I am afraid of what could be.
I was sexually abused when I was a child. I cannot remember when the abuse started but it went on for a while. The perpetrators were several men; family, strangers, acquaintances. Questions about these traumatic childhood experiences still haunt me. How did I become a target for abuse from various men? On the one hand, I was being emotionally abused by grown women who told me I was ugly. On the other, I was being sexually abused by men. Looking at these experiences side by side almost seems as if I am implying that I did not understand how I could be sexually abused since I was ‘ugly’. It is sad that I would look at one experience to try and make sense of the other experience. But, the thing with abuse is this- the abuser wants something and they want to get it. They make sure to get that something because they have power to get it. The victim does not even need to look a certain way- they need not be the personification of conventional beauty for them to be sexually assaulted. Where children are concerned, I do wonder how the abusers choose their victim? Do they even choose? Do they study the children and note which child is more withdrawn and does not say much which would work in their favour because the abuse is easily kept a secret either because the child, being a naturally quiet child is highly likely say nothing or because they have been told to keep what the abuse between child and the abuser? I do think about the psychology behind (child) sexual abuse quite a lot lately. I do not know why. I guess I am itching to understand why people sexually abuse children. I guess it is all because I want to understand my own childhood experiences.
While I did not enjoy being touched inappropriately, I believe I also got used to the abuse at some point. It showed that I had gotten used to the maltreatment when I did not object after my brother called me and told me to drop my pants and bend over. Then he told me to pull my pants and leave; he must have felt guilty about what he had planned to do. I did as was told and went back to play outside, like nothing happened. I had also gotten used to the treatment when I did not object when another brother agreed to hand me over to this older boy/man, probably in his late teens, so he could have sex with me. All. For. A. Fucking. Hand-made. Ball. I had been reduced to a mere object meant to be bartered for a ball. I cringe even just thinking about it. The anger is not only directed to the abuser or my brother but to myself as well. Yes, abuse is never the victim’s fault and I was a victim here. I just beat myself up for not objecting. My not objecting and still being abused feels, to me, different from having said ‘NO’ but still being abused. I had gotten used to this maltreatment. I even found myself experiencing sexual pleasure from the act and this makes me feel even worse. I beat myself up for this too and I know I shouldn’t. I was a victim, even if I did not object, even if I did not scream or run away and most certainly, even if I found the act pleasurable. Abuse is abuse and it is wrong!
I only hope that opening up about my childhood experiences and especially, the way the abuse impacted me, will work to make it possible for me to release the pain, the anger and stop beating myself up for however way the effects of the sexual abuse manifested. I became very sexually precocious and would engage in sexual activities with boys in my age group. Once I attempted to insert my hand in another girl’s pants. I still feel awful thinking about this and I think I beat myself up the most about this. I was doing to another child what was being done to me. Another time, I ‘tempted’ an older cousin to touch my genitalia. I have no idea what I was thinking but it was probably due to getting used to sexual abuse by older men. I grabbed his hand and placed it over my vagina. This happened twice; first, when we were outside the house on a particular evening. The second time it was at night when we were all in bed. I have no slightest clue why my parents would even think it appropriate for a man to share the same blanket with my sister and me. How do our families think sometimes? How did MY family think? Why do we live in bubbles and pretend as if humans -yes, even if related- are pure beings who cannot be tempted or can rein in their urges when placed in situations that might cause them to act irrationally? Am I the only who thinks like this? Maybe it is my experiences that have shaped such thinking. I know that when there are more people in a house than the space can conveniently accommodate, such arrangements are usually made. Sadly, I am the human who was acting irrationally. I was acting out. Sigh! My cousin told me to stop what I was doing. I’m glad he did. Sigh!
Despite ‘getting used to the abuse’, I developed a deep mistrust for men. I know some will tell me, as I have had other folks be inclined to say, that we all have trust issues. True but my mistrust developed because I had been hurt by men and consequently, the way I related to them changed. All men were potential rapists to me. I didn’t trust men who liked me; I thought they had ulterior motives. I felt ill at ease if I had to be in a room with a man, unless the door was open and there were people nearby. This fear of men is what made me leave the classroom with my classmates on a certain day in my fourth year of primary school. I was in the class with three or four other girls and two men who were friends of our teacher. They were waiting for her to arrive from home. At some point, they asked us to go and check at the school gate if our teacher had arrived. But, they told the other girls to go and suggested I remain behind. My internal ‘warning button’ quickly went red and I sensed I was in trouble. Again. I went out with the girls. For some strange reason, afterwards I couldn’t help but wonder if my teacher (a woman) had put them up to this. I remembered a few days before when those men had come to our class during lessons. My teacher mentioned my name which drew my attention to them but I could not make out what she told these men because she had lowered her voice. The looks on those men’s faces made me ill at ease. Up to date, I wonder what she told them. I wonder about a lot of things from my past. Hmm…anyway, I am just grateful that nothing happened that could have happened that day when I hurriedly marched out of the room with the other girls.
I still have issues trusting men. I don’t hate men- I just don’t trust them. Make no mistake though, there are some men I hate because they hurt me. With time and after convincing myself that I am only afraid of what I think might be, I ease up a bit. As someone who dates women, I am often asked if I date women because I was hurt by men. Yes, our (cis)heteronormative society thinks it can only be because of sexual abuse that someone would not have a romantic affinity for men. Yes, I was hurt by men. No, that is not the reason I date women. Being asked such insensitive questions even when I have not opened up to the person about the sexual abuse always triggers memories of the abuse. Sigh! My trust issues have resulted in me being uncomfortable with showing ‘too much skin’ when men are around. The last time I showed too much skin, during my preteen years, a grown man who was passing by as I played with my friends told me that that was why they raped us. I had folded parts of my skirt into my underwear during a game we played on the streets. Apparently, I was tempting men- my thighs could get me raped.
My trust issues have also resulted in me always making sure I sleep with my door locked if there are men in the house. I can only be grateful to actually have doors that can be locked. The last time I was in a room with a door that could not be locked, another brother (third brother mentioned in this story) walked in during the night (on Christmas Eve) and started touching me inappropriately. My parents were sleeping in the next room and my sister was sleeping right next to me. He even asked me if I was enjoying it. How gutsy! I have learnt to lock the damn door at night alright! I am afraid of that history might repeat itself. I know it is fear that leads me to think this way but better safe than sorry because anything can happen in the dark of the night.