NOTE: If childhood sexual assault or sexual assault in general is a trigger for you, please discontinue reading this post.
This is a topic that I hesitate writing about because it isn’t something I’ve discussed with anyone other than therapists, and some fellow patients when I was first hospitalized. And even then, I kept the discussions brief. But since it’s all over the news, I figure now is a good time to post what happened.
When I was 8, my parents were expecting their second child, and bought a house in the suburbs. One of our Chicago neighbors who was older than my parents and who, even though I didn’t know the word at the time, I always thought was “sketchy,” helped us move. My dad always suspected him of having stolen the bicycle my parents gave me for my 4th birthday, but couldn’t prove it. But I guess my dad felt that we needed help with the move.
We arrived at the new house, and my mother was doing the dishes downstairs. I naturally wanted to explore, and found myself upstairs in the master bedroom. The neighbor was also there.
He was lying on the floor and spread out his arms. He asked me to lie with him. This was something I was familiar with because my dad and I always cuddled on the floor against some giant throw pillows while watching TV. I thought this would be the same thing, minus the pillows.
Instead, he put a hand down the waistband of my shorts and began moving his fingers around. I was surprised and pulled away. He asked, “Don’t you like that?”
“No,” I answered, and walked back to the kitchen where my mom was still at the sink. And that was that.
I don’t know why I didn’t tell my parents what happened. I guess I didn’t know better.
I completely forgot about the incident until I was 11. I was reading a book in the family room, but the TV was on in the background. It was tuned to a news show called 60 Minutes, and they were doing a segment on child sexual abuse. The reporter said something like, “Some of the children are so young, that they don’t know what’s happening to them.”
Then I remembered. I still didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t think they’d believe me. Even then, we had a rocky relationship because also at age 11, I called a Runaway Hotline several times; that’s how miserable I felt at home, and may have been the earliest signs of depression. I told an aunt about the calls. She, in turn, (with good intentions?) told my parents. They got angry, especially my dad. He totally yelled at me and really let me have it.
When I finally did tell my parents at age 25, during my first hospitalization, my dad asked me why I was still thinking about it because it happened so long ago, and that the guy was probably dead.
I guess that’s the attitude I inadvertently adopted. I’ve always felt emotionally detached from what happened. Plus, other people have had it much worse, so I feel that my experience doesn’t really count.
Photo via Visualhunt