
I can never look at another person the same again.
No matter how much I want to – there will always be that thought. That nagging evil thought:
“But what if they hurt me too?”
You stole my innocence.
You stole from me.
How can I get over that?
Finally I’ve realized you don’t.
You get through it.
And by God’s grace I am working through.
Yes, it’s been 15 long years, but I swear you ain’t gonna win.
I will be a ninja and fight, cause there is NO way you will win.
Jessica Tweets as @imperfectmomma.
I was raped when I was 22. It was fast and stunning. I knew the guy, a friend of a friend of a friend, and it happened in a car after a concert. He just kept repeating the same thing “you know you want this.” I did not. I did not. I fought and pulled away, but then something sort of broke inside of me and I froze. I think I froze. I still can’t explain to myself why I didn’t get out of that car. I used to say if it happened again I would kill him in order to get away. I would do it all differently.
No hospital, no police, no counseling. I mostly tried to pretend it didn’t happen. It felt like it happened in a movie to someone else, or I told myself to think that way. It’s just this horrid thing in the back of my mind, this place where I don’t understand the world, men, myself.
Over 15 years later, it’s still there. You would think it wouldn’t be. For all those years this thing haunts me but not in a big way. I used to tried to tell boyfriends about it. When that question “who have you been with comes up.” Or when I’d be not in the mood for sex. (I can get overwhelmed when faces are too close to mine.) But I always regretted telling them. It made it present in our lives too much. In our faces. They always said “why didn’t you just run?” And then they saw me differently.
So I stopped telling people. I’ve since had friends tell me stories of rape or talk about it in general and I give them sympathy or say I can’t imagine. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, the one, the one who is now my husband of almost 8 years. He doesn’t know and never will. I almost told him when I was pregnant, because childbirth and breastfeeding put me in this weird space about it all again. That overwhelming feeling from breath in my face was there and I hated it.
I feel horrible that I hated it, but I did. It was a depressing time, I feel like it was a lost time and I was not at my best. I can’t even imagine having another baby, and I think this is the reason.
I wish I didn’t have so many regrets but I don’t regret keeping my secret. It feels good to say these things, but I don’t like being defined by them. My only question is whether some day I will tell my daughter. The thought of her not being safe makes me sick. I want her to know how to fight back. I want her to never have to worry about any of this.