I’ve been reading in the papers today about the sexual and physical abuse that’s being uncovered in the Salvation Army homes for boys & girls not that long ago. I admit it. I cried.
So before I go into more detail I should add a trigger warning. This is going to be a bit hard and heavy.
As a child I had an older cousin. Who would always want to play games with me. I remember this going back to even before school. Because it felt wrong then, it feels wrong now and I’m not sure it was ever right. He would want to play things that would include him rubbing up against me, making me get naked and lie on the bed while he “examined” me and a whole host of other things that got bolder as we got older.
I used to pretend that we were re-enacting what the adults did on the television or movies to try to make myself more obedient with what was going on. It was ok after all, they did it in the movies right?
It culminated one day when we were playing hide and seek with a bunch of other family friends and he decided to hide where I was. This would have been when I was about 10 or 11 years old. And he came over and said that I had to keep quiet so that we wouldn’t be found and then proceeded to shove his hand into my underwear and then roughly insert his fingers into me. I remember screaming and possibly hitting him in the face. It was the last time he laid a finger on me. Instead he moved on to exposing himself to me without touching me till I was about 14.
I put it all down to childhood discovery and nothing else.
Fast forward to when I was 15. My grandfather had just passed away and all my family were staying at my mother’s house because that’s where he lived. Mum changed the spare room so that we had a huge roll of mattresses on the floor for everyone to sleep on. My uncle and aunt included. I decided to forgo my bed and sleep with my cousin as she was my best friend. We got into bed and soon fell asleep. I woke up to someone touching my breasts. I was rather confused as to why anyone would be doing this and was frozen in place. After a few minutes I turned over onto my side and put my back between myself and my uncle who was lying to the right of me. I tucked the blanket in under myself so that he couldn’t get in so instead his hands ran over the top of the blankets and over my body. Every so often he would tug at the blanket to try to loosen it. I must have fallen asleep when he stopped.
I woke up his hands were down my pyjama’s again. I tried not to show him that I was awake and made it seem like I was rolling away and into my cousin. I pulled the blanket around me and cocooned myself from neck to foot. His hands followed me clawing at the blankets. At which point my cousin woke and asked me why I had herded her into the wall and why I was wrapped so tightly in the blanket since she was cold. I made up some excuse that I must have rolled in my sleep and that maybe we should move into my room and sleep in there.
I locked the door every night since then. I also made sure I slept cocooned. Because no one could get in. To this day I find myself doing it when I’m feeling vulnerable. My uncle asked me a year or so later if he had done anything to make me distant from him since I didn’t really get close to him at all. I replied that I didn’t know what he was talking about.
He came down with blood born leukaemia a few years ago and passed away. I went to visit him in hospital once while he was alive. I went again when I was advised he’d passed to say good-bye.
To this day I don’t know if he was awake or if he was groping me in his sleep. Did he think I was my aunt? Was it all a big misunderstanding? Am I trying to make more of this than what it was? I have no idea. All I know is that it happened. And I didn’t and still don’t know how to deal with it or categorise it in my head.
I now don’t talk to my other cousin. He’s made it abundantly clear with his bigoted facebook updates and statuses about his hatred for gay people and perpetrating the rape culture. I pulled him up on a few of them and he kept referring me back to religion. Does he not realise that my most meaningful relationship ever was with a woman? I blocked him and told him he doesn’t exist for me any longer. It was the best thing I could have done.
So this is my story.
Has it affected my relationships today? Possibly. How I don’t know. Does it tie in with my epiphany about daddy issues? Possibly. Again, I have no idea. Is this the reason why I fear letting people in? That I always have to be strong and not let anyone see me vulnerable? Could just be.
I hated my mother for a long time for not making it stop or keeping me safe. I realised in my mid 20’s that being angry at her wasn’t fair. I didn’t use my words. How was she to know? I was angry at myself for a long time for being quiet and letting it happen without saying anything. Then I got over that as well and forgave myself. For as a child we often do things that don’t make sense. This was one of those things.
Forgiving myself and moving on are really important to me. Has it shaped who I am today? I bloody hope so. I’m pretty strong, I’m confident, I know how to say no to things I don’t want and I have no qualms about pulling people up on things that as a teenager I wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to do. Confrontation no longer scares me.
So when I read about children that were subject to even more. To the extremes that I didn’t get exposed to, I cry. Because I know their fear. Their confusion. Their inability to comprehend if it’s right or wrong and their helplessness.
And it breaks my heart.
Hitting the publish button has never been this hard. I’ve never put into words exactly what had happened till now. I guess this is another step right? Right.