I have a secret that I’m going to share with you. I’ll just jump right in and say it: I was sexually abused . . . by my 16-year-old female babysitter who was also my neighbor.
My dad was an alcoholic with anger issues who abused my siblings and me both physically and verbally. My abuser knew this. She used it as leverage. “If you tell, I’ll tell your dad that you came on to me. What do you think he’d do if he knew you were a lesbian?”
Did I “come on to her?” What’s a lesbian? Am I a lesbian? I wasn’t old enough to really understand and grasp sexuality. I didn’t understand what she meant by “came on to me.” I didn’t really know what sex was, and I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a lesbian. I was barely seven. All I knew was that I didn’t want my dad to be angry. I didn’t want to get in trouble, which usually meant a verbal attack and a beating of some sort.
It All Started with Barbies
I loved Barbie® dolls! One day, she was babysitting me while my parents were out. We played barbies. I wanted to pretend that my doll was a doctor who lived in the fancy Barbie R.V. that I just got for my birthday, and she decided she’d be Ken™. After a bit of playing, she took over the storyline. Barbie’s R.V. got a flat tire, it was stranded in the middle of nowhere, and Ken was going to save her. I didn’t think anything of it.
One thing led to another, and she was taking off my Barbie’s dress. I objected, but she told me to hush . . . that I was ruining the fun. Barbie and Ken then proceeded to have sex. When I questioned what was going on, she told me Barbie and Ken were in love and that this is what people do when they love each other, so I just watched the sex storyline unfold, clueless as to what was happening.
Imaginative Role Play
A few babysitting sessions later, dolls turned into real-life role play. She wanted us to play house with me being the mom and she being the dad . . . who loved each other. (She was sure to iterate this part of the game.) After playing house — which mostly involved doing chores, making dinner, and eating dinner — she made a pallet on the floor in the two-foot space between my white lace duvet covered bed and my light pink bedroom wall and declared it “our bed.” She told me to lay on “our bed” because it was time to sleep. I obliged.
There are somethings that I vividly remember, like the first time she kissed me on the lips, the first time she laid on top of me and touched me. I remember feeling confused and almost paralyzed as she moved back and forth and side to side on top of me. I remember her making weird noises and her warm, stinky breath hitting me in the face. I remember laying there in that tiny space, stiff as a board with my arms by my side, my hands fisted with my nails digging into my palms. I remember staring at the ceiling when it was over and hearing her threaten to not tell . . . or else.
I don’t remember if I said anything while it was happening or after. I don’t remember how long that first time lasted. I don’t remember my parents getting home, and I don’t remember her leaving. I do remember feeling confused as to what had happened. I felt that what happened was wrong, but I wasn’t sure. Was it my fault? I didn’t know. I didn’t tell. I didn’t say anything to anyone. I bottled everything up and tried to go about life as normal.
My mom and her mom became best friends, she became the regular after-school babysitter, and things progressed with the abuse as time went on until one day when my parents decided I was old enough to stay home alone. I was thrilled! I could lock her out . . . and I did! I started getting off the bus one stop later to walk home through the woods that led to my backyard. I even went as far as to leave my bedroom window unlocked and climb through to prevent her knowing when I got home.
I avoided her the best I could. As I got older, I’d feign headaches or homework overload when my mom would ask if I wanted to go next door with her. Eventually, the girl next door who sexually abused me moved away, and life became slightly easier.
Overcoming and Parenting
I know that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. I’m not angry anymore, and I realize that she more than likely had experiences in life that she took out on me.
As a parent who grew up with a dysfunctional family and who experienced sexual abuse, I strive to be more intentional in my parenting than my parents ever were, to have relationships with my children that are not fear-based, and to build a trust that allows for open dialog at any time. I’m more conscious of how I react when my children get in trouble, as I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me if they did something that they think is wrong. I pray that my children never experience abuse, but if they do, I hope that they’ll come to me immediately.