Months after I was raped at 14 years old, I finally got the courage — after a suicide attempt — to tell an adult relative. Highlights from the response:
“What did you expect, hanging out with older boys, and dressing the way you do?
WHATEVER you do, don’t tell your dad… He’ll want to kill the guy, and you don’t want your dad to go to prison, right?”
So… at 14 years of age, I learned that I wasn’t capable of making rational decisions (like who I spent time with) — never mind that I had very little adult oversight to start with.
I learned that visually, I was a slut, because I didn’t have the modesty and self-respect to cover up, so I was — naturally — going to be treated like a slut.
I learned that it was my responsibility to maintain my silence, to protect adults from their own choices.
LET ME BE CLEAR: I couldn’t be trusted to make “wise” choices about my own safety, but I was solely responsible for keeping my dad safe from imprisonment.
But before I learned all that…
I learned, when I was 10, not to wear skirts to school, because when I did, I’d get called up to my teacher’s big desk so he could stroke my legs and thighs.
I learned to wear padded bras, because they acted like armor between my breasts and his fingers.
I learned that telling a grownup you’re being molested by your teacher gets you labeled a “troublemaker” who can’t be believed.
I learned that telling your mom doesn’t mean she’ll go to the police (because she may not know she can). It might mean she goes and has a stern talk with him, and he keeps doing it, after gaslighting you (“I never meant to make you feel uncomfortable. I only want you to know how much I appreciate you…”).
I learned that — of all the things best friends can share — sharing abuse is just about the saddest fucking thing in the world.
Today I learned that sexual abuse makes people so uncomfortable, some of them would prefer not to associate with its victims. Some of them are happier pretending they can’t see it.
Today I also learned that my childhood abuse made one of my female classmates feel like an outsider to my social group, because she didn’t get “special” attention from our teacher. She didn’t know that attention was abuse, but it made her feel excluded and unworthy, and fuck him for creating an environment in which kids thought they weren’t worthy, and we were the “lucky” ones.
But… I also learned today that my circle is wide. I learned I have some pretty amazing folks around me.
I learned it’s perfectly okay and normal to celebrate literally surviving one more day.
I learned I’m considered a role model, no matter how much I reject that idealization.
I learned to make peace with that “role model” thing. Sort of. I’ll work on it.
I learned how to stop worrying about hurting the feelings of the people who continue to protect my abuser.
I decided I’m going to learn how to stop worrying about hurting the feelings of the people who furthered my abuse or trauma by enabling, gaslighting, and victim-blaming. (That’s going to take some time, but I start work today.)
I learned how to use the “unfriend” button.
I learned how to ask for help.
I learned how to stop apologizing for my truth… even when it makes people uncomfortable.
What did YOU learn, back then?
What have you learned, TODAY?