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As a society, it's absolutely critical that we help children, tweens and teens learn how to talk about these issues. Parents, guardians and teachers can help pre-teens understand how to ask for help if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable. iParenting offers an informative article about helping pre-teens exercise control over their own boundaries. Tween Parent offers another helpful guide for talking with pre-teens about sex and sexuality.
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Please exercise the same safe, supportive, non-judgmental restraint in the comment section of the Q&A as you do for survivors, as many of them are reading.
Our volunteer expert, Carrie K., is a trained advocate who has worked with survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, as well as their families and friends. Her background includes hotline advocacy, community education, and awareness and prevention programming around issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Most recently, she has worked for a domestic violence intervention and prevention program in Wisconsin. She blogs at rageisgood.blogspot.com
If you have something you have always wanted to know about domestic violence and/or sexual assault, please email your question to carrie [at] violenceunsilenced [dot] com. .
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Whether you were "old enough to say no" or not is immaterial. And in every state that I know about, even if you had said "yes" the answer to your question would be the same: yes, it most surely was rape in any meaningful sense of the word -- including the legal one. And in many states, given that you were (I assume) under the age of 13 it may still be possible to prosecute the case depending on when the abuse took place. In North Carolina, for example, there is no statute of limitation on sex crimes committed against children. But other state laws may vary. And in very old cases, there may be a de facto statute of limitation if the crime took place before legislation was passed to remove the statute. But whether it can be prosecuted or not, it's important to note that what this person did to you was in fact a crime.
He was the adult in this situation. You were only a little girl. Probably taught to obey your elders, probably taught that adults know better. And probably anxious to please the adults in your life. Abusers count on this, they depend on their victims being compliant, on following instructions from adults.
You were just a child, no matter your "tween" status. And as such, you are considered unable to give consent by any accepted standard -- legal or moral. There is nobody who can hold you accountable for any part of what happened to you. Nobody.
So lay your question to rest, and never second guess yourself about it again. I hope you leave this place knowing two things: yes, it absolutely was rape, and no matter what he may have told you or what you may have heard or thought since, you are not to blame.
And thank you for your question. It's one that I'm certain has plagued many victims in your situation. Hopefully some of them will read this and find their own answers, their own peace. As I hope you have.
This sort of thing strikes me as *exactly* why we have age of consent laws. Perhaps they're thorny for a consensual couple of 18 and 17 years of age, but at the age of 8 you can't possibly consent. Even if you had said "yes" rather than just not saying "no." The power and the knowledge are so skewed, and don't think for a moment that this man didn't know what he was doing.
Thank you for sharing, and I wish you all the best as you move forward in all your life's endeavors.
Thank you for sharing, and for such a great response, I agree, Amy!
Yes, it was still rape. Even if you went along with it.
My abuse started when I was in high school, and led up to intercourse between high school and college. I was coerced into participating in acts that made me feel shameful and dirty both before and after I lost my virginity. I felt powerless to simply walk away or say no because of the control my abuser had on me. Even if I did say no, chances were good that he would be smooth enough to talk me into whatever it was I initially protested about. I didn't really have a way out, from my perspective. It was abuse, and like Amy, it took me a LONG time to realize that it was abuse, to call it that, and to start coping with the effects it had on my heart and my spirit.
I am glad you posted this, and it reiterates to me to have another talk with my 9 year old about how her body belongs to her.
I've often struggled with a similar issue...since I was a teenager and knew the offender, I have often dealt with so much guilt and a feeling of regret for not having spoken up louder, stronger, or whatever it feels like I could have done to have prevented the situation...the truth is...I did all that I could do at that time and what he did was still wrong.
Thank you for sharing and for such a good and thorough response.