He was in his late 20’s, early 30’s. To be honest, he might have been older. I was 16 or 17. He and I worked at a summer camp together. I was a junior counselor. He used to come see me all the time, bring me presents, tell me how beautiful I was. I remember loving the attention at the time. He was a gentleman. He asked me for my number & we used to talk on the phone. I remember we use to talk about our age gap & him saying that it didn’t matter. I also remember him saying that he told his mom about me, but we never felt comfortable telling my mom about him.
I wonder why.
I remember by summer’s end, I had a box FULL of presents (some hand-made) from him. I don’t remember how or why it ended. I can’t even remember his name. TBH, I haven’t thought about him in years. But when I saw a friend’s post on FB with the #MeToo hashtag (those who’ve been through sexual abuse & harassment) those memories just started flooding back. My friend talked about being younger & being pursued by an older man in her apartment complex. She too felt flattered-at the time.
I don’t think up until reading her story did I realize that wait…MAYBE this “pursuit” was problematic. Even in those memories flooding back, I tried to talk myself out it being a problem. I mean, I WAS 16 after all. I wasn’t 13.
And see, this is the problem.
We are always making an excuse & blaming OURSELVES. He wasn’t 16. He was a FULL GROWN adult, pursuing a teenager; asking her to keep it from her parents. THIS IS NOT OKAY!
I remember thinking (at the time) that I’d always been mature for my age; I was used to hanging with older women and that I could handle being in a relationship with this older man (although I truly had no idea what that actually meant).
Growing up, I’ve always had a “body”. Big hips, big butt, small waist, cute face. I started filling out probably around 10 & I’ve spent most of my life with others (family, church folks, etc) policing my body while a lot of men I came in contact with thought it was their personal playground.
1) Getting on the school bus in elementary school & some young boy grabbed my butt. I told a teacher. Don’t remember anything happening to the boy.
2) At church, during the welcome one of the security guards hugged me & palmed my assets & squeezed. I was so shocked, I just hurried back to my seat. My face was so aghast, I was asked by leaders what happened. I told them. The gentleman was never reprimanded and continued to serve on the “security ministry.”
3) At church, again, I was reprimanded by a fellow minister (loudly, in the parking lot in front of others) about how I needed to cover up my butt and wear a bigger size because “you know how you look.”
4. I use to get “tushy rubs” from a family member when I was kid.
5. After being molested (by a different person than the one above) as a young person, years later I came to find out that I was thought to be in a relationship with my abuser. Part of that conversation included the following statement “Remember, I use to get you to try and cover up.”
I could go on, but I don’t need to.
To some reading these stories, they are probably all too familiar. Up and down my FB timeline, I see my friends, mentors, acquaintances saying, “Me too.” For some of us, this is the first time we’ve said it out loud to anyone. Even now, it still shocks me how many of us have gone through these experiences; and how many of us are still blamed for these experiences.
We don’t need you to blame us.
We’ve blamed ourselves enough.
Do you know how many times I believed that being molested was my fault because I didn’t stop it sooner? That it was my fault because I had a physical response? That I must have wanted it? That I encouraged him?
Do you know when that man grabbed my butt in church, I thought I must have imagined it?
That when the boy grabbed my butt on the school bus, that it must be me because “boys will be boys?”
And when I’ve been reprimanded by other women about how I dress, it makes me feel like again, it must be ME that’s ASKING for all this unwanted attention.
And before some of you start on the “biblical modesty” train, please know that A. I’m not even talking about modesty B. Modesty does & should cover more things than your ARSE.
And, TBH some of you use modesty as an excuse to keep blaming the victim instead of dealing with the REAL issue of these abusers out here. THAT is another blog for another time.
I use to think I was okay; that the molestation was behind me & that it must not have affected me much. I also use to think that because I wasn’t physically penetrated, that maybe my soul wasn’t pierced.
The older I get, I realize how much the abuse and these experiences have taken their toll. How jumpy I am in relationships, how weird I get when I’m touched in a particular way, even by my husband. How secretive I can be about my own feelings & emotions; as though they don’t matter or aren’t valid-because for a long time, they didn’t & weren’t. How dear & burdensome escapism is in my life because it used to be all I had to get me through. How greatly its impacted me having a healthy sex life. How scared I am to have children; not only because I worry about it happening to them but because I’m worried that my own pain & fear will rob them of opportunities to have fun, meet new people & be in spaces when I’m not there. I’m worried about what it will mean for my husband and I; will I wake up every time he leaves our bed, wondering where he’s going?
So when you tell me to cover up, please know that you aren’t just talking about how a suit-jacket needs to fall on my body, you’re telling me to paper over my pain. You’re telling me that if I hadn’t done something, then something wouldn’t have been done to me.
If only Bathsheba hadn’t been bathing on the roof, then David wouldn’t have seen her. We always leave out the part that David wasn’t even supposed to be home in the first place. That she was another man’s wife. THAT DAVID SHOULDN’T HAVE PURSUED HER! David had issues. Major ones. Stop blaming Bathsheba and HOLD DAVID ACCOUNTABLE. And no matter how GIFTED David was, it doesn’t excuse his behavior; not to me and not to God. Some of ya’ll need to read your bible…ALL OF IT.
When your first inclination is to blame the victim, ask yourself, WHY? WHY do we teach our daughters to cover up & be safe and not teach our sons that girls’ & women’s bodies aren’t play-equipment? Why do we only worry about molestation & rape re: our daughters as though young boys & men don’t also need our protection? Why do we make excuses for young people when we see them exhibiting inappropriate behavior? Why do we call young girls’ fast? When we see a 6-yr old touching another child in an inappropriate way, why do we automatically call them “nasty” and not ask where they might have learned that? Why does a developed body signal an open invitation to touch? Why are excuses made for pedophilia until it’s YOUR son/daughter? WHY ARE WE STILL STEPPING IN THE NAME OF LOVE while R. Kelly SHAMELESSLY picks off our young queens one by one? Yeah, I said it. Fight me.
Listen, I have more questions than answers. I’m just here to say “Bruh, you’re not alone.” “Sis, you’re not alone.” Keeping quiet about your pain isn’t serving anyone; especially you. Trust me. There are stories I haven’t told, people who don’t know. I’m working on shedding light, bit by bit. AND, I’m going to see someone because #PRAYERWORKS & #SODOESTHERAPY. I want to be whole for my husband, whole for my future kids but MOST OF ALL, I want to be WHOLE FOR ME!
Here’s what I’ve learned this year, #ubu4Him won’t work until I can get real about the ME on the inside that needs to be healed. I can’t be who I need to be for HIM until I go back & get His original design.
One day, I hope to see those same people on my timeline say “This terrible thing happened to me, but today I am more healed than I was yesterday & the day before…” And I can prayerfully respond…
P.S. This blog is dedicated to 6 specific girlfriends I’ve had in my lifetime. The first 3 were in high school and were there for my breakdown, helped me pack clothes, get out of my circumstance, huddled around me, let me stay in their home & protected my secret at school & since. The latter 3 I met in college & pretty recently got on a conference call on their lunch breaks, talked me out of blaming myself, continue to pray me through (even today) & have created safe space for me to land when I needed to. You know who you are & I love you. 😘
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3
Soundtrack for this blog is brought to you by Who Will Cry for the Little Girl- Schawayna Raie